The current version of Google’s mobile operating system includes several features that can make life easier and a bit more whimsical.
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Last week’s Tech Tip column collected several iOS 14 tips for iPhone users, and many phones running Google’s Android 11 operating system have similar controls — like the ability to customize the Quick Settings box or change the assistant’s synthetic voice. And once you start poking around in Android 11, you’ll find plenty of other useful features.
Here are just a few of them. These tips should work on Google’s recent Pixel models, but keep in mind that other phone makers often use their own modified versions of Android, so capabilities and menus may vary.
If you’ve chosen the Google Assistant as your virtual helper and use the current version of Google’s Phone app for your calls, you can team them up with the Hold for Me feature to handle one of modern life’s most annoying tasks: waiting for a customer-service representative. (You also need at least a Pixel 3 or another compatible phone.)
To enable Hold for Me, open the Phone app and tap the three-dot More menu to get to the settings. Select Hold for Me and then tap the button to turn on the feature.
When you dial a toll-free number and are put on hold, tap the onscreen button to activate Hold for Me. The Google Assistant takes over listening for a human and displays a “Don’t hang up” notice. When the customer service representative picks up the call, Google Assistant changes the screen message to “Someone’s waiting to talk to you” and highlights the “Return to call” button. The phone captures the audio and a transcript of the call, and you have the option to share the data with Google to help improve the feature.
Lending your phone to someone has its risks — especially lending it to a young someone who wants to watch videos but may also wander into your email and contacts list. To keep the peace — and to keep your personal files secure — you can make use of Android’s longtime “Multiple Users” setting. With it, you can set up a guest account or separate user account on your phone.
Open the Settings app, select System, then Advanced and Multiple Users. Tap the On button and then Add User to create a new account or use the guest account. You can switch accounts here or by swiping down from the top of the screen with two fingers to open the Quick Settings box and tapping the User icon.
Screen recordings are useful for presentations, demonstrations and troubleshooting. After years of third-party apps doing the job, Android 11 now includes a Screen Recorder app.
To use it, swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers to open the Quick Settings box and then swipe to the second page of settings. Tap the Screen Record icon, turn on the controls for audio and screen taps (if needed) and tap Start. To stop recording, swipe down from the top of the screen and tap the red notification bar. The recording is saved in the Movies library.
The Quick Settings panel is handy, but Android 11 adds yet another place to stash commonly used controls: Press and hold the phone’s Power button until the Power Menu appears. Here, you have shortcuts for shutting down or restarting the phone, using Google Pay to buy stuff and managing smart home devices. Install an app like Power Menu Controls or Tasker and you can add other system controls to the screen.
Another use for the Power button? Quickly press it twice to go right to the Camera app for that quick snap.
Software developers have a history of sneaking so-called Easter eggs into code, and Android has long upheld this tradition. Android 11 revives a previous prize: a hidden game that sets digital cats roaming around your phone. To play it, go to the About Phone section of the Settings and tap “Android version” a few times. When a volume dial appears, crank it all the way up three times until you see an “11” and a cat emoji appear on the screen.
Next, hold down the Power button to get to the Power Menu. Tap the three-dot More menu to select Add Controls. Select “See other apps” at the bottom of the screen, select “Cat Controls” and add the water dish, food bowl and cat toy to your Power Menu. Tap these controls and digital cats will begin to appear in your notifications or in floating bubbles, ready to be named and saved into your onscreen kitty corral. It’s not a complex game, but it’s a way to spend the time until the final version of Android 12 arrives this year.
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