Customizing Your Android Smartphone Screens

Customizing Your Android Smartphone Screens

settingsAndroid smartphones are wonderful devices. The ways you can communicate with friends, family, co-workers and clients are almost limitless. Text messaging, instant message, social media, news sites, and yes, even phone calls are all just a finger press away. Add some calendar apps, weather widgets, productivity tools, media programs, a camera and news readers and you have a full-blown computer in your pocket or purse.

So why are you still using that default home screen background and ringtone? Your device has so many ways to customize the experience based on personal or business criteria, making the smartphone a much more powerful way to manage your life.

Below are some tips to make your phone, well, yours. Make it easier to get at apps, data, contacts and more with just a few minutes of customizing. Enjoy!

Launcher

The launcher is the look, feel and function of the whole operating system. It controls how many icons you can add to a page, how large the widgets can be, what shortcuts you have on the dock at the bottom of the screen and more. The default launcher installed by your mobile company is pretty good, but did you know that by adding free or really cheap launchers you can extend the capabilities and function of the launcher? My favorite launcher app is Nova Launcher. I use the $4.99 version to get a few extra features, but the free one works pretty well. This little program will allow changes to :

  • Number of vertical and horizonal apps allowed in the grid. Great for tablets that have WAY more real estate.
  • Icon and folder size and the label layout.
  • Whether or not the Google Search Bar is present and how it looks.
  • How the App Drawer (where all of your installed apps are located) looks including scrolling direction and type, color, , animation and much more
  • Custom gestures and other inputs.
  • The ability to back up your desktop layout and import it into a differernt phone/tablet. This is HUGE is you’re transferring to a new device.

Try out the Nova Launcher or one of the many other launcher programs at the Google Play Store.

Folders

One of the limitations of the iOS platform used on iPhones and iPads is the inability of having an icon located in more than one place. That is NOT an issue with Android, so if you want an application link in a “Tools” folder, and also in a “Financial” folder, you have this option. Creating folders on your home screen, or just about anywhere else, is very simple.

  1. Drag an applcation shortcut on top of another icon. The system will hesitate for a moment and then drop the icon into a newly created folder along with the original appllication.
  2. Repeat this process for all of your applications until the folder is filled with your desired apps.
  3. Click on the folder once to open, then click on “Unnamed Folder” at the bottom and give your folder a name that identifies the types of apps contained like “Contacts,”  “Tools,” or “Social.”

I create multiple folders on multiple pages so I can get at business or personal specific information quickly.

Widgets

Widgets are an awesome way to bring some additional functionality to the Android environment. They are essentially ways to display app data on a particular screen in a way that makes it available at a glance or directly get to the app data. Some examples of widgets are weather data, email accounts, news and tasks.

  1. Widgets can be added anywhere there’s room and is done simply by clicking and holding anywhere on an open area of screen, opening the widget option.
  2. Click “Widgets” and select the information you’d like to add to the page like your weather app, or email.
  3. Drag the widget to the location of the page and release. If it fits, you will usually see some options to configure the layout, color, update times, etc for the data.

And below are a few of my favorites:

  • MoreCast – Great weather app that has several widgets to display current weather data and forecasts.
  • TypeMail – I have four email accounts on my phone so having unread counts or easily viewable widgets makes it easy to get to each account without opening several apps.
  • GTasks – I use Google Tasks to manage my several businesses and personal tasks. GTasks keeps them separate, but combines if I need.
  • Month – Have multiple Google Calendars on your device? Month combilnes them into one easy-to-view calendar widget.

Pages

Still trying to cram all of your information or data on to one screen? Android will let you keep as many pages as you wish, move them around so you can access them on the left or right swipe of your thumb, and set your “home” page.

As stated before, I have four businesses on my phone that I keep track of. Each business has a “page” full of contacts, tasks, email and other widgets and shortcuts. This allows me to keep everything separate and if I need a client phone number I go to the business page, pull up the “Contact” folder and click on the contact to make the call, email or text. I also keep links to specific apps here, shortcuts to web pages, and even a quick way to get to my OneNote or Drive accounts so I can access files or take notes on a specific client.

Pages are also a great way to separate your media like music or podcasts, books, and games from work related or personal information, or just to create a news and social media page loaded with constantly changing info that doesn’t interfere with your main page functionality.

Ringtones

Early on the Android system provided a way to assign new ringtones, and eventually a way to assign ringtones to specific contacts.

This is incredibly handy if you want to keep business and personal contacts straight, or even to know when your daughter calls. Now, changing the default ringtone is pretty simple, but editing a contact with a specific ringtone can be a bit more difficult for inexperienced users, but essentially:

  1. Pull the contact up in “Contacts” and “Edit” the contact.
  2. Select “More” at the bottom of the contact and scroll down until you see “Ringtone”
  3. Select one of the pre-programmed ringtones, or “Add ringtone” at the bottom, which will allow you to search for songs or other ringtones and assign it to the contact.

As I said before, the Android operating system has a TON of ways to customize the experience exactly to your liking. Charge up that phone, create some pages, start adding shortcuts and widgets, and turn that computer in your hand into the device your friends and family will envy!

I have included some images below of my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge pages. Use them as inspiration if you need, or tell me how YOU customized your phone or tablet @BeBizzy on Twitter or in the comments below!

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received mobile devices with line of service from Verizon (#ad). No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own. By the way, we meet every Friday @ 2pm CT on Twitter to discuss mobile phones and how you can use them in your daily lives. Join us! 

#VZWBuzz

2016-03-30-20.01.57  2016-03-30-20.02.25  2016-03-30-20.02.18

 

 

Best Android Apps for the Upcoming Election

Best Android Apps for the Upcoming Election

vote-661888_640Like it or not, Republican, Democrat or none of the above, we’re inside of one year until another major election in the United States, and probably in your local area. Next November local results, state offices and national responsibilities will all be decided by civic-minded adults who wander to local polling locations and cast their ballot for any or all of the candidates that mean something to them.

But with all of the noise on the internet, television and other media formats, how do you get the information you need instead of what the candidates and PAC’s WANT you to hear?

Being a fairly open-minded, maybe even skeptical, voter (I’ve voted both parties in the last few elections), I’ve tried to assemble a list of apps that make a case for positions across the board. And if I have one message in this post it’s this… listen to all sides WITHOUT your bias. No one is completely right, or completely wrong and if you go into the argument already closed off to one side or the other, then why even listen to or read what’s being said?

US 270 
US 270 Free (270 is the number of electoral votes needed to win the US Presidential election) is an app to track electoral votes and news as it relates to the upcoming presidential election. Stay up to date on predicted outcomes, create your own maps and theories to share, and see strategies emerge as the 2016 election unfolds.

Poll Up
Poll Up is connected directly to the Huffington Posts polling system, which should shoot polling results directly to the app. As with all polls, use this with an “eyes wide open” thought process knowing that numbers can be made to tell just about any story.

Ad Hawk
Great app that listens to political TV ads and then pinpoints who is directly responsible to the ad. This is useful when you just want to know who is paying the money to run that crazy, or inspired advertisement that strikes a chord with you.

All Politics
All Politics is an app to get political news all in one place. The news is a gathering of aggregated and original news from Politico, Fox, MSNBC and other sources so it should provide many sides to any argument.

Pocket Casts
Pocket Casts is only one of several podcasting apps that can be used to listen to a wide variety of shows that run across the political spectrum. Nothing get the base fired up like an un-filtered, un-regulated broadcast where a host can say or do anything he/she wishes. Listen at your own risk. You can also use many other apps, such as:

And don’t forget, your local newspaper, radio channel or favorite television news probably has an app that can be arranged to display political news as a default. Make sure you are checking that out. There’s also the national news organizations listed below. Keep in mind that all of them have political leanings one way or another, but again, it is good to sometimes hear the other side and to have the open mind to possibly be persuaded.

Elections have a way of dominating our thoughts, discussions and media for many months as they get closer. Social media has magnified this by allowing users to voice their political leanings by easily sharing online media or just a passing thought on events like the Presidential debates or the recent Paris terrorist attacks. Create lists on Twitter (I have a list of local Bismarck, North Dakota and National news organizations), follow on Facebook, or even stay connected by watching Periscope or Meerkat videos.

But being uneducated at the polls is not an excuse anymore. You have all of the resources available on the web or your favorite mobile device. Use them to gather or, if so desired, distribute knowledge on topics that are near and dear to your heart. But remember, there are those who stand to gain if they can somehow motivate you to think one way or another. There has never been a time more lending towards knowing all sides of an argument and cutting through the media leanings. Take some time to learn about the issues that matter most to you, and vote accordingly.

Do you have an app that you use all of the time to track or stay informed about an issue? Add them to the comment section below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter.

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received a mobile phone and with line of service from Verizon. No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own.