Seven of the Best Hidden Features in Android

Android is loaded full of features—many of which aren’t completely obvious or are possibly even hidden behind “secret” menus. Here’s where to find some of the most useful features in Android that you may not be using.

Double Tap Recents for Quick App Switching

If you’re using a phone that runs Android 7.x (Nougat) or newer, then this is a tip for you. If you double the tap the Recent button, it will immediately bring up the previously open app.

This is a great way to quickly jump between two things—like a spreadsheet and a calculator, for example. Or a list and a text message. Or any other combination of apps that make sense to you.

Speed Up Animations for a Faster Feel

The display animations between Android apps take up more time than you realize, so if you want to make your phone feel faster, tweaking the animation speed is a great way to do it.

First, you’ll need to enable Developer Options. To do this, jump into the Settings menu, scroll down to About Phone, and then tap the build number seven times. Boom—you’re a developer!

A new menu titled “Developer Options” shows up in the root System menu after you enable developer options. Head in there, and then scroll down to the “Drawing” section. Speed up the Window Animation Scale, Transition Animation Scale, and Animator Duration scale. I recommend switching them to .5x, which will effectively double the animation speed. You could completely remove them, but that makes everything feel choppy and abrupt. It’s not generally recommended.

 

RELATED: How to Speed Up Animations to Make Android Feel Faster

Tweak the Status Bar with the System UI Tuner

Look, the status bar can get cluttered easily—you have the clock, battery, percentage, Wi-Fi and cellular signal indicators, Bluetooth, alarm, and perhaps a lot more icons up there. If you’d like to clean it up a bit by removing some of these icons without having to disable the service itself, then you need the System UI Tuner. This is a hidden menu in stock Android that allows for some pretty cool tweaks.

RELATED: How to Enable Android’s “System UI Tuner” for Access to Experimental Features

To enable it on any stock Android phone running Marshmallow and newer, pull down the notification shade and long-press the cog icon. After a few seconds it will spin, and the System UI Tuner will be enabled. You’ll know it worked if there’s a wrench icon next to it the cog icon.

 

With the UI Tuner enabled, fire it up (Settings > System UI Tuner) and choose the “Status Bar” option. Just turn off the icons you don’t want by sliding the toggle to “off.”

And by the way, if you’re running a non-stock device—like a Samsung phone, for example—then the System UI Tuner is disabled on your phone by Samsung. The good news is that there’s an app in the Play Store to enable it, though it requires a bit of tweaking on your end. We have full instructions on how to do that here.

RELATED: How to Get Android’s System UI Tuner on Non-Stock Devices

View Dismissed Notifications

Once you dismiss a notification, it’s gone from the status bar. But they’re not gone forever—Android actually keeps a log of all notifications that you can easily access. Interestingly enough, you’ll need to access this setting through a widget on your home screen.

To get access to it, first long-press on an open area of your home screen, and then choose “Widgets.” Find the Settings widget, and then long press the icon and drag it to the home screen. A menu opens where you’ll choose what you want this new icon to link to—just choose “Notification Log.” Bam, done.

RELATED: How to View Notifications You’ve Dismissed on Android

Note: This isn’t available for Samsung phones. For that, you’ll need to use an app called Notification Saver.

Set up Automatic Do Not Disturb Settings

Android’s Do Not Disturb settings have changed a lot over the years, and (maybe) they’ve reached a place where they’ll stay. They’re incredibly useful, but the best part is easily the automation. You can set it up so DND will automatically turn on and off at your specified time. You can also set custom rules, like allowing certain things to get through the DND settings, like repeat callers, or calls/messages from your favorite contacts.

To access this feature, head into the Settings > Sounds > Do Not Disturb menu and edit the Automatic Rules. If you hit any snags along the way, we have a full post on getting everything set up that can help you out.

RELATED: How to Set Automatic Quiet Times in Android with Do No Disturb

Use Notification Channels to Really Take Control of Notifications (Oreo Only)

If you’re lucky enough to have an Android Oreo device—like a Google Pixel, Galaxy S9, Galaxy S8, or Note 8—then you may not be leveraging the control you have over notifications to the fullest extent. Oreo introduced a new feature called Notification Channels that moves most notification settings to the system level (instead of being on a per-app basis).

In short, Notification Channels are ways define how important a notification is. If it’s something you never want to miss, you can set it as “Urgent.” If it’s something you don’t want to distract you, then you can move it “Low.” There are also two settings—Medium and High—allowing for pretty granular control. To learn more about Notification Channels and how to get the most out of them, check out this post.

RELATED: How to Use Android Oreo’s New Notification Channels for Ultra-Granular Notification Customization

One Handed Mode in Gboard

If you’re a user of Google’s Gboard, you can make it easier to type with one hand by switching to one-handed mode. To do this, long-press the comma key, and then slide over to little icon that looks like a hand holding a box.

The keyboard immediately gets smaller and shifts to one side. To move it to the other side, use the arrow button. To go back to a full-size keyboard, tap the button that looks like a fullscreen icon.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.