Cool Tricks You Can Do With That New Android Phone Or iPad

Maybe you unwrapped a new iPad, only to leave it in the box because you aren’t quite ready to take it on. Or perhaps you forced a Droid X on your kindly grandmother, hoping to spread bliss, only to see her cower in fear.

Your new gadgets won’t do you a heck of a lot of good without the knowledge of what they can do for you. Trial and error is the best teacher, but luckily the veteran hands over at Engadget have culled their knowledge into a couple handy start-up guides for the best apps, accessories and tips for both the iPad and Android Phones.

Among the most intriguing finds are Swype, an app that lets you type on your virtual keyboards by moving your fingers from one letter to the next in a connect-the-dots manner, and the Angry Birds games, which are free on the Android Market but $2 and $5 on the iPad.

If you’re new to either device, you’ll probably learn a thing or two by going over the posts. And if you bought an iPod or Android phone for someone else, your gift isn’t complete unless you forward them the appropriate links.

What are your favorite iPad and Android tips?

Just got an Android phone? The best apps, accessories, and tips [Engadget]

Just got an iPad? The best apps, accessories, and tips [Engadget]


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  1. ravana says:

    Android Essentials:
    Update Google Maps to 5.0 & Gmail
    Google Voice

    Android Essentials for the HTPC enthusiast:
    Youtube Remote

    Holiday Travel Essentials:
    Angry Birds Seasons
    Angry Birds

    Feel free to add :)

    • Beeker26 says:

      Barcode Scanner, Shazam/Soundhound

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      I like Note Everything, you can make text notes, paint notes, voice notes… handy for shopping lists, of quick “note to myself” type things that I can review later.

    • qwickone says:

      AppBrain, camera360 (better than the stock camera), Dolphin Browser (better than stock browser)

      • pullapint says:

        For my browsing I’ve found Dolphin Mini or Opera Mini to be much faster than Dolphin HD although Dolphin HD has a bunch of nice add-ons.

    • Shadowfax says:

      In no particular order:

      K9 mail. Blows the default mail app out of the water.

      c:geo – if you’re a geocacher, this is the last geocaching toy you’ll ever need.

      Android Agenda Widget: Works with the included calendar and unlike the included widget, can display multiple calendars across different widgets.

      Advanced Task Killer: Battery saver. Run this occasionally to kill all the programs you opened but aren’t using.

      Bubble: Bubble level. Disc and bar type.

      AAA Discounts: Finds AAA-participating stores near you

      Lookout: Geolocates your lost or stolen phone. Can also trigger a siren when you get close so you can find it. Includes a virus/security app.

      RoMote: Control your roku over your wireless connection. Useful if your dog ate your original remote.

      Tricorder: Nerdgasm!

      TeslaLED: The best flashlight app – only useful on phones with a flash, of course. Can also do morse code and strobelight.

      XKCD Viewer: Best comic out there ;)

      • eelmonger says:

        With modern versions of android, task killers are almost completely unnecessary and can actually hurt your battery life. See

        • Shadowfax says:

          I’m on an original Droid running 2.2.1, and the task killer frees up system memory, having a noticeable positive effect on the speed of my phone. If anything, it’s more needed now that the phone runs Froyo than it was before, as various apps (goggles, for instance) tend to start by themselves in the background- something that didn’t happen on 2.0 or 2.1.

          It may or may not chew in to battery life (Dunno, I’ve had it since day 1, so I don’t have a baseline to compare it to), but I make it through the day without running out of battery, so that’s not much of a concern.

          However, ATK closes itself after you kill tasks, so I’m not sure why or how it would have any effect on battery life.

          • eelmonger says:

            The link I posted details why they are a bad idea and can hurt battery life. Essentially, memory doesn’t work the same way in Android as it does it Windows; having free memory in Android doesn’t buy you anything, it’s just wasted potential, so the OS will try and use as much memory as it can. If you kill something with a task killer, the OS will just restart it or another program again eventually and that takes battery power.

            Android is designed to intelligently control memory allocation, and if you try and do that too, you’re just making it harder for it to do its job.

            • Shadowfax says:

              Then why does my phone speed up when I kill tasks? I generally only run the task killer when I notice significant input delays (I swipe to flip desktops and it pauses for .5-2 seconds, etc). Immediately after killing tasks, the phone is back to normal response time.

              • Ayanami says:

                Something you installed isn’t playing well with the system. My gf has the exact phone, same software (rooted but the stock software) and it goes for a week straight without slowing down. Usually if you’re having a problem with slowness after extended up time, it’s an improperly coded app. You can look in the battery usage and see what app is doing this and uninstall it. Most times, it’s a widget.

        • feralparakeet says:

          I find Advanced Task Killer to be useful when I’m low on battery and would like to kill off Facebook, Twitter, and all of my auto-updating news apps at once. Also, the camera does occasionally neglect to shut itself off after use, so it’s good for that too.

          ‘Necessary’ or not, it does have its occasional legitimate uses.

          -ScoreMobile is a million times better than ESPN’s ScoreCenter app
          -IMDB’s app gets much more use than I expected it to
          -The Gmail app is much better than the intergrated app (wish I could put the icon in the bottom row instead of the default app…)
          -PDANet is a great backup plan for tethering (even if your provider supposedly doesn’t support it, it works)

          I should also point out that I’ve had my Captivate for nearly three months and have yet to have a need or desire for any app that I couldn’t find for free.

  2. Alvis says:

    Not ready to take on an iPad? If -Apple- products intimidate you, better stick to the coloring books.

  3. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    Cool trick I can do with my phone:

    Make phone calls!

    (I know, OMG, right?)

    • Rocket says:

      You can do that? Where can I get that app?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Comments about phones still capable of fulfilling rudimentary functions and somehow implying that those functions are all anyone should want are a little old.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        “implying that those functions are all anyone should want are a little old.”

        I’m merely implying that people tend to forget about the basic functionality of a phone and go nuts over products that are trendy and cost a bundle. My cell phone is a phone, my computer is a computer. (my big screen TV is also a computer, but that’s another story.)

        • Minj says:

          And your computer was originally a word processor or a calculator. Doing anything else with it is just trendy.

        • Shadowfax says:

          It seems a natural extension of PDA technology to combine it with a phone so that you don’t have to carry two devices around, and charge two devices, and look up a phone number on one device so you can dial it on another, etc. Acting as though PDA/phone hybrids (aka smartphones) are stupid and all anyone should ever want is a regular phone that does nothing but dial out is somewhat like bitching that all we really need is a horse and buggy, not these damn newfangled cars.

          If you don’t personally see the need for a smartphone, that’s fine. Use a normal phone. But take a hint from the Amish, who don’t see the need for a lot of modern conveniences, but don’t go around making fun of those of us who do.

    • Doubts42 says:

      so you clearly do not have an Iphone. because ATT has disabled calling on those.

  4. Gladeye says:

    I was given an iPad 32g, wifi. A big surprise and something I didn’t know I wanted! So far, I’ve found it ok for internet surfing and email, but haven’t found much else that’s amazing. The only things I find myself keeping are games, particularly for my 6 and 3 year olds.

    I’m most curious about jailbreaking my Ipad. Is that and irreversible or dangerous process that I could seriously end up regretting? Or will it make my iPad much better? Anyone here have firsthand experience with jailbreaking an iPad?

    • Rocket says:

      I have an iPod touch that’s jail broken. It can be undone. If you open iTunes, and restore your device, it’ll remove the jailbreak.
      That said, you should jailbreak, to get the cool stuff on the Cydia store.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        “If you open iTunes, and restore your device, it’ll remove the jailbreak.”

        You should’t have to “jailbreak” a product to get it to do what you want, IMHO.

        One more reason not to like iTunes. iTunes songs are overpriced, ($20 for a CD worth of tunes without any physical media?) and the app is bloatware. And it’s pretty much impossible to manage an iPod without iTunes.

    • Gravitational Eddy says:

      I have found nothing so far that makes me want to jailbreak it yet.
      As far as I’m concerned, Apple has reasons that it doesn’t trust anyone else’s
      programming. Just look at Microsoft.
      Mostly loaded with opportunities to corrupt users property.

  5. Gravitational Eddy says:

    I’m still playing with it two months later.. it’s way better than my laptop.
    Does the same things really….. and no, I’m not a Apple fan-boy:
    I really really like Sketchbook Pro and I’m now looking for the other
    dynamite apps that actually do something other than tease you.
    I’m kinda tired of freebie do-nothing apps that won’t let you save your work
    (unless you upgrade to the $9.99 full package)
    I’ve run up against a problem though, maybe you can help.
    I need a better way to search the App store at Apples site.
    the onsite search tool will not let you search for user reviewed quality.
    In other words, there’s a huge selection of apps, but no way to distinguish the good from the bad. I’d like to see only good ones and blank out all the crap ones from the pile.
    wonder if Google can help….

  6. c_c says:

    Got an Android Phone? Root it and flash the latest CyanogenMod ROM.

  7. andoman says:

    This is my favorite tip, usually when you get the phone there is a ‘protector’ on the screen that usually has writing on it. It usually blocks the screen somewhat so that you need to buy something else.

    A guy discovered you can rub off the print with rubbing alcohol, and what is left behind is a crystal clear factory installed screen protector.

  8. Rena says:

    Wasn’t Angry Birds found to be selling personal information?

  9. stint7 says:

    I am pretty tech-saavy but when I got my Android phone, it took me a little while to get the gist of it. I love it now and have it customized to my liking.

    Unfortunately, my android is an ealier model and can’t quite handle Angry Birds that well….:(

  10. Ayanami says:


    First to backup eelmonger, task killers are NOT NEEDED. This is a falsehood coming mostly from Apple fanboys

    Titanium backup – I cannot stress this one enough, it will backup all your apps and their data should you need to replace/wipe your phone.

    Astro or Estrongs file explorer – put your files where you want them

    Freemake Video converter (computer software) – this will convert video to be watchable on your device. it will shrink the filesize (usually) and set all the video parameters to make it easier on your phone to play.

    Soundgate M2 car mount – Very inexpensive and easy to install mounting kit. I got mine for less than 10 dollars shipped!

    USB cigarette lighter adapter – Using GPS drains battery life, quickly, use one of these to keep the device juiced up.

    A 16 GB class 4 or better SD card – maybe, 32GB ones should be into reasonable prices soon.
    Barcode Scanner
    Radio Time
    Google Listen
    Ak Notepad
    Mixzing Media Player – Finds album art from the internet, can “see both internal memory and the SD card.
    Tweetdeck – Never open twitter, facebook, or google buzz apps ever again, this replaces them all reasonably well, and will let you post to all 3 (as I often do) with 1 click. The widget this comes with is fantastic too.

    Chrome 2 phone (for google chrome) copies links from websites you are viewing on your computer to the notification tray on your phone, very useful.

    Keep your screen brightness as low as possible, it really helps battery life.

    Lastly, use the google account and it’s services that are linked to your phone, it provides a much more seamless experience overall. Throw your podcasts into listen, your RSS into reader and then get the associated apps.

  11. skylar.sutton says:

    Skip “Advanced Task Killer” – it’s been proven time and again that task killers are worthless for Android… it does that on it’s own.

    I would recommend “Watchdog” if you’re curious about what is running and chewing up your battery. Then you can make some setting changes or uninstall troublesome apps.

    Also, checkout “Locale” or “Tasker” to have your device automatically reconfigure itself when you arrive at places (i.e. Just got to work? Phone goes into vibrate/quiet mode automatically)

    • n0th1ng says:

      Is there a reason my phone “autostarts” apps for no good reason? it starts up amazon, the navigation app ( non google) and a few more all the time. I use a task killer because i worry about battery life.

  12. gurupitka says:


  13. tomhirt says:

    second on Google Voice.

    Evernote app has been a great help.

    Tweetdeck app makes it a snap to check on all SM updates.