Android tips

The goal of this collection of tips is to highlight my personal configurations. This document is not a comprehensive collection of best practices, but are settings and apps that I enjoy, and others may appreciate them too.

Disable built in bloatware apps

Android phone typically ship with a handful of apps pre-installed on the phone. Some of these apps you will be able to uninstall, though not all of them. But you can go ahead and disable the apps you don't want. This may include Carrier apps, a second or third messaging app, or Google Play Music (which isn't very useful without a subscription).

Turn off Google Play Services permissions

Google aggressively tracks users for advertising. Arguably, some users enjoy the features that come with the massive amount of telemetry data Google collects, but I personally don't find any value in the tradeoffs. Go to Settings > Apps > Google Play Services, and disable all permissions. Once the feature is disabled, if an app wants to use Play services features the app will prompt you to turn on a specific feature and you can choose to allow or deny at that time.

Disable Personalized Ads

Go to Settings >  Google Settings > Ads > "Opt out of Ads Personalization". This is fairly self explanatory.

Enable and review Developer Options

Developer Options let's the user modify some default system settings. This includes changing how many processes are allowed to run in the background, and enabling a smarter Advanced Reboot menu. I won't go into detail on how to enable it, becuase the steps vary by manufacturer, but the steps are a simple web search away.

Be cautious of giving any app Storage permission

Unlike iOS apps that are fully sandboxed, Android apps that have Storage permission are allowed to create files in your personal home folder. The concern with this is that it has been found that some apps snoop around in that folder to identify which other apps are installed. Try to avoid this scenario by only giving storage permission to apps that require it for the feature you desire. If an app asks for permission, initially deny the permission. Later, if there is a key feature missing because you declined the feature, you can always enable the permission later.

Note: Android 11 (Fall 2020 update) resolves these security issues with improved sandboxing, but most Android phones will not recieve the Android 11 update, so it is always best advice to limit unnecessary app permissions.

Killing running apps

In Android, swipping up to kill apps from the app switcher does not kill all app processes. There used to be a Developer Option to enable this functionality, but it was removed for my OnePlus phone in 2019. If the option is not available in Developer Options for you device too, then you can use this workaround method: from the (a) app switch, (b) home screen, or (c) app drawer, click and hold an app until you see a pop-up menu with "App info". Select "App info" and then "FORCE STOP". Within App info you can also clear app cache.

Download Firefox Preview

Firefox Preview is the up and coming replacement to the traditional Firefox for Android app. While the traditional app uses the desktop app's rendering engine on the phone, the Preview app uses a new hybrid engine that is the combination of Android's native WebView and Firefox's Gecko engine, called GeckoView. The Preview app is fast, has built in tracking protection, and a useful settings selection. Firefox plans to replace the traditional app with Preview after a few more features are implemented including greater add-on compatibility. Currently there is only a small selection of browser add-ons that are compatibly with Preview, but it's already a great user experience and I recommend it.

Download Fdroid:

Fdroid is a third party app store that only includes free and open source software. It's a great addition to the Play Store and includes some great apps that you can not find in the Google Play Store.

Download NewPipe from Fdroid

NewPipe is an alternative app for  YouTube. The UX is simplified. It includes a built in pop-out floating player, removes much of YouTube telemetry and tracking, handy brightness and volume gestures, and more.

Download AntennaPod from Fdroid

AntennaPod is a free and open source podcast player. It is very simplistic app and may not be the ideal choice for all users. Nonetheless, I enjoy it's doesnt include telemetry, it's fast, and easy to use.

Download KDE connect app to allow Linux Desktop integration

In your Linux Desktop you will need to download KDE Connect or Gnome Connect respectively. This allows you to send messages and share files between devices.

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