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Android features let users get more out of their phones

by BOB AND JOY SCHWABACH | March 21, 2020 at 1:54 a.m.

A reader sent us a link to "24 hidden Android features" from Here are a few. They apply to Android 8 and up.

• Get Shortcuts. When you swipe down from the top of your screen, you see icons for things like Do Not Disturb, Bluetooth, and Mobile Data. Swipe down again to expand the list. If you tap the icon for a pen in the lower left, then swipe up, you'll see a list of other shortcuts to add. For example, Screen Cast makes it easy to cast whatever you're looking at on your phone to your TV screen. Otherwise, you'll only be able to cast from select websites where you see the casting icon. This lets you screencast anything you see on your phone to a TV screen.

• Enlarge the font. This is the first thing we did when we got our Android phone. Tap Settings, then Display, and look for Font.

• Set Ringtone: Assign a different ringtone to each of your main contacts so you know who's calling, even if the phone is across the room and you can't see caller ID. Tap Contacts, then choose one. Tap the three vertical dots in the upper right corner and choose "Set Ringtone." Then choose a category for the sound you want. We got most of ours from Classical category but some from Seasonal Celebrations. If you want to use your own recording, try a free ringtone app, like Ringtone Maker. It brings in any music you already have on your phone. By assigning ringtones to everyone we'd like to hear from, we now know that a generic ring is one we may wish to skip.

• Find My Device. Go to Settings, then Security, and turn on "Find My Device." Later, if you've lost your phone, go to your computer and search on the phrase "Find My Device" to see it on a map. If it's nearby, click on "Play Sound" and your phone will ring.


A reader tells us that for close-up photos, his point-and-shoot camera does as well as his digital single lens reflex model, or DSLR. Which kind should you get?

DSLR cameras are great for fine photography and poster-size pictures. They normally sell for several hundred dollars and up. You can do almost as well with a point-and-shoot, like the $150 Canon Powershot ELPH 190 IS.

Besides being cheaper, the Canon is lightweight and easier to operate. A DSLR can weigh almost 2 pounds. That makes it harder to manipulate. The reader noted: "My DSLR is festooned with buttons on the back, which are real easy to inadvertently push." It's also easy to drop.

On close-ups, he adds, you can hardly tell the difference between a DSLR and a good point-and-shoot: "It's elsewhere that the DSLR shines: Panoramas, telephoto shots, landscapes, critters, birds, etc. The bigger the lens, the better the image projected onto the sensor."


Once we were in line at Whole Foods when we heard an older gentleman say to his daughter: "Your telephone is on." Naturally she wanted it on, but Dad was right. Turn the thing off now and then.

Phone applications use a lot of memory. If you never turn the phones off, their little brains get overly busy. To keep them working quickly, restart them at least once a week. Otherwise the apps you thought you closed might still be running in the background.


We're impressed with how efficient Alexa, our smart speaker, has become.

We used to say things like, "Alexa, add blueberries, almond milk and lettuce to the shopping list." She would repeat all that back to us before adding it to the list. Now she says simply: "Added." The list shows up in our Whole Foods app, where we also get a bar code we can show to receive an Amazon Prime discount.

Alexa has also gotten good at directions and traffic. You can say, "How's the traffic to work?", or the traffic to any specific address. Or "Alexa, give me directions to Topeka, Kan.," and she'll tell you how long it will take in current traffic conditions and give you a general overview. After she answers, say, "Alexa, send that to my phone," and you'll have the complete directions. If you don't have an Echo or Echo Dot, you can download the free Alexa app to your phone.

If you are worried about a hurricane, snowstorm or other extreme weather, say, "Alexa tell me when there's a severe weather alert." Then you'll start getting notified. Our main problem with Alexa is getting her to shut up.


• gives you up-to-date statistics on the coronavirus outbreak. This includes statistics like the number of dead, the number infected, the number recovered and the countries involved.

• generates a hand-washing infographic or poster from your favorite song lyrics. Put it beside your sink and sing along to make sure you've been washing for 40 seconds, the new recommendation. We chose "On the Sunny Side of the Street." The lyrics are especially appropriate these days: "Grab your coat and get your hat. Leave your worry on the doorstep. Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street."

• Search on the phrase "TripTrivia slang" to find an article from with some fun regionalisms. Trip Trivia says "Mom'n'em" is used in New Orleans, as in "How's Mom'n'em?" It means "How is Mom and the rest of the family?" "Janky" means "dilapidated" in New Jersey. In Wisconsin, "Whoopensocker" means "incredible."

Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected] and [email protected]

Business on 03/21/2020

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