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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