Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the world. It runs on a wide range of smartphones and computers made by different companies. Even though Android devices are used by a lot of people, there are still a lot of things that people don’t know about them. In this piece, we’ll look at some facts, hidden Android features, and history that aren’t as well known to help you learn more about the Android ecosystem.
What is Android operating system (OS)?
Android is an operating system (OS) made by Google that can be used on phones and computers. It runs on devices made by many different companies, giving you more options for style and price. Also, the Android OS gives you a lot of ways to change how your device works.
Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White got together in 2003 to start Android Inc. At first, their goal was to make an operating system for digital cameras. But they soon learned that the market for cameras wasn’t big enough, so they switched their attention to making an operating system for mobile devices.
Google bought Android Inc. in 2005 and started making the Android OS, an open-source alternative to other mobile operating systems, right away.
The T-Mobile G1 also called the HTC Dream, was the first device to run Android. It came out in October 2008 and ran Android 1.0. This first version had a touch screen and a moving QWERTY keyboard.
Android 1.0 didn’t have many tools that are now standard, like an on-screen keyboard, support for multiple touches, or an app store. But it did add some important tools, such as Google Maps, Gmail, and YouTube.
Hidden Android features
Today, Android has features upon features, so much so that most users are not even aware of them. Below are the top hidden Android features and tricks:
1. Android Go
In 2017, Google announced Android Go, a form of the Android operating system that uses less RAM and storage and is made for low-end devices.
Android Go makes the OS work better on devices with 1GB of RAM or less, so they run smoothly and use their resources well. Google also has a set of apps called “Go,” like “Google Go,” “YouTube Go,” and “Maps Go,” which are slimmed-down versions of their regular cousins. Sometimes, the apps are called “Lite” which means lightweight.
2. Android Easter Egg secret game
Google has a hidden “Easter egg” in each version of the Android operating system since Android 2.3 Gingerbread. To find the Easter egg, go to Settings > About phone and tap the Android version number several times. This will show a secret image or game linked to the Android version’s code name, like the Neko cat-collecting game in Android 7.0 Nougat or the Flappy Bird-inspired game in Android 5.0 Lollipop.
3. Bugdroid Android mascot
The Bugdroid is the name most people give to the Android mascot, which is a green robot with a unique design. Irina Blok, an artist at Google, came up with the mascot in 2007. The Bugdroid is simple and flexible in its design, which makes it easy to change and use in different media.
Google has told the Android community that they can use and change the mascot as long as they don’t hurt the brand.
4. Endless customizations
One of the best things about the Android platform is how open and flexible it is. This lets companies make a wide range of devices with different specs, styles, and prices.
This has led to an environment with a wide range of devices, from cheap phones to high-end flagships and everything in between.
This level of customization also applies to the software, as makers often add their own features, skins, and apps to the Android operating system.
5. Custom ROMs and “modding” an Android
Android is different from other mobile operating systems in another way: it has a large community of makers and fans who make custom ROMs and mods for Android devices. These custom ROMs often have more features, better speed, and optimizations than the stock Android experience.
LineageOS, Paranoid Android, and Resurrection Remix are all well-known homebrew ROMs.
Flashing a custom ROM can be tricky and may cancel the warranty on some devices, but it gives users more ways to make their Android experience fit their needs.
6. Disable Home Lock Screen
The lock screen serves as your phone’s primary defense against unauthorized access, requiring a PIN or fingerprint scan for entry.
While this security measure is crucial when you’re out and about, it can be inconvenient when you’re at home. Using the Smart Lock feature, you can disable the lock screen while at home:
- Navigate to Settings > Lock Screen > Smart Lock and select Smart Lock from the options.
- Enter your PIN.
- Tap Trusted Places, then Add Trusted Place.
- If you’re at home, a map will display your location. Tap Select This Location, and your lock screen will be disabled when you’re there.
Exercise caution when using this hidden Android trick; if you live with people who may access your phone, it’s safer to keep the lock screen enabled.
7. Find My Device
Losing your phone is a common occurrence, and it can be challenging to locate it, especially when set to silent mode. If you’ve added a Google Account to your Android smartphone, Find My Device should be enabled by default.
In case you lose your phone, visit android.com/find on another device and sign in with your Google Account. You’ll see your phone’s location and have the option to remotely lock it or make it ring (even in silent mode), as long as your device has internet access. Just visit https://www.google.com/android/find/ on your computer to begin tracking your Android device location.
8. Retrieve lost notifications
It’s easy to accidentally swipe away a notification without reading it. However, with one of the hidden Android features, you can quickly access old notifications:
- Long press and hold an empty space on your home screen to enter screen-adjusting mode.
- Tap on Widgets at the bottom of the screen.
- Locate the Settings shortcut widget (a mechanical gear) in Widgets.
- Drag the Settings widget to your home screen.
In the popup menu, find the Notification Log option and select it. You can now use the shortcut on your home screen to check your notification log.
9. Magnify text and image
For those with visual impairments or anyone trying to read the fine print, increasing text and image visibility is crucial. To enable the Magnification option:
- Go to Settings > Accessibility > Visibility Enhancement > Magnification > On.
- Select Triple Tap to Zoom.
A quick triple tap on the phone screen will now allow you to zoom in on text and images.
10. Android app sideloading
The main place to get apps for Android devices is the Google Play Store, but the platform also lets you sideload apps from other places.
Users can use this feature to install apps that aren’t on the Play Store or to try out test versions of apps before they are released to the public. Sideloading apps can be risky for your security because apps from places you don’t know can contain malware or be a privacy risk. So, when you sideload apps, be careful and only download from trusted sites.
Sometimes, the third-party site could be an honest one but they unknowingly uploaded an infected app, which when you download compromises and damages your device.
11. Google Play Protect
Google Play Protect is a built-in security suite that scans apps for malware and other possible risks. It was made to help keep Android devices safe. Play Protect is built into your Google Play Store to scan apps automatically when they are loaded.
It also scans installed apps for suspicious behavior regularly. This helps keep Android devices safe and keeps people from getting hurt by bad apps.
According to Google, Google Play Protect automatically scans all of the apps on your Android phone to prevent the installation of harmful apps, making it the most widely deployed mobile threat protection service in the world.
12. Always-on Display
Always-on Display (AOD) is a feature that some Android smartphones, especially those with OLED screens, have. When your Android device is in standby mode, this function shows a small amount of information, like the time, date, and notifications, on the screen.
OLED screens only light up individual pixels, so the AOD feature uses very little battery power and lets you quickly glance at important information without having to fully wake up your device.
13. Gesture navigation
Gesture navigation is a function that lets Android users control their devices without using on-screen buttons but by using swipes and taps.
Gesture control has become a popular way to move around on Android devices. It was first added with Android 9 Pie. Users can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to get to the home screen, swipe left or right along the bottom edge to switch between recently used apps, and swipe up and hold to get to the app switcher.
Gesture control can make using a device easier and more natural, especially on devices with bigger screens or narrow bezels. Meanwhile, here are steps to enable gesture navigation on MIUI Android.
14. Android Auto
Android Auto is a mobile app that makes using an Android device while driving easier and more helpful for drivers. Android Auto works with some car models and aftermarket head units. It shows important apps and features like navigation, music, and messages in a bigger, easier-to-read format.
Users can control Android Auto with touch controls, buttons on the steering wheel, or voice commands. This lets you access important features without taking their eyes off the road.
15. Enable Android Developer options
Android Developer Options grant access to a variety of settings that many users are unaware of, including the ability to change the maximum number of connected Bluetooth devices and modify background process limits to prevent your phone from becoming overwhelmed.
While Developer Options offer advanced control over your device, it’s crucial to avoid altering settings you don’t understand, as some changes could negatively impact your phone’s functionality.
- Open the Settings app and tap About Phone, followed by tapping the Build Number 7 times.
- Enter your passcode and return to the Settings menu.
- Tap System Settings and then Developer Options.
16. Restrict background data consumption
Restricting background data is one of the hidden Android features to extend your phone’s battery life and prevent premature data usage.
Many commonly used apps continuously refresh and search for Wi-Fi connections in the background.
Disabling this feature can help your phone last longer, but it may also prevent you from receiving notifications from apps like WhatsApp unless they are currently open. On the bright side, connecting to Wi-Fi later will result in a flood of notifications, making you feel quite popular.
- Open Settings and tap Mobile Network, followed by Data Usage.
- Tap Data Saving, then toggle Data Saving on.
- To create exceptions for specific apps, tap Unrestricted Apps and toggle on any apps you wish to exempt.
17. Android split screen
The split screen is a highly convenient hidden feature in Android is the ability to run two apps side-by-side on the screen, allowing for seamless multitasking without the need to constantly switch between apps.
Accessing this feature varies depending on your device’s Android version and UI. On the MIUI, for example, we have covered the steps to use the split screen, as well as exit the feature.
T enable split screen on Android, you want to do the following:
- Swipe up from the bottom of the screen and hold to open the Recent apps list.
- Tap on the app icon at the top of the screen.
- Select “Split Screen” to display the chosen app in the upper half of the screen.
To display the second app on the lower half of the screen, either pick it from the Recent apps list or select it from the app drawer.
18. One-handed mode
For those who don’t own a small phone but still want single-handed control, most top-tier Android phones offer a one-handed mode. By swiping the screen, the entire user interface becomes more accessible and easier to reach.
The one-handed feature is particularly helpful for individuals with accessibility issues or those with small hands who struggle to access certain areas of the screen.
- Open the Settings app and tap System Settings.
- Tap One-Handed Mode and toggle it on.
- To activate the one-handed mode, swipe down at the bottom of the screen.
19. Share Wi-Fi Passwords using a QR code
For those tired of sharing Wi-Fi passwords with guests or looking to quickly connect with a large group, generating a QR code can eliminate confusion around case sensitivity and other details.
With one Android device already connected to the network, everyone else can scan the QR code with their devices and connect instantly. Ensure you are connected to a Wi-Fi network to share its password.
- Open the Wi-Fi menu and tap the gear icon next to the network.
- Tap QR Code or Share.
20. Live transcribe
Live Transcribe is an excellent accessibility feature for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, as it transcribes conversations in real-time. This tool is also helpful for taking notes and recording discussions. You can even add a shortcut to the screen for easy access in any situation.
- Open Settings, tap Accessibility, and then tap Live Transcribe.
- Tap Open Live Transcribe to use the feature once, or toggle on Live Transcribe Shortcut if you plan to use it regularly (this adds a small Live Transcribe button to the bottom right of the screen).
21. Android translate text
With the pandemic subsiding and international travel resuming, language barriers may become a challenge during vacations. Google offers a quick solution for translating written text in seconds.
- In Chrome, tap the camera icon next to the search bar to open Google Lens (which also has a standalone app).
- Tap Translate at the bottom of the screen, point your camera at the text, and take a picture.
22. Block spam texts
Spam texts can be intrusive, annoying, and even dangerous or malicious. While there’s no foolproof way to block all spam, you can significantly reduce the amount you receive with a few simple steps. If you do receive a potential spam message, remember never to click on any links or enter personal information.
- Open the Messages app, tap the three dots icon, and then tap Settings.
- Tap Spam Protection.
- Toggle Enable Spam Protection to on.
23. Focus Mode
Focus mode is a feature available on Android devices that helps you minimize distractions and focus on your tasks. It temporarily disables selected apps to prevent interruptions from notifications and other distractions. To enable Focus mode, go to the Digital Wellbeing & parental controls settings, turn on the Focus mode switch, and select the apps you want to pause.
You can then enable Focus mode at any time by accessing the Quick Settings panel and tapping on the Focus mode icon. To exit Focus mode, simply tap on the icon again or turn off the switch in the Digital Wellbeing & parental controls settings. Note that the step depends on your Android version and type of device.
Hidden Android codes
All Android phones have a built-in protocol called USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), which allows users to quickly access features on their phone regardless of the manufacturer.
To use Android secret codes, go to the Phone app, open the dial pad, and enter a code. You don’t need to tap Call. If your phone supports the code, it should execute automatically.
Best codes for finding Android phone information
These codes provide information about your phone’s hardware and software:
- ##2663## – Display touch-screen version information.
- ##44336## – Display phone’s build time.
- ##3264## – Check RAM version.
- ##1111## – Display FTA software version.
- 2222## – Display FTA hardware version.
- ##232337## – View Bluetooth device address.
- #06# – View phone’s IMEI number.
- ##232338## – Display Wi-Fi network’s MAC address.
- ##49862650468##* – View phone’s firmware information.
- ##34971539## – View camera firmware information.
- ##1234## – View phone’s firmware information including PDA software version.
- *#03# – View NAND flash serial number.
Best codes for managing phone settings
These codes can be used as shortcuts to perform various helpful tasks:
- ##7594## – Change power button behavior.
- ##197328640## – Access Service Mode for tests and phone settings changes.
- 3001#12345# – Access Field Mode for information about local networks and cell towers.
- #3282727336*# – View storage and data consumption information.
- ##4636## – Display battery information, WLAN status, and usage statistics.
- ##225## – Display Calendar data stored on your phone.
- *#2263# – Display RF band selection.
- *3282# – Get a text message with your billing information.
- #0# – Enter test mode (only available on some devices).
Codes for troubleshooting Android
If your phone is malfunctioning, try these codes to troubleshoot and identify the problem:
- ##1472365## – Perform a GPS test.
- ##2664## – Test the touch-screen.
- ##526## – Perform a WLAN test.
- ##232331## – Test Bluetooth.
- ##7262626## – Perform a field test.
- ##0842## – Test vibration and backlight.
- ##0283## – Perform a packet loopback test.
- ##0588## – Perform a proximity sensor test.
- ##0673## or ##0289## – Perform audio and melody tests.
- #0782*# – Perform a real-time clock test.
- ##426## – Run Google Play Services diagnostics.
- *#0589# – Perform a light sensor test.
- *#0228# – Check battery status and details.
- *#7284# – Access USB 12C mode control.
- *#872564# – Access USB logging control.
- *#745# – Open RIL dump menu.
- *#746# – Open Debug dump menu.
- *#9900# – Access System dump mode.
- *#3214789# – Display GCF mode status.
- #9090# – Display diagnostic configuration.
- #7353# – Open Quick test menu.
- ##273282255663282*## – Create a backup of your media files.
- ##7780## – Factory reset your Android phone.
A factory reset removes all personal data from your phone, so back up your Android before resetting your device.
Codes for managing calls and messages on Android
Use these codes to manage call waiting, call forwarding, and more:
- *#67# – Display call forwarding information on your phone.
- *#61# – See how long it takes to forward calls.
- *31# – Turn on caller ID.
- #31# – Turn off caller ID.
- *43# – Turn on call waiting.
- #43# – Turn off call waiting.
- 50057672# – See your SMS message center number.
Android devices have a lot of features, customizations, and new ideas that the normal user might not notice right away. Learning about these tricks and hidden Android features helps you to understand more about your Android devices and use them to their fullest.