32 essential Android tips and tricks

Several weeks ago, we highlighted 40 useful iPhone tricks everyone should know. We got such good feedback from that feature that we wanted to share the love with Android users – who, after all, make up the largest proportion of the smart phone community.

12. Customize your lock screen

You can customize the lock screen of your Android device in lots of different ways. Here, a phone's screen is unlocked by tracing a pattern on a series of dots.

Android gives you a few solid options for keeping other people from getting access to your phone. Of course, there's the trusty four-digit PIN. But you can also set up a regular password like you'd use on your computer. Or you can get into your phone by dragging your finger to connect a series of dots in a unique shape. If you're running Ice Cream Sandwich of Jelly Bean, you can also give "Face Unlock" a try. Your phone will use its front camera to detect who's holding the phone, unlocking only for the real owner.

This isn't a particularly secure option in Ice Cream Sandwich, where it can be defeated using a picture of the owner, but Jelly Bean makes the feature a little more usable. Once you've set up Face Unlock, you can improve its reliability by taking multiple pictures of yourself in the "Improve face matching" section of the Security tab in the Settings app. (That way you won't lock yourself out of your phone if you decide to get a haircut, or if you switch from glasses to contacts.) You can also implement a "Liveness check" from the same area of Settings, which makes the phone look for blinks and facial movements when unlocking.

If you're less worried about security and just want a simple slide, you also have the option to quickly access the camera or Google Now from the lock screen. Just slide the lock to the left over the camera icon, or up to get to Google Now. And if you want to trick out your lock screen even further, you can use WidgetLocker's LockScreen app ($2.99) to get music controls and customized sliders for particular apps.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

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