Data Usage Tracking

Google added this feature way back in 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but I still rarely see people take the time to set it up. You’ll find this near the top of the main system settings on most devices under “Data usage” or something similar. This menu shows you how much mobile data has been consumed, but truly taking advantage of this feature is more than just setting a limit.

Data usage

Data usage

First, configure your plan reset date and set your data cap, assuming you have one (most plans do now). Your phone will warn you as you approach this limit, but opening the cellular billing cycle settings in this menu gives you even more control. Android lets you set a hard limit for mobile data in a billing cycle. That way you won’t trigger overages on carriers that charge them. You can limit your data usage to WiFi-only for a few days if you don’t want to pay extra, or re-enable data and throw caution to the wind.

Newer versions of Android also have a data saver feature, which lets you restrict background data for all apps except those you specifically allow. Consider doing this if you get close to your monthly allotment.

Scheduled Do Not Disturb

Android’s Do Not Disturb (DND) system is much better than it used to be. It debuted in Lollipop as “priority” notification mode, but it was incredibly confusing. The OS explains things better now, and DND is easier to turn on. But who wants to do that manually all the time? You should set up scheduled DND on your phone. Note: most OnePlus phones don’t have this feature because of the hardware alert slider.

Scheduled DND

Scheduled DND

The location of DND in the settings can vary. It’s usually under Sound > Do Not Disturb, but there’s probably a shortcut in the quick settings too. When you get there, go into “Automatic rules” (called Scheduling on some devices) and edit one of the existing rules or create your own. You can have the device turn DND on and off with settings to allow priority notifications through, alarms only, or silence everything. This is super-helpful for keeping your phone quiet at night until it’s time to get up.

Smart Lock

Secure lock screens are important, but do you really need them enabled when you’re just chilling at home or the phone is physically in your pocket? Smart Lock lets you disable the secure lock based on a number of triggers. The ones you want to use will depend on your device. For example, using fingerprint unlock is pretty convenient for waking up a phone, so you might want to keep that for most situations. There’s something in Smart Lock for everyone, though.

Smart Lock

Smart Lock

Finding Smart Lock is, unfortunately, a little annoying. OEMs have decided to shuffle this menu around a lot. In stock Android it’s under the Security menu, but some devices cram it into a separate “Advanced” area. When you do find it, there will be five options: on-body, trusted place, trusted devices, trusted face, and trusted voice. You should play around and see what works best for you, but here are a few uses I’ve been very happy with.

I use trusted voice to make sure I can do OK Google commands while the device is locked. After setting this up, the device will let you use voice commands while locked as long as it recognizes your dulcet tones. Trusted devices lets you keep the phone unlocked when certain devices are connected via NFC or Bluetooth. I use this to make sure my phone remains unlocked when it’s connected to my car. That way I don’t have to fiddle with the fingerprint sensor or unlock code. Trusted location also comes in handy with devices lacking a fingerprint sensor to bypass the unlock code when I’m at home and don’t need to worry about my phone going missing.

Screen Pinning

Let’s say someone asks to borrow your phone or you want to show someone a photo. That should not be a license for them to go snooping, but people do it anyway. You can subtly protect your data by activating screen pinning. This feature is usually enabled by default, but it’s not something everyone will notice.

pinning

Pinning

Screen pinning is available from the multitasking menu on almost all phones. When you go into overview mode, look at the bottom of the front card in your stack. There should be a pin icon. If not, check your security settings for the screen pinning toggle. When you tap the pin, your device will lock to that app. Hand the phone over, and the other party won’t be able to snoop around elsewhere.

To exit pinned mode, press and hold the back button and enter your pass code. This is optional, but again, the pass code requirement is enabled by default.

App Standby

Android implemented Doze mode in Marshmallow to save power while your device is asleep, but there’s also the more drastic App Standby feature. This doesn’t get as much attention, but it can be of great use to you as there’s a way to manually toggle it on and off for each app.

Inactive apps

Inactive apps

An app in standby mode won’t run in the background, use data, or push notifications. So why not just disable the app? Disabling means you can’t use the app until you get back into the settings and turn it on. An app in standby can be opened normally and instantly brought out of standby. Apps enter this mode automatically when they have not been used for around two weeks. To manage standby manually, you need to enter developer options. Open your “About phone” menu and find the software build number. Tap that seven times, and “Developer options” will be added to the bottom of your main system settings.

App Standby is way at the bottom of this menu—it’s called Inactive Apps. All your installed apps are listed with either active or inactive status. Tapping toggles between the modes. So, if an app is misbehaving by pushing too many notifications or using a lot of data, just tap to hibernate it until you need it again.