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14 helpful tips and tricks for your Nexus 4

If you can find one, the Nexus 4 is a great phone at a competitive price, but there are inevitably a few Nexus 4 problems that have cropped up for some users. But if you don’t have a problem, and don’t need to know how to take a screenshot on the Nexus 4, then maybe these tips will service you better. Since the Nexus 4 ships with stock Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) and has gotten the update to 4.3, a lot of these tips should work for any Android device running the same versions.

How to customize your LED and alerts

The LED light that flashes and lights up different colors to indicate various things can be customized. You can create different alerts for different notifications. You can also change your sounds and vibration patterns with the right app. One of the most popular options is Light Flow, but you’ll find plenty of others in the Play Store. You can set up specific alerts for emails, Facebook, calendar reminders, and lots more.

How to save battery life

If you encounter any issues with battery life you can check out exactly what is eating all the juice via Settings > Battery. Turn off functions you aren’t using, reduce screen timeout, and set up auto-brightness, or turn the screen brightness down low. You should also consider turning off syncing for apps like Facebook, or at least reducing the frequency. You can find more general tips in our article on how to save smartphone battery life.

How to join duplicate contacts

You might find that you end up with multiple contacts for the same people on your Nexus 4. It’s a common problem often caused by having contacts on the SIM card and elsewhere. An app like SIM Contacts can help you delete them. You can also join contacts by selecting the contact you want to merge and tapping Edit and then Menu > Join and choose the contact you want to merge.

How to clear Notifications

The three lines icon at the top of the Notifications screen allows you to clear all notifications with a single tap. You can also swipe notifications off to the right to remove them. Some notifications can be expanded and closed again by using the pinch to zoom gesture. If you encounter a notification that won’t swipe away then you’ll need to load up the relevant app and change your notification preferences in the settings menu of the app.

How to access Quick Settings

You can access Quick Settings from the usual Notifications screen which can be dragged down from the top of the display, but there’s also a quick access method. Instead of dragging the notifications down with one finger, try two fingers and you’ll get straight into the Quick Settings menu where you can tweak Brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a few other bits and pieces.

How to use Gesture Typing (Swype)

If you’re a fan of the Swype alternative keyboard then you’ll be pleased that Google has added Gesture typing in Android 4.2 which means you can drag your finger from letter to letter to type and lift it to create a space. To enable it go to Settings > Language & input then tap the settings icon next to the Android keyboard and tick Enable gesture typing.

How to get extra storage

If the lack of a microSD card slot really grinds your gears and you don’t have enough storage on your Nexus 4, the answer is in the cloud. You’ve got Google Drive, DropBox, Box, SkyDrive, SugarSync … the list goes on. These services all offer free storage in varying amounts and they each have different limitations. Since the Nexus 4 is a Google device it makes a lot of sense to start with Google Drive.

Don’t forget that you can automatically backup photos to Google+ via the Settings menu in the Google+ app. You can also store and stream up to 20,000 songs in Google Music. You might even use YouTube to back up your videos. That should free up some space.

How to enable Lock screen widgets

Swipe to the right from the lock screen and you can add various widgets like Calendar, Digital clock, Gmail, or Messaging. Just tap the “+” sign to add a widget. This saves you from having to unlock your Nexus 4 every time you want to peek at the latest incoming text or email. You can add up to five lock screen widgets from apps that support this option. You can also swipe left from the lock screen to launch the camera in a hurry.

You’ll still need to enter your usual password or pattern to read a full email or to reply, but you can see the sender, subject, and first line, so it’s useful for deciding whether it’s worth unlocking. Some people may still feel this is a bit of a security risk.

How to set up security

If you’re worried about prying eyes then make sure to set up some security. You can set password, PIN, pattern, or face unlock via Settings > Lock screen > Screen lock. You should also install a security app. We recommend trying avast! Mobile Security or Lookout Security & Antivirus (both free). These apps offer a range of malware protection and tools to help you find your Nexus 4 if it ever gets stolen or lost.

You might also consider setting up owner information on the lock screen. You can do this in Settings > Security > Owner info and then check the box next to Show owner info on lock screen. That way if you lose your phone and someone finds it they might just get in touch.

How to manage your apps

To start, you might want to disable some of the apps that came preinstalled on your Nexus 4. If you know you won’t use them then it gets them out of the way and removes the icon from your home screen. To do this go to Settings > Apps and then scroll to the All tab and choose the app you want to get rid of. Tapping Disable will do the job and you’ll find it listed at the bottom of the All tab should you ever want to enable it again.

If you just want to clear some space, you can organize your apps into folders by pressing and holding an app icon and then dragging it on top of another app icon. Tap the folder name to change it.

You can prevent app shortcuts from being created in the first place by going to the Google Play app and selecting Settings then unchecking the box next to Auto-add widgets.

If you want some ideas about what to download, check out our best Android apps and best Android games roundups.

Help Google understand you – voice commands and contacts

If you’ve been excited to use Google Now or Google Voice Search only to find that it doesn’t understand you, or that it returns the wrong contact, you can do something about it. If you have duplicate names for contacts then you can always edit the contact and add a nickname. Let’s say you know three girls called Amy, but one is your sister. Put sister in the nickname field and when you say “call sister” there’s no more conflict.

You’ll also find an option in the contact to add the Phonetic name. This is great for unusual names and allows you to spell the name exactly how it sounds, so if you’re using voice dialing there’s a better chance it will work correctly.

How to sync bookmarks and search

Android is now using Chrome as the default browser and this means that you can sync your desktop bookmarks and search history automatically across multiple devices. As long as you sign in to Chrome and use the same Google account on all of your devices then sync should be automatic. You can find specific options in Chrome on your desktop or laptop via the Settings menu > Advanced sync settings.

How to avoid going over data limits

There’s a handy built-in feature in Android that allows you to set data alerts and limits so that you don’t incur any overage charges. Go to Settings >Data usage and check the box next to Set mobile data limit. You can also scroll down and see exactly how much data each app on your Nexus 4 has been using.

More Nexus 4 tips and tricks

You can always read the Nexus 4 Guidebook to find more handy tips for your Nexus 4. If you have a good trick or a basic tip that you want to share then please post a comment.

Updated on 10-17-2013: We’ve added a few new tips to the roundup.