20 essential Android 3.0 tips and tricks

How to tune and tweak your Android Honeycomb tablet

20 essential Android 3 0 tips and tricks

So you've bought an Android tablet and can't quite figure out how things work in this strange new desktop environment?

It's not like Windows, and doesn't spoon feed you like iOS, but Android 3.0 is amazingly powerful and highly customisable.

Here's our top 20 Android 3.0 tips to tune and tweak your tablet, and you won't have to root it to do a single one.

1. See the normal web (pt1)

Android's phone-based heritage means that many websites see it come and serve up mobile versions of their content that looks terrible on a 10inch screen. You can get around this by changing the way the Browser identifies itself - go to the Browser settings (in top right-hand corner of the screen) tap Advanced and change the 'User agent string' to desktop or tablet.

Android 3 browser

2. See the normal web (pt 2)

Not all tablets have the user agent option available. Acer's Iconia A500, for example, needs a bit of a hack. Open up the browser and type 'about:debug' into the address bar. Now when you go to Settings, you should see a menu for 'Debug' - the user agent switch is in here.

3. Speed up web browsing

The beauty of Android is that it can handle Flash-based web content. But websites with lots of interactive banner ads will still slow it down. Go to Browser > Settings > Advanced and change 'Enable plug-ins' to 'On demand'. Flash applications will appear as an arrow you must click to start them off.

4. Speed up your browser

Do web pages take ages to render, or does typing on the keyboard feel laggy when filling in web forms? Try opening up the Browser Debug menu in tip 2 and turning off OpenGL rendering. Success varies from site to site, but it can give you a bit of a boost.

Android 3 browser

5. Sync your bookmarks with your desktop

If you use Chrome as your desktop browser, one of the big advantages of Honeycomb is that you don't need an app like Xmarks to sync your bookmarks. It's all done via Google's sync tools, hidden on Preferences > Personal Stuff on the desktop version of Chrome and Settings > General in Honeycomb's browser.

6. Get the 3.1 browser

Fire up the browser and go to Settings > Labs and you'll notice an option for 'Quick Controls'. This gives you a little thumbwheel at the side of the page for navigation and will be turned on as standard in the next update.

7. Make your own wallpaper

All 10-inch Android tablets so far have a screen resolution of 1280x800, but with Android's Holographic UI and its swipe-able homepages, the background image has to be bigger than the visible area. You can use the in-built cropping tool to create your own desktops, but if you're preparing a pic for others the ideal resolution is 1920x1408.

8. Take control of your desktop PC

Want to get at your Windows apps while you're on the go? Asus' Transformer ships with a skinned version of Splashtop's remote access client, and it works brilliantly on a Honeycomb tablet. You can get it on other tablets from the market; just download the server to your PC at home from Splashtop.


9. Encrypt your data

One of Honeycomb's killer features for business users is the ability to encrypt the built-in storage, so if someone takes off with your tablet they can't pull your data off the hard drive. You'll need to fully charge your battery and set a password or pin number to the lock screen, then go to Settings > Location and Security.

10. Find network shares

Android's built-in File Manager is OK, so long as you can wrap your head around Linux's unusual way of structuring its hard disk, but for some reason Google decided the ability to browse shared folders on your network was an optional extra. Download File Expert from the Market instead.

11. Get a browser with plug-ins

Look, this isn't a phone, alright? Your tablet is more than capable of handling browser plug-ins like LastPass and Xmarks for easy net navigation, but the default browser can't do it. Get Dolphin HD from the Market.

12. Filter the apps menu

Hunting for a particular app and don't know where you installed it? You may not have spotted this, but if you open up the full list of installed apps by touching the menu button in the top right of the desktop, there's an option to show 'All' or 'Downloaded' at the top of the screen.

Android 3 apps

13. Transfer files in MacOS or Linux

A baffling design choice in Honeycomb was to use the Microsoft MTP protocol for connecting via the USB lead. What does that mean? If you plug a tablet into a Mac or Linux machine, you can't browse its hard drive. Either get the File Transfer Utility (for MacOSX) or the Android SDK for Linux.

14. Search by voice

Another shortcut you may not have noticed is the microphone icon next to the search bar on the main homepage. This opens up Google's Voice Actions, which lets you control your tablet or search the net without using your hands.

15. Quicklink to Dropbox folders

Got the Dropbox app? Of course you have. Did you know you can create quicklinks to your online folders on the Honeycomb desktop though? Tap and hold the desktop to bring up the customisation screen and scroll right to 'More'. You'll find the icon in here - it vastly speeds up working with files if you don't have to open up a separate app first.

16. Make your battery last longer

Go to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Wireless Settings > WiFi Sleep Policy, and change it to 'When screen turns off'. That'll disconnect the wireless antenna while the tablet is in standby: you won't get new email alerts, but your battery will last for days.

Android 3 wireless settings

17. Add folders to your desktop

Why did Google remove the ability to create desktop folders for apps in Honeycomb? It's there in Froyo et al. Must be because they thought five huge homescreens was enough space - but it's not. Get Smart Shortcuts from the Market and organise your workspace the way you want.

18. Use your phone as a modem

There's some confusion over whether or not Honeycomb supports tethering in the normal manner. The good news is that yes, it does. Go into Settings > Wireless & Networks > Bluetooth turn on Bluetooth and pair it with your phone. Now click the spanner icon next to the phone's name in the list there, and you'll find an option for internet tethering.

19. Uninstall apps the easy way

If you've used Android before, you might recall that uninstalling apps is a bit of a laborious trawl through the settings menu to find the right control panel. In Honeycomb, just open up the full launcher, hten drag and drop app icons to the trash can to fully remove them.

20. Encode video the right way

A lot of fuss has been made about Tegra 2's ability to decode HD video, but the truth is that Honeycomb and Tegra aren't as well matched as they could be for accelerated playback. If you're going to copy videos over to your tablet, re-encode them using Handbrake and the settings shown here.


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