From voice commands to magic buttons: how to get the most out of your smartphone | science and technology



They accompany us everywhere and have a special place in our pockets. And yet, many people only benefit from a small part of all that a smartphone can really do. We’re not talking fancy commands or shortcuts that require a steep learning curve; we are referring to simple hidden features that can make your life easier. Here we are going to go over some functions that can come in handy for both Android and iPhone users.

A possible solution to presbyopia

One of the most undesirable consequences of reaching a certain age is eye strain. Presbyopia makes reading difficult, and pulling the phone away and frowning aren’t the most elegant solutions to this problem. Can the consequences of tired eyes be solved somehow? Yes, by increasing the font size:

android: Go to Settings/Display/Font size and select the one that allows you to read comfortably on the screen.

iPhone: Go to Settings/Display & Brightness/Font Size and select the one that suits you; moreover, it can be further increased by using the accessibility features. Go to Settings/Accessibility and select Display and text size.

How to read very small texts

In addition to eye strain, age can also be an issue when it comes to reading the fine print on a jar or the instruction manual for a new device. As much as we squint and strain our eyes, sometimes the smallest characters escape us. Fortunately, our smartphone offers a quick solution: use the camera as an instant magnifying glass.

android: Google’s mobile platform doesn’t have a specific feature, but you can use the freemium Magnifier app, which even lets you turn on flash to see small text in low light.

iPhone: Your device has a native feature, which you activate by pressing the power button three times. You can change the zoom or brightness.

Siri and Google Assistant are your friends

Although neither platform offers official numbers, it’s estimated that more than half of teens in the United States prefer using voice commands over typing. This is a clear indication of what the future will hold for our relationship with our phones. So why aren’t Siri or Google Assistant used anymore? It’s back to normal. “Everyday actions, like setting a timer while we cook or calling someone, can be done by voice,” says Javier Lacort, editor and podcaster at Xataka.

But much more can be done with our voice, efficiently and without having to touch the screen. Here are some sample commands you can use after “Hey Siri” or “Ok Google”:

· “Turn on do not disturb mode” to turn off notifications.

· “Reduce brightness.”

· “When does (a certain team) play?”

· “Toss a coin” or “say a number between 1 and 10”.

· “How much is 12 times 15?”

· “Call 911.”

Using keyboard shortcuts for repetitive information

How often should we share our phone number, ID card, home address, or bank account number? You can save a lot of time by typing these repetitive texts once and let the system type them for you using a short combination of characters. “They can be configured in the keyboard settings, so typing ‘@@’ will show your email address, or ‘myacct’ to get your bank account,” says Lacort. To write keyboard shortcuts:

android: In the Google keyboard, go to Settings / Dictionary / English and press the “+” button to add a sequence. In the first field, write the frequently used text (for example, your social security number), and in the second, the command that activates it (for example, “@ssn”).

iPhone: Go to Settings/Keyboard/Text Replacement and press “+”; then follow the same steps.

A good tip, regardless of the platform you use, is to add an “at” sign (@) before the sequence, in order to avoid accidental activations.

Add the “magic button” to the screen

The accessibility menu allows you to adapt your phone to your specific needs. One of the best examples is Assistive Touch, a virtual button introduced by Apple to facilitate access to certain iPhone functions, and which is also available on Android through a third-party application.

The interest of this virtual button, which is displayed on the screen above all, is to offer a customizable menu with the most used functions. Why is it useful? “You have the features you use the most, like the camera, taking screenshots or screen recordings, or pressing the emergency button, right at your thumb,” says Fran. Besora, creator of the Apple en español (Apple in Spanish) Twitter community. To activate it:

android: You will need the freemium Assistive Touch app.

iPhone: Go to Settings/Accessibility/Touch/AssistiveTouch.

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