An App That Makes Android Smarter Than Ever

Google's Android operating system may not be as pretty or easy to use as Apple's iOS — but it is more powerful and customizable. Case in point: the Tasker Android app, which makes your Android phone automatically perform certain tasks based on its environment, its location, even its rotation.

Imagine turning off your ringer by just setting your phone on the table face down, automatically texting your wife when you reach the nearest train station without taking the phone out of your pocket, or setting the screen timeout to "never" when the Kindle app is running. You'll have to navigate a deep set of menus, buttons and dropdowns, but if you're willing to brave its bewildering interface, Tasker can do all that and more. Here's how.

First, a primer. Tasker sets Android to perform certain actions (like "go into silent mode") given a certain context (like "the phone is face down"). You associate actions with contexts in Tasker profiles.

To get started, set up a basic Tasker profile that automatically puts your phone into silent mode when you put it on a table face down.

Launch Tasker and in the profile list tap the "New" button. Give the profile an optional name.


From the list of possible contexts, tap "State."


 

From the State menu, tap "Orientation." (Did I mention Tasker's menus go deep?)


 

From the Orientation dropdown, choose "Face Down." Then, click on the Done button to save the context.


Now that you've defined your context, it's time to create the action Tasker should trigger when the phone is in the context. Tap the New button to set up a new action, and from the Actions menu, tap "Audio."


From the Audio Action menu, tap "Silent mode." Then, select "On" from the dropdown, as shown here.

 

Once you've saved the action, give it a try. Flip over your phone, and you'll see that it automatically goes into silent mode. Repeat the steps to create another profile that does the reverse: takes the phone out of silent mode when it's face up.


Tasker's list of contexts ranges from your phone's location, position, what apps are running, what time of day it is, what day it is, or if a phone event has happened, like the screen has dimmed. Tasker's action list includes virtually anything your phone can do: send SMS messages, change setting like screen timeout, network settings, ringer volume, launch apps, etc. This means you can configure Tasker to do things like:

  • Increase your ringer volume 20% from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
  • Send a text message that says "on my way home" when you arrive at the nearest train station.
  • Set your phone to go into airplane mode between 1am and 6am.
  • Pop up a menu of music apps when you plug in headphones.
  • Read incoming text messages aloud when you're driving.
  • Turn on GPS when you launch Navigation or Google Maps, and shut it off when you're done to save battery life.

Check out Lifehacker's tutorial to set up Tasker profiles like these — just don't get too lost in those menus.

Gina Trapani loves Android's messy but powerful interface. Follow her Android-related triumphs and disappointments on Twitter.

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6 Comments

  • Phil Williams

    So I create the "face-down" task listed above. I put my phone in my pocket. I get in my car. Bingo! The phone is now silent for the duration of the trip!

    Ok, so I'm being a little picky there... all in all, this "Automator" style basic task automation is great. Powerful features in an easy-to-set format. Let's hope we see this pop into the base iPhone OS in the future. After all, they've already done it for the desktop.

  • Ronald L. Bowers

    Sorry if you did address this, I might have missed it, does Tasker have a iPhone App in its future?

  • Ackthpt

    Hey look, a little fanboy comment. Nothing can take you away from your wonderful Apple experience. We get it. Get stuffed, asshat, and enjoy your little closed-off Apple world.

  • Jamil Buie

    That is pretty slick but I think we all know that you cold achieve the a similar app with a bit more effort on iOS. As an iPhone owner I am happy with the range of brilliance and B.S. found in the iTunes store. I also considered switching to an Android phone earlier in the year. The hesitation was swapping my known evil for an unknown evil. By that I mean I know the AT&T iPhone telephony marriage is more rocky than a Hollywood marriage but I know how to work them (AT&T). Having left Sprint/Nextel a while back I have no clue what I'd be geting into and what I really, truly want is a phone. You know the thing that makes and receives calls. iPhone, smartphone, whatever, can we get back to making the phone work before focusing on all the extra slick bells and whistles?

  • John Egbert

    This is software. It was developed by a third party for the Android OS, made by Google, work more efficiently for people that use it.

    This has nothing at all to do with service providers. Service providers build cell phone towers, lay down wire, advertise, and pay other companies to make phones. They're the ones responsible for getting calls through.

    Thanks to the fact that the information, the phone part, the OS, and the apps are all provided by different comanies and people, all of them can work on improving things at the same time. Also, phones have been working for years now.

    Your whole post is so ignorant it hurts.