Categories
Technology

My Current Phone Set up at Work

A word of warning: this post is very Android-heavy, and not likely very relevant if you’re using basically any other smart phone.  Turn away now if you’re in the wrong ecosystem!  (Or, keep reading if you’re interested in some of the cool things you can set up with Android to stay productive.)

I’m always trying to find a way to stay productive while still keeping on top of the personal demands on my phone.  My phone is primarily a personal device, and strictly speaking, is not necessary for my job.  However, I use it constantly to keep in touch with my wife through messaging (we use Allo; I also use text messages for just about everyone else).  Other things that come through include email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  I keep my phone on silent, but I don’t want to miss anything that might be an important notification.  So, I came up with a pretty good solution.  At least it’s good for me.

The other purpose for this set up is to help stretch my battery life a little bit.  The less that I activate my screen, the longer the battery lasts.

The Basic Setup

Phone: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Android version: 7.0 (Nougat)
Root? Nope!
Other apps in use:

You can probably accomplish this set up with any Android device – it doesn’t have to be a Samsung product, and I think you’re probably fine running Android 4.4+ (KitKat and above), but I can only “guarantee” functionality based on what I’ve got going on here.  To replicate exactly what I’ve done, you’ll definitely need Tasker.  As Tasker is a great program for automation in general, I think it’s a great app to buy anyway.

Right off the bat, I would recommend reading my article about using the FitBit Charge 2 as a Smart Watch.  At the end of the day, the functionality here can be duplicated with any smart watch or any device that accepts notifications.  Form isn’t as important here as function.  The end result is that I have certain notifications sending to my phone – specifically, text messages, Allo messages, FaceBook Messenger messages, and phone calls.  There might be a few other things I’m forgetting but those are the important ones.

Most of the time I will use my device to respond to the instant messages; however there are web-based solutions for everything here.  Allo has a web interface (it mirrors what’s on your phone and has some limitations); you can go to Facebook in a browser to access messenger; and using Join you can send & receive messages through your browser (more on Join in a bit).  Basically if I need to I can leave my device off for everything except phone calls.  Oh – but I could forward my calls to my work number if I wanted to do that.  That’s a basic service provider option that most people probably have too.

Join

Join is a fantastic app.  If you’ve ever heard of Pushbullet, Join is in a similar category – except that it’s free.  The short version of what you can do with it is send browser tabs to / from connected devices, send notifications between devices, send files between devices, copy/paste text between devices, and so on.  You can read more about it here: https://joaoapps.com/join/ 

I use it primarily now to send notifications to my work laptop while I’m at work.  I haven’t figured out entirely how I want to automate it when I work at home, but for when I’m in the office, I have Tasker activate sending notifications to my work laptop as soon as I connect to wifi.  Join is a stand-alone app developed with Tasker plugins in mind, so it works really easily with Tasker as a plugin.  If you want to learn more, leave a comment…I don’t want to get too technical.

I picked a few apps within the Join app that I want notifications from, including Inbox (my gmail app) and Twitter.  These notifications pop up in the bottom corner of my computer whether or not I have a browser window open.  Join is available as both a Chrome plugin and a Windows 10 app; the plugin is free, but you have to pay for the app.  I just use the plugin.  When you click on the notification, you have a few options – you can dismiss it from the device (and if there are any buttons on the notification on your phone, they’ll appear on desktop too) or open it in a new browser window.  The great thing is that if it’s an email notification, it’ll bring you to your inbox; similarly if it’s Twitter or Facebook it’ll bring you to those sites too.

I could go on and on – I highly recommend watching the videos on the Join website to see all the things you can do with it.  But already we have several ways of handling phone notifications without having to turn the screen on and waste precious battery life.

The primary purpose of this isn’t really to avoid using my phone, it’s mostly because as I said I keep my phone on silent.  I may not always be staring at my screen and see I have a new notification.  So, this is a really helpful way to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Tasker

I alluded to using Tasker to automate when I send notifications through Join.  I also turn my “Always On Display” off when I’m connected to work wifi.  So now my screen is entirely disabled while I’m at work.  I should point out that I use several plugins with Tasker, which I pay for through a monthly subscription.  Check out the AutoApps suite (which you can try out for free) – there are lots of cool things to do here.

To accomplish controlling the Always On Display, I use AutoTools – Secure Settings.  To use this you need to enable ADB access.  It’s not too complicated to set this up, but there are some steps involved – you should read it in a better, step-by-step format.

That’s pretty much it.  I find this setup extremely useful so far, and battery life is great.  I’ve been using “AccuBattery” lately and it recommends charging phones only to 80% (based on scientific studies) to extend the battery’s overall life.  Any battery saving tips of your own?

Categories
Technology

#myAndroid

Over the weekend I caught wind of a neat little toy released on Android.com called “My Android” (colloquially, #myAndroid).  The basic idea behind it is to show you how many different ways you can customize your Android set-up beyond the stock screen that you get when you first turn on your Android phone.

How does it work?

Once you head over to the #myAndroid website, and click on the ‘Find Your Match’ button, you’re guided through a series of (mostly) binary tests.  They want you to react, not to think, as you make your selections.

Some of the options are obvious, but there’s a test near the end that asks “Hot dogs or legs?” that is pretty funny, but I’m not sure what results are derived from it.

What does your match give you?

After you complete the little quiz, you’re shown three home screen options that are tailored to your tastes based on your selections.  A quick animation gives you an overview of what your home screen might look like.

Scroll down a bit further and it gives you some more details about each home screen: the launcher (this is the “skin” or “theme” layered on top of Android – more info here), icon pack, wallpaper, and keyboard (more on that in a second).  Along with each item there’s a direct Play Store link so you can download them.

Problems with the process

I mentioned that I’d get to the keyboard suggestion; that’s where there’s at least one problem with the whole process.  Every time you complete the test to find your match, every keyboard recommended is Gboard.  I’m not saying that Gboard is a bad keyboard (it’s the one I use, in fact), but it seems a bit disingenuous that no matter what, the #myAndroid website will suggest it every time without fail.  There are a lot of different keyboards out there, and different styles will suit some more than others; this test should just leave the keyboard match out completely.

The wallpaper suggestion leaves a little to be desired too.  It will give you one of two options: Backdrops or Zedge.  It will show you the suggestion based on your test selections, but won’t give you the name of it or what to search for in order to find it in the selected app.

Lastly, I’d also love to be able to sample some of the launchers in a virtual environment before trying them.  They give you a very brief animation but to me that’s not enough.

Overall impressions

This is a great tool, for both new and experienced Android users alike.  I’ve even seen mention on the Android subreddit from iPhone users that this has helped convince them to switch.

I’ve found two new launchers – Evie and Smart Launcher 3.  I’ve used Nova Launcher for almost the entire time I’ve used Android, but thought I’d try something new based on the suggestions given here.

I use Evie on my Galaxy S7 edge, and Smart Launcher on my Galaxy Tab S2.  Both have their advantages/disadvantages, and so far I feel that Smart Launcher works better on my tablet and I wouldn’t really like it on my phone.  Similarly with Evie, I find that it works great on my phone but isn’t something I’d use on my tablet.

Even if you just want to shake things up a little, I recommend taking the #myAndroid test to find your match.

On a side note – I finally have a set publishing schedule!  Enjoy new posts from me every Tuesday and Thursday from here on out.