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22 easy ways to get more out of your Nexus 5

Updated on 3-21-2014 by Rick Stella:  We’ve added a bunch of new tips including how to take better photos, how to capture photos while recording, how to wireless charge your Nexus 5, how to disable the blocking of offensive words, how to use Nexus 5 as a hotspot, how to access developer options, and how to quickly look up businesses.

Despite nearly five months on the market, we remain just as impressed with Google’s Nexus 5 as when it initially debuted in October, 2013. The phenomenal device touts a solid build and attractive design, along with tightly integrated voice controls, the latest Android version available and an affordable price tag to match ($350). Although most you think you know the smartphone inside and out — that is, assuming you jumped on the device ages ago — it still has a few tricks up its sleeve for those willing to learn. We’ve done our fair share of tinkering while awaiting the recently-detailed Nexus 6, and found a variety of commonplace and lesser-known tips for fully utilizing Google’s flagship smartphone.

Related: Nexus 5 reviewcommon Nexus 5 problems and solutions, our favorite Nexus 5 cases.

How to take better photos

Unfortunately, the Nexus 5’s built-in camera struggles with certain lighting conditions. That said, merely turning on the Nexus 5’s HDR (High Dynamic Range) setting can vastly improve image quality and help capture greater detail in both bright and dark areas, merging a series of photos at different exposures into a single image. While viewing the camera settings, toggle the HDR option to HDR+ On to activate the function. Also, make sure to update your device to Android 4.4.1 if you haven’t already, as the update reduces shutter lag and boasts quicker focusing. To see if an update is available, go to Settings > About phone and Check for updates.

How to capture photos while recording

The Nexus 5, like nearly any device capable of capturing video, has little trouble capturing still images while recording video. Simply tap the screen while recording a video to capture a photo, which your smartphone will then instantly save in your photo gallery as the camera continues to record.

How to change your launcher

Android has always boasted some serious customization credentials. Such being the case, there are loads of launchers available via Google Play capable of altering your home screen with new colors, themes, icons, and other notable facets. The change your phone’s default Google Experience launcher, download a new third-party launcher and access the main Settings menu. Afterward, tap the Home option beneath the Device section and select your desired launcher from the list of home screen alternatives. We personally recommend the Nova Launcher.

How to get productive

Head into your apps and you’ll find the all new Quickoffice which allows you to create, review, and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. QuickOffice was bought by Google, which means it should continue to get better and better.

How to wirelessly charge your Nexus 5

In case you didn’t know already, the Nexus 5 comes equipped for charge wirelessly right out of the box. Consider purchasing a magnetic Nexus Wireless Charger ($50) to utilize the feature, and if bought, place the smartphone directly atop the device for wireless charging.

How to launch the camera quickly

Swipe to the right on your lockscreen and the camera will launch.

Google Nexus 5 review rear camera macro

How to set data limits

If you’re stuck with a monthly allowance for data then you should set those limits right now. Head into Settings > Data Usage and tap Set mobile data limit. The Mobile data option at the top will need to be turned on for you to set this. You can slide the red bar to set a limit and the orange bar will deliver a warning. You can shut off your data when you hit the limit, or just receive notifications.

How to talk to Google Now

Just swipe from left to right or say “OK Google” when you’re on the home screen of your Nexus 5 and your virtual assistant will appear, ready to scour the Web, deliver directions, or call your wife. By the way, your language needs to be set to English (US) for the “OK Google” command to work.

How to change SMS texting apps

Hangouts is your default one-stop-messaging-shop on the Nexus 5, but you don’t have to use it if you have a better alternative. Download an alternative SMS app (we recommend Handcent SMS) then go to Settings and tap More under Wireless & Networks followed by Default SMS app. Pick the one you want from the list of options.

How to unblock offensive words

Kids are everywhere these days. The Nexus 5 ships with a feature designed to disable swearing by default, whether the profanities arise in voice-to-text and or directly within your own typing. To turn the feature off — and to swear like the unbridled sailor you are — access the Keyboard Settings and uncheck the box beside Block offensive words.

How to use new gestures in Chrome

You can still swipe through your open tabs in Chrome, but you have to swipe horizontally on the toolbar for it to work. You can also drag down from the toolbar to enter the tab switcher, and you can tap and hold the menu button then drag your finger down to open the menu and select menu items without lifting your finger, which is designed for easier one-handed use.

How to use your Nexus 5 as a hotspot

Using your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for other wireless devices is one of the most useful feature of the Nexus 5, albeit also one of the most unknown. Access the main Settings menu, tap More, and select the Tethering and portable hotspot option. Afterward, check the box beside Portable Wi-Fi hotspot to enable the hotspot feature. Additionally, we recommend setting up your privacy settings to restrict unwanted users from accessing your network.

How to get the KitKat easter egg

Go to Settings > About phone and tap on Android version multiple times until you see a big K. You can muck it around with it and you’ll see an Android logo in the KitKat style, as well. It’s just for fun.

kitkat-android

How to use Android Device Manager

One quick security step that’s well worth taking with your new Nexus 5 is to head to Android Device Manager and register your device. Now, if you ever lose it or it gets stolen, you’ll be able to locate it, send a message, lock it, or even erase the contents remotely.

How to access developer options

Google did an excellent job hiding the Nexus 5’s developer options to prevent less tech-savvy users from fiddling with crucial system options (and rightly so). However, should you want to access the menu, open the main Settings menu and tap About phone. Afterward, scroll down to the bottom of the menu and tap the listed Build number seven timesIf done correctly, the developer menu will appear in the main Settings menu, providing options for protecting desktop backups, USB debugging, and other hidden options.

How to back up your Nexus 5

Go to Settings > Backup & reset and choose Back up my data. This will ensure your app data, Wi-Fi passwords, and other settings are not lost, and you can associate the backup with a Gmail account if you want to. It will come in handy when you change to your next phone.

How to control music from the lockscreen

If you’re using Play Music you’ll see music controls and full screen album art on the lockscreen. You can skip tracks and pause in here, but you can also now scrub (skip within a song) through tracks by holding one of the music controls to get the track preview to pop up and then dragging the circle to where you want to play.

How to add widgets to the lockscreen

If you just slide left on the lockscreen you’ll see the option to add widgets, so you can glance at your email, or see the latest tweets, without having to unlock your Nexus 5. Remember that you’ll have to enable widgets via Settings > Security > Enable widgets first.

How to access Quick Settings quickly

You can drag the notification bar down and tap the quick settings icon at the top right, but there’s a quicker way. Just drag down the notification bar with two fingers and you’ll be straight into the Quick Settings menu. It lets you toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen brightness, and other things easily.

Google Nexus 5 review front settings

How to root your Nexus 5

The good folks over at XDA Developers have an All-In-One Beginner’s Guide that’s excellent for anyone considering rooting their Nexus 5. You’ll find an easy method, full instructions, and learn how to make a proper backup, and flash a custom ROM.

How to take a screenshot and record your screen

You can press the Power and Volume down buttons together to take a screenshot on the Nexus 5, but the latest version of Android also allows for screen recording. Until some app developers take advantage of this command you’re stuck with a convoluted method involving the Android SDK and adb commands (anyone who took screenshots on older versions of Android will know what we’re talking about).

How to easily look up business phone numbers

Browsers and apps dedicated to looking up restaurants, businesses, and the like, aren’t absolutely necessary on the Nexus 5. Access your phone’s dialer as you would normally, and begin entering the name of restaurant, shop, theater, or any other establishment you wish to find in your local area. The dialer will then automatically display nearby matches, allowing you to choose a contact from a resulting list of options. The Nexus 5 can even perform a similar search when matching Caller IDs on incoming calls from unknown numbers.

What do you think of our tips for getting the most out of Google’s Nexus 5? Have another suggestion? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was originally published by Simon Hill on 11-11-2013.