Android Tips and Tricks

This page contains a selection of miscellaneous tips and tricks for Android phones and tablets.


This page is a repository of tips and tricks which may be useful in dealing with Android devices.

See also our post 5 simple ways to save your good old Android for some helpful tips on keeping your Android device working well.

Safe Mode

Safe Mode can be used for maintenance, e.g. uninstalling a troublesome app, when the device won't start up normally. See Restart your Android Phone in Safe Mode to Troubleshoot Problems for details.

... or if that doesn't work, power it on while holding both volume keys down.

Tip: booting in safe mode prevents apps from starting automatically, so it will give you an idea of how fast the device would run if those apps were removed:
useful in a "my device is running slowly" situation.

Note: booting in safe mode seems to remove any "live" widgets from the home pages (on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 at least).

Transfering pictures to OSX

Android has two transfer modes PTP and MTP over USB.

At one Restart Party, in PTP mode using Image Capture the thumbnails didn’t show, a generic thumbnail was shown for each picture. The screen shot on one website suggests it should just work, however no solution was found. It appears that USB transfer on Android has some unfixed bugs and the following page may be of interest to all those using Android.

Another solution may be to use the new file transfer AirDroid 3 application. This is described on this web page: Moving Files between your Android and Desktop Gets Easier with AirDroid 3.


Google and others track many activities happening in Android. Martin Sauter had a go at ensuring his privacy is respected and explains the things that he does on his Android based device to keep his private data as private as possible in My Android Privacy Configuration

Hardware tips

Screen repair

  • Consider replacing full digitalizer rather than only the screen. ÂŁ5 extra might make a more successful change.
  • when purchasing screen make sure you have the ear speaker from old device if working. If not order as well (note for MotoG users).
  • most screws are very similar. It helps to disassemble on A4 sheet and circle location of screws relative to phone.
  • aquaint yourself with different type of connectors. Dome pull up, some clamp,...
  • sturdy plastic tipped tweezers are useful.

Software-related tips

Keeping an Android phone in good working condition is as much about the software as the hardware (if not more). If a phone is running slow, a number of different things may help, such as a spring clean involving uninstalling unused apps and freeing up space by deleting unused files. If there is a lot of accumulated cruft to remove, and you are confident that everything important is backed up, it may be simpler to start from a 'clean slate' -- either with a factory reset or a complete reinstall of the OS. A factory reset is less drastic, but there are a number of good reasons why 'flashing the ROM' (i.e. installing a new/different/updated version of the OS) might also be a good choice.

Spring cleaning your phone

The easiest starting point at freshening up a phone is with a basic spring clean of apps and files. If the version of Android on your phone is still officially supported, you should also ensure you have installed the latest Android updates - although this is more for security-purposes than in the interests of a speed boost. If your phone is running a version of Android that is no longer maintained (sadly, this is common on phones older than a couple of years) then you should consider trying to upgrade the firmware with a custom ROM. However, this is not for the faint hearted.

Some very useful advice on speading up an older phone is given in this iFixit article How to Speed Up an Old or Cheap Android Phone.

To give you some measure of protection on an unsupported device you might consider installing a mobile security app. But beware! Historically there have been many such apps which are worse than useless. A reputable product from Sophos is Sophos Mobile Security for Android, which works on Androd 4.4 and later.

Factory Reset

A 'factory reset' is a brute-force way to restore your apps, user settings and data to the state they were in when you first received your phone. As such, treat factory resets with caution -- always consider carefully if there is anything on the phone that you would be upset to lose. A factory reset should not affect files that you have downloaded to the phone's SD card, but it is still recommended to back anything up that you do not have backed up already.

Also consider issues such as two-factor authentication before you reset a device - you do not want to be locked out of any services following your reset. For applications where you have two-factor auth enabled, ensure that you have secondary options (such as a backup set of codes) available.

The factory reset process can vary from phone to phone (and from version to version of Android), so to find out how to do it for a particular phone the best thing to do is a quick search for the specific device - e.g. 'sony xperia z1 compact factory reset'. This should bring up a number of results with the device-specific instructions.

Finally, do check that a factory reset is recommended for your specific device - in some cases it may not be a recommended.

See this forum thread, Factory Reset what is it, and why would you? for more information.

Custom ROM

You may be able to break your dependence on the handset maker and network provider for updates by installing a community-supported version of Android. See the Custom ROMs page for further details.