Android is a powerful mobile operating system that provides a lot more customization options than its competitors (namely the iPhone). Although the ins and outs of a handset can vary between phone makers, these Android shortcuts should work no matter what model of phone you’re using. Here are 12 gestures you can use on Android that you might not know about.
You can access the handy Quick Settings pane in Android by dragging down from the top of the screen to show your notifications, and then dragging down again. But if you use a two-finger swipe from the top of the screen, then the panel appears immediately, giving you instant access to switches for wi-fi, Bluetooth, airplane mode and the like.
Google has gradually improved the way Android handles notifications in recent versions, and now everything works pretty smoothly when it comes to alerts. You can swipe to dismiss notifications, and in Nougat, you can press and hold to set preferences for that app. You can do it in Marshmallow too, but the settings aren’t shown inline.
Selecting text in Android is a cinch. In most Google apps, press and hold (or sometimes double-tap) somewhere on the screen to select a word, then drag out the handles on either side to highlight additional words. Third-party apps will occasionally behave differently. In Twitter for Android the same action copies text straight to the clipboard.
Do you have a lot of tabs open in the Chrome browser for Android? Want to switch between them quickly? You can tap on the tab number icon, but you can also swipe down from Chrome’s address bar to see your open tabs instead. Alternatively, swipe left or right on the address bar to jump from tab to tab without having to visit the overview screen in between.
If you’re running into persistent problems with your Android handset then there’s a built-in Safe Mode you can use to disable (and troubleshoot) third-party apps. Press and hold the power button to bring up the Power Off pop-up, then press and hold the pop-up to find the Safe Mode option. To get out of Safe Mode, just reboot your phone again.
Google Keyboard has all kinds of neat tricks up its sleeve, and one that we often find useful is for moving the cursor. Rather than stabbing at the screen to try and position it, just tap and hold the spacebar and then move your finger left and right. It should work in most apps as long as you’re in text editing mode (the cursor is already in another word).
You can triple-tap to zoom in on websites, images, and anything else in Android, but you need to enable the gesture shortcut in the OS settings first. From Settings, choose Accessibility, then tap Magnification gesture and turn the toggle switch at the top to on. Underneath the setting itself you get a helpful explanation of how to use the feature.
It’s not all that much of a time saver, but we’re going to take it anyway. In a lot of Google apps for Android (including Gmail and Chrome), you don’t have to tap to open a menu and then tap again. Just tap and hold on the menu button (usually three vertical dots), then drag down to the option you want, then release your finger or thumb to make the choice.
Here’s another handy shortcut for the Google Keyboard. Tap and hold on the comma key, then slide up to the icon on the right to activate the keyboard’s new one-handed mode. If you don’t have both of your hands free then it makes text input much easier. Note that it only works if you’re in portrait mode.
If you head to the Overview screen (tap the square nav button), then long-press on the icon for an app, you get a shortcut link straight to said app’s diagnostics screen (where you can close or uninstall it). You may have to enable developer options for this one to work, which you can do by tapping seven times on Build number in About phone in Settings.
An older trick, but one that plenty of people still haven’t come across, and it often proves useful on the move. If you’re using your phone with one hand, you can double-tap and then hold and drag in the Google Maps app to zoom in and out (drag down to zoom in and up to zoom out). The same trick also works in Google Maps for iOS, by the way.
This being Android, you can install a few third-party apps to configure some gestures of your own if you’re not fully satisfied with the ones that come built into the OS. Draw an S on the screen to launch Settings, and so on. There are a few apps to choose from for the job, including All In One Gestures, Gesture Shortcuts and Finger Gesture Launcher.