Five Awesome Android Secrets

By Will Smith

Whether you just bought your first Android smartphone or are a veteran, here are five awesome tricks you can use in Android 2.1.

It's no secret that I'm really impressed with Google's Android operating system, but there's a fair amount about the nascent OS that's poorly or just plain not documented. While you'll figure out a fair amount on your own--like the awesome minute-by-minute weather forecast that you can find by tapping the temperature in the weather app--here are five awesome tips that we never would have figured out on our own.

1. Touch Your Contacts

If you tap a contact's buddy icon in any app you open the Quick Contacts menu, which you can use select the way you want to interact with them, in any app that's registered with Android. That's right. If you want to respond to that text message with an email, it's easy. Tap the contact icon in the text window, tap the Gmail icon, and voila!

2. Recent Apps are a Tap Away

Tap and hold the Home button to bring up a list of your most recently used apps. 

3. Navigate Faster

You can access the Maps turn-by-turn navigation faster by using it with voice search. Hold down the search button until you see the speech prompt, then lead your query with "navigate to...". You can follow it with either a contact's name, or a generic search term, such as "Navigate to churros". Sadly, there were no churros to be found in Sausalito.

4. Gesture Search 

Google's own Gesture Search app is a great way to access your favorite contacts, playlist, or podcast on Android with just a swipe of your finger. Start the app, then start spelling the letters of the contact, song, bookmark, or app you're looking for by drawing the letters on the screen. 

5. Quick-Skip to Home Screen

It takes a little longer than I'd like to navigate across Android 2.1's 5 home screens, but if you want quickly skip to a specific page, you can hold down the page turn buttons at the bottom of the home screen, which will pop up a series of thumbnails. Click the thumbnail, and go directly to the appropriate screen.