Google Android Power Tips: Master Froyo and Gingerbread

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"Froyo" and "Gingerbread"--two delicious treats that Android smartphone users around the world crave--are the latest versions of the Android mobile operating system. Both offer speed as their main selling point, but each has also come a long way from the original Android and spiffed up the user interface (Gingerbread in particular).

However, with great power comes great confusion. Although these editions of the Android OS make your smartphone more feature-rich than before, it's not always obvious how to take advantage of the improvements.

Read on for a comprehensive list of the most compelling new features, plus tips and tricks. These items are specific to Froyo/Android 2.2 (which released last summer and runs on many phones, including the Motorola Droid X and the HTC EVO 4G) as well as to Gingerbread/Android 2.3 (which came out in December and is currently available with the Samsung Nexus S).

And if your smartphone is running Gingerbread, then you're in luck--the tips for Froyo also apply to you.

Android 2.2 Froyo Tips and Tricks

1. Store apps on your SD Card: For owners of older phones with little on-board storage for applications, this feature is huge. Provided that the developer of an application allows it, you can move the application to your SD Card. Go to Settings, Applications, Manage Applications, and then click the app you want to move. You will see an option called Move to SD Card. Click it, and your app will move over, and nothing will be lost. (You can move it back to your phone's built-in storage later if you want, by clicking Move to Phone in the same place.)

2. Chrome to Phone: If you use the Chrome browser on your desktop, this add-on is a must-have. (You'll also encounter a version for Firefox called Fox to Phone, but it comes from a third-party developer.) First, install the Chrome to Phone extension in your Chrome browser; then, from the Android Market, download and install the Chrome to Phone app on your handset. Afterward, if you run across a Web page you like, you can click your new 'Chrome to Phone' button in your browser to send it instantly to your phone. You can also highlight a phone number and click the button, and the number will open in your phone's dialer. Or send directions, and they'll open up in Maps on your phone. If you highlight some text, it will copy to your phone's clipboard, ready for pasting.

3. Get Flash: Android versions 2.2 and newer support Adobe Flash in the browser. First, you may have to download Flash from the Android Market (search for "Flash Player 10.1"). It's great to have this option. Some Web pages that are loaded with Flash can really slow down your phone, however.

In Froyo you can move apps off of your phone's on-board storage.
4. Block automatic Flash loading: Luckily, you have a way to set the browser so that it doesn't automatically load Flash content. From the browser, tap Menu, More, Settings and scroll down to Enable Plug-Ins. Click that, and then select On Demand. Then restart the browser. Now when you reach a page with Flash content, you will see a box with an arrow in it; tap it to activate that piece of Flash content.

5. Better multitasking: In previous versions of Android, long-pressing the Home key would give you access to the last four apps you used. When you long-press the Home key in Froyo, it gives you access to the last eight.

Easily switch back to any of your eight most recently used apps.

6. Switch Gmail accounts: Within Gmail, simply tap the name of the account in the top-right corner to quickly toggle between them.

7. Better camera controls: Settings for Flash Mode and White Balance are now right on the main camera window (no more searching through menus).

8. Gallery stack previews: Use a pinching gesture on a stack of photos in your gallery to get a quick preview of what lies under that stack.

9. Desktop previews: From the desktop, long-press the Apps button, and up pop small preview images of all your desktop panels. Click one, and it will whisk you off to that screen.

10. Phone and Browser icons on the desktop: The Phone app and Browser app now have a permanent home on the desktop, sitting on either side of the Apps button. Not only does this give you quick access to both regardless of what desktop panel you're on, but it also frees up space on your desktop for other icons.

See a live preview of all your desktops.

Froyo Voice Actions

By itself, Froyo has incredible voice-recognition capabilities--but if you have Google's most recent Voice Search (you may need to update it from Android Market), you have a ton of ways to control your phone with your voice. Just long-press your phone's Search button (set Voice Search as the default, if it isn't already), and when 'Speak Now' pops up on screen, say something out loud. Here are some examples of what you can do with Voice Actions.

11. Call someone: Say "Call [name of contact], [phone type]," as in "Call Whitney Houston, Mobile." The phone will give you a moment to confirm or cancel, and then it will dial your contact. (Note: Whitney Houston's phone number does not come included in Froyo...maybe in Honeycomb?)

Android offers amazing control over your phone with your voice.
12. Send a text message: Say "Send text to [contact name], [message]." Example: "Send text to Andy Rubin. When will my phone get Gingerbread question mark." (Remember that you have to say "question mark" in order to produce a question mark, or "period" in order to add a period.)

13. Get turn-by-turn directions: Say "Navigate to [address, city or business name, city]." Examples: "Navigate to 826 Valencia, San Francisco, California" or "Navigate to Carnegie Hall, New York, New York." This will open Navigator with your chosen location already entered in.

14. Call a business: You don't even need to have the phone number. Say "Call [name of business], [city/state]." Example, "Call Red Hot Restaurant, Brooklyn, New York."

15. Write a memo: Say "Note to self, [body of text]." Example: "Note to self, Call Verizon to see why my phone doesn't have Gingerbread yet." The text will be e-mailed to you, from you.

In Video: A Look Inside Android 2.2 'Froyo'

Android 2.3 Gingerbread Tips and Tricks

16. Find downloads with the new Downloads Manager: Have you been wondering where all the stuff you downloaded goes? Now it's easy to find all of those files in one place. Open your apps drawer, and click Downloads.

17. Manage apps: It's easier than ever to wrangle applications. From the home screen, tap the Menu button and then Manage Apps. (Note: You will see this option only if you are using Google's default launcher.) From there you can get more information about your apps, review permissions, delete apps, force-quit them, or even transfer apps to your SD Card.

Sneak a peek at what's in a Gallery stack.
18. Quickly preview pictures in a Gallery stack: When looking at your various photo stacks in the Gallery, touch a stack with two fingers and then spread them. This action will fan out the stack like a deck of cards, and you'll see thumbnails of all of the photos in that stack flow from one finger to the other.

19. The orange bumper bar: Saw an orange glow and thought you did something wrong? Worry not. When you are scrolling through a list (such as your Gmail inbox) and you hit the bottom, you'll notice a light orange glow there. It just exists to let you know that you can't go any farther. It also does this when you're side-scrolling, or when you reach the top of a list.

Next page: Near Field Communication's promise, plus keyboard shortcuts

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