MediaDownloader’s 22 Favorite Android Hacks of 2022Reading Time: 7 minutes
From iMessage reactions and Chrome Flags to cutting off your Google Assistant, this year gifted us many beloved new Android features.
2022 was a big year for Android. We saw Google release both the Pixel 7 and Android 13, injecting new features and hardware into the Android market. Now, after another full year of using Android OS, keeping up with Google news, and reading about other users’ experiences on forums, we found quite a few Android hacks to write home about. Here are 22 of our favorites.
This year, Google gave us a great gift: You can tell Google Assistant to ‘fucking stop,’ and it’ll shut right up. You don’t have to cuss at the assistant, of course. All Google Assistant is looking for is the word ‘stop.’ But, it’s more fun to add a little bit of spice to you request. The big change powering this ability is you no longer need to say ‘Hey Google’ to stop it from speaking. When you ask your assistant a question, and it begins answering, just say ‘stop,’ and it’ll stop.
For years, Android users were plagued by iMessage’s Tapback reactions. If an iPhone user ‘liked’ or ‘laughed at’ a message, it wouldn’t appear as a reciprocal icon in Google Messages. Instead, it’d come through as an entire new message, i.e., ‘Jake liked: ‘Do you want to go to the movies tonight?” Insufferable.
This year, Google fixed the issue, turning these reactions into the following emoji:
- ‘Love,’ a heart on iOS, is the ‘Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes’ emoji on Android.
- ‘Question,’ a question mark on iOS, is the ‘Thinking Face’ emoji on Android.
- ‘Emphasize,’ an exclamation mark on iOS, is the ‘Face with Open Mouth’ emoji on Android.
- ‘Laugh,’ a ‘Haha’ icon on iOS, is the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji on Android.
One of Windows 11’s biggest features is the ability to run Android apps, but, like many exciting features, this one wasn’t ready upon launch. It wasn’t until February of this year that we were finally able to run Android apps natively via the Amazon Appstore. While it’s great to have Android apps running on Windows, there are some limitations, namely that it’s Amazon’s Appstore running the show. Since most Android users have a Google or Samsung account, you might find some obstacles when dealing with paid apps, since those apps will need to be tied to your Amazon account. Still, it’s a great step forward for cross-platform support.
One-time passwords (or OTPs) are an easy way to add a bit of security to account logins. Once you provide the correct password, you receive an SMS with a unique code. Enter the code, and you’re in. Of course, after that, the code is useless, but it doesn’t automatically delete off your phone. It’s a text like any other, and if you’re like me, these useless texts live on your phone forever.
Luckily, Google changed things this year. Now, you can go to ‘Message organization’ and choose ‘Auto-delete OTPs after 24 hours.’ From now on, these SMSs will delete themselves after one day, which should clean up your inbox considerably.
If you have a Google Pixel, or subscribe to Google One, you can add Portrait Blur to any image in your Google Photos library. If that doesn’t sound like a new feature to you, that’s because it isn’t exactly. Google’s Portrait Blur has been a thing for a while—but only for people. With this new update, you can add Portrait Blur to any subject, so you can add the effect to that dramatic shot of your dog. Check out our full guide to learn how.
This year, Google decided it didn’t want third-party apps to be able to record phone calls, and blocked them from doing so by disabling permission to Accessibility API. Unfortunately, options are pretty limited in the U.S. Google isn’t blocking the ability to record phone calls on phones that support it in pre-loaded dialer apps, like its own Pixel phones or Xiaomi phones, but that feature isn’t supported in the States. If you live in one of the supported countries, though, and you have a compatible phone, you’re set.
Shy of that, the easiest thing to do is to place the call on speakerphone, and record it with a separate device. However, if you really want on-device recording, you can always root your phone and use a recommended app like Call Recorder by skvalex, but that’s likely overkill for most users.
The Pixel 6 had a lot going for it. It also had a lot of bugs. One of those quirks is an issue with overheating, which can slow down your phone and drain the battery quick. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to cool down your Pixel, including disabling 5G, deleting a problematic app, or performing a factory reset.
On Android, you have your pick when it comes to password managers. But if you don’t want to deal with different subscription chargers and the minute differences between each, just use the free password manager built into your phone. You’ll find the option in Settings > Privacy > Autofill service from Google > ‘Use Autofill with Google.’ Sign in, choose ‘Passwords,’ then ‘Offer to save passwords.’ You can also add the password manager to your home screen as a shortcut.
If you want to learn more, check out our full guide here.
The Pixel continued to give users problems in 2022. One of those complaints was about slow messaging, where a message wouldn’t send for anywhere from 15 minutes to hours later. Luckily, there were troubleshooting steps to take that could help, including clearing the messaging app’s cache, switching between 5G and LTE, temporarily changing the default messaging app, and resetting the Pixel to factory settings (a move that seems to fix more than a few tech issues).
Another Pixel 6 Pro quirk discovered this year is the phone’s reluctance to shoot video with the telephoto lens. Often, when you try, you end up getting a cropped version of the main shooter, which doesn’t seem fair when you paid extra for the extra camera. As it turns out, the phone won’t shoot with the 4X zoom lens unless you’re shooting 4K video. And, like other smartphones, the Pixel 6 Pro shoots 1080p video by default. Switch to 4K, and you should be able to record with the 4X zoom.
If you want to use the zoom lens, but shoot in 1080p, Google won’t let you. You’ll need to use a third-party app like FiLMiC Pro that bypasses Android and lets you control the cameras yourself.
Google Lens lets you scan the world around you to learn more about it. You can get more information about everything from house plants to pets, or lift subjects out of images to paste them elsewhere. As convenient as the feature already is, there’s a faster way to use it: All you need to do is open the Camera app, then long-press on the subject in the view finder. That’s it!
If you have websites you frequently visit (perhaps this one?), do yourself a favor and add it to your Android’s home screen as a shortcut. Doing so makes opening the site as easy as launching an app. The instructions differ depending on your browser of choice, so check our guide for directions.
Chrome is a great Android browser, but even more so when you unlock its hidden features. Google hides these experimental options behind ‘flags.’ They don’t want most users enabling them, because they haven’t been finished. But if you know what you’re doing, you can supercharge Chrome on your phone.
With flags, you can take screenshots in Incognito mode, turn on auto dark mode for websites, and boost website performance, among many other features. Read our full guide to learn more.
Whether you use Chrome, Firefox, or Samsung Internet, your browser accumulates digital junk as you surf the web. This junk compiles in what’s known as a ‘cache,’ which can help speed up certain sites that can reference the cache to load, but slow down other processes thanks to the sheer number of useless files present. No matter which browser you use, take some time to clear the cache every now and then.
Your Android and its apps demand access to a lot of your data. Left unchecked, these services will take way more information than necessary. To help, you can give your phone a privacy audit from Settings > Privacy > Permission Manager (or Privacy Dashboard). Here, you’ll see all of the permissions on your phone, and which apps have access to which. You can quickly disable access for any app that doesn’t need to see your location, contacts, physical activity, etc.
If you’re not using your Android app’s actionable shortcuts, what are you doing? These quick menus offer incredibly useful shortcuts to actions you likely already take in these apps. You can jump into a favorite Spotify playlist before opening the app, or take a selfie as soon as the Camera app launches. Best of all, because it’s Android, these actions are customizable, so you can choose the most useful ones for your situation.
This year, Google rolled out a flag from Chrome for Android that allows you to lock your Incognito tabs behind your fingerprint. Without the proper scan, no one will be able to access these tabs, so you can keep your private internet browsing private. You’ll find the flag under chrome://flags/#incognito-reauthentication-for-android, but for more info, here’s our full guide.
Android 13 brings with it a fantastic change for smartphone wellness. After the update, apps now need to request permission to send you notifications, just as they do on iOS. Our advice? Block them all by default. You probably don’t need notifications from most of your apps, except for maybe some important messaging apps.
If you wish your Android could have the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island, wish no more. Download dynamicSpot from the Play Store, and you can have your own virtual Dynamic Island on any Android device, complete with notifications and alerts like they have over on iOS.
When the Pixel 7 dropped this year, plenty of Android users made the switch. But there’s one key setting to check before erasing your old phone for good: Google Authenticator. The tool is great for managing all of your two-factor authentication apps, and ensures people won’t be able to break into those accounts with access to your phone.
Of course, the same can be said for you if you erase that old phone before moving Google Authenticator to your new device. Since Google Authenticator is tied to one phone at a time, you won’t be able to log in on the new phone and get your codes. Once you lose access, you lose access for good, and it’ll be a pain to get back into those accounts (if even possible). So, please, transfer your Google Authenticator app to your new phone first.
Originally included as part of QPR1 beta 3, but now available as of the December feature drop, Clear Calling makes your phone calls on Pixel clearer by reducing background noise and improving vocal quality. Try it for yourself from Settings > Sound & vibration > Clear calling, then turn on ‘Enable clear calling.’
Anyone familiar with Apple’s ecosystem knows about Find My, the all-in-one solution for tracking friends, devices, and items. It works great and is simple to use, which is why it’s a shame there’s no official alternative on Android. Although, that’s not really true. Google Maps is the closest thing Android users have to a built-in Find My app, and it works great too. Best of all, it’s Google Maps, which means you can track your friends whether they’re on iPhone or Android. You could even argue Google Maps is a better Find My than Find My.