13 Things You Can Do With the Google Settings App on Any Android Device

Google automatically added the Google Settings app to nearly all Android devices back in 2013. Since then, Google has added feature after feature to this app via Google Play Services updates.

To find this app, just open your Android phone or tablet’s app drawer and tap the “Google Settings” icon. It’s separate from the main Settings screen so it can be updated separately.

(On Android 6.0 Marshmallow, this no longer has its own icon in the app drawer. Instead, you’ll have to access it by opening the main “Settings” app and tapping “Google” under Personal.)

Manage Your Google Account

The “Sign-in & security” and “Personal info & privacy” categories category at the top of the app contains quick links to important settings web pages for managing your Google account.

Options in the “Sign-in & security” panel allow you to change your password, configure two-step verification, modify account recovery options, view devices your account has logged in from, control security alert settings, and manage the the list of apps and websites you’ve given permission to access your Google account.

The “Personal info & privacy” and “Account preferences” categories contain quick links to other important Google settings pages. Links here take you to pages where you can manage the information Google knows about you, control ad settings, view an overview of your account and its data, change your language, view what’s using your Google account storage and buy more, and even delete your Google account.

Control Activity Tracking

The Personal info & privacy > “Activity controls” panel isn’t just a link to a web page. This panel provides a way to control what activity Google remembers about you. The options allow you to control whether data is reported from your particular Android device and disable some types of activity tracking entirely. Categories here include:

  • Web & App Activity: Google Search, Maps, Now, Chrome, and other apps report your searches and web browsing history to personalize your experience.
  • Device Information: Contacts, calendars, apps, and other data from your Android device are normally synced with your Google account so they’re available anywhere.
  • Voice & Audio Activity: Voice searches and voice commands are stored, allowing Google to improve voice and speech recognition.
  • YouTube Search History: YouTube searches you’ve performed are stored to improve recommendations.
  • YouTube Watch History: The history of YouTube videos you’ve watched is also stored, allowing you to find videos you’ve previously watched and get better video recommendations.
  • Google Location History: Devices can report their location history to Google, allowing Google to better tailor results to your physical location.

Opt Out of Personalized Ads

The “Ads” screen lets you opt out of targeted ads within apps. Microsoft’s Windows 10 and Apple’s iOS offer similar options. Note that this just applies to in-app ads — not ads in your web browser. To opt out, visit the Ads screen in the Google Settings app. You can also just reset your advertising ID from here if you keep seeing personalized ads you don’t want to see.

View Connected Apps and Revoke Access

The Connected apps screen shows you a list of apps you’ve connected to your Google account and allows you to revoke access from them.

Control When Google Drive Uploads Files

The Data management screen currently only has a single option. The “Update Drive-enable app files” option allows you to control when the system uploads files to Google Drive. By default, this only happens on Wi-Fi networks. You can also tell it to upload this data on cellular networks as well as Wi-Fi networks.

Manage Google Fit Options

The “Google Fit” screen allows you to control which apps are connected to Google Fit, Google’s exercise-and-fitness-tracking service.

Configure Location Services

The “Location” screen allows you to control the location services functionality provided by Google Services. You can disable it entirely to prevent apps from seeing your location, choose a different mode for better accuracy or longer battery life, view apps that have recently asked for your location, and control whether Google Location History is enabled.

Choose Which Apps Can Find Other Devices Nearby

The “Nearby” screen shows you a list of apps using the nearby feature to find other apps located near you using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and inaudible sound requests. You can choose which apps are allowed to use this feature from here.

Tweak Google Play Games Settings

The “Play Games” panel allows you to control settings related to Google Play Games, a service similar to Game Center on Apple’s devices. You can choose whether your profile is public or hidden, and configure which game-related notifications you want to receive.

Configure Google Search and Now Settings

The “Search & Now” panel controls Google search settings, which language you use, voice recognition options, which local apps Google searches on your device, and which cards appear in Google Now. This affects the Google search app, the Google search bar on the homescreen, and the Google Now screen.

Modify Device-Tracking and Anti-Malware Options

The “Security” pane allows you to view security codes you might need for your accounts, activate Android Device Manager for remotely locating, locking, and erasing your device, and control whether Google’s built-in anti-malware feature automatically scans apps you install for signs of malicious behavior.

Set Up a Nearby Device

The “Set up nearby device” screen allows you to quickly setting up a new Android phone or tablet located near your current Android device. Your Android device can find nearby devices using Bluetooth and quickly set them up using the data on your current device.

Control Smart Lock for Passwords

“Smart Lock for Passwords” is a feature that allows apps to automatically sign you into accounts. The username and password data is stored with your Google account and apps can automatically retrieve it. This screen allows you to control whether this feature is enabled, choose whether or not apps automatically sign you in, find saved passwords, and choose apps that aren’t allowed to save passwords here.

This is integrated with Chrome’s password manager, too — assuming you’ve chosen to sync passwords with Chrome, they’ll be available to the official Android app as well. You can view all such passwords on the web at https://passwords.google.com.


More options will be added to this app in the future. Google adds new features for developers to Android via Google Play Services, allowing those features to work on the majority of Android devices — even if those devices will never receive a proper operating system update. Occasionally, Google adds related settings and options to the Google Settings app, too.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.