8 handy things to do with your new Google Assistant

So your Marshmallow-or-better Android phone just got Google Assistant, and when you long-press the Home button for the first time after the update, your new digital helper asks, “Hi, how can I help?” Talk about an open-ended question.

Read on for eight easy ways to get started with Google’s chatty servant, from telling it what to call you, to making a shopping list, to turning on Bluetooth and even playing Solitaire.

Give Assistant some familiar voice commands

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8 Android app shortcuts that are actually useful

Sometimes, just saving a tap or two can make you feel so efficient, if not actually more productive. This is the aim of Android’s new app shortcuts—small, pop-up shortcut buttons that appear when you long-press on a home-screen app icon.

Some of the available Android app shortcuts, which you’ll find on handsets running Android version 7.1.1 or better, are more useful than others. For example, I could do without the “I’m feeling lucky” shortcut in the Google Photos app, which simply opens a random snapshot. But a shortcut that lets you take one-tap scans of receipts? That’s interesting.

Read on for eight of the more useful Android app shortcuts, from a quick way to free up storage space on your Android device to a shortcut that lets you record a quick audio note.

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6 gotta-know Spotify tips for Android and iOS

There’s more to the Spotify app for Android and iOS than simply streaming your favorite artists or Spotify’s premixed radio stations. Indeed, the Spotify mobile app is capable of some pretty clever tricks once you know what you’re doing.

For starters, it’s easy to download a Spotify radio mix to your phone for on-the-go playback without putting a dent in your monthly mobile data allowance—and indeed, you can set Spotify to stay offline completely, if the need arises. You can also tweak the quality of your audio streaming and music downloads, keep playing tunes even when your playlist is over, “crossfade” from one song to another, and more.

Note: Several of the features and settings we’ll be covering require a “premium” Spotify subscription, which will set you back about $10 a month. (Psst! You can easily score a 30-day free Spotify Premium trial with the right Google search).

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5 alternative (and easier) ways to unlock your Android phone

There has to be an easier way for your Android phone to know it’s you besides a passcode, a PIN, or a pattern lock, right? A fingerprint reader is a good start, but they still have a way of failing even when you swipe your fingertip perfectly on the sensor, thus returning you to the need to enter a PIN or swipe pattern to unlock your own device.

The good news is that Android boasts a series of clever ways of unlocking your device without passcodes, patterns, or fingertip swipes. For example, the latest Android handsets can keep themselves unlocked while they’re riding in your pocket. You can also set Android to recognize your face, or your voice. Last but not least, your Android phone can unlock itself whenever you’re home, at work, or near a “trusted” device, like your Bluetooth car radio or an NFC sticker.

Note: I tested the following settings on a Nexus 5X running on Android version 7.1.2; the settings on your handset may differ depending on its make and model, or the version of Android you have installed.

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iOS

6 essential settings to make your iPhone and iPad display easier on the eyes

Nope, you don’t have to settle for itty-bitty text on your iPhone screen, nor must you deal with buttons that don’t look anything like buttons. Once you know which settings to change, you can boost the size of on-screen text on your iPhone or iPad, make words a bit more bold, zoom in with a virtual magnifying glass, warm up—or cool off—Night Shift, and more.

Change text size

You don’t have to squint if the text on your iPhone or iPad is a little too small. There are a couple of ways to boost the size of text on an iOS device.

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The safest ways to lend someone your Android phone

“Hey, mind if I borrow your phone?” Well, sure, you say. But even as you’re handing your Android phone over to someone in need, you’re wondering what browser tabs you have open, which emails are in plain sight, and whether you remembered to close up Facebook.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to lend your Android phone to a friend, a loved one, or even a total stranger with complete confidence that they won’t see your stuff.

For a device that’s going to be shared regularly, the trick is to dip into Android’s Users feature, which lets you create profiles for other users on your Android phone or tablet. It  essentially creates their own partition on the device—complete with their own data, apps, settings, and even home screen.

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How to get iOS-style VIP alerts in Gmail for Android

Not everyone wants their Android phone to ding every time an email arrives. Many of us don’t even need Android alerts for every message that Gmail thinks is important.

Instead, you might want notifications only for email messages from your most important friends and loved ones—your VIPs, as it were.

Sounds like a great time for something like iOS’s handy VIP feature, but unfortunately, nothing quite like it exists for the Gmail app for Android. That said, there’s a relatively easy way to emulate it, as long as you’re willing to tinker with your Gmail settings in a desktop browser.

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