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Best apps to automate your Android phone

Access to your Android settings can be achieved more quickly and more easily than ever before on the latest version of the platform. It’s important to be able to turn Wi-Fi or GPS on or off when you want to. There are various apps that allow you to add widgets to your home screen or even a settings panel to your notifications (it comes as standard in Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay now).

You may be able to access your settings more easily than before, but you still have to decide when to turn things on and off, and you still have to manually swipe and tap your way through the process.

Is there an easier way?

There’s always an easier way. That’s one of the great things about Android. You can actually automate your Android settings for different scenarios. By using the right apps or employing NFC tags you can make life run more smoothly.

We’re going to take a look at some of the best apps you can use to automate your Android settings by creating “if this then that” rules to trigger specific profiles. We’ll also discuss what you can do with programmable NFC tags.

Motorola Smart Actions (Free; Google Play)

Sadly, this app is only available on Motorola smartphones. It allows you to set specific phone profiles for different locations and you can create “Smart Actions,” which are essentially the same as “if this then that” rules. For example, you could tell your phone to switch the ringer off at bedtime, automatically play music when you plug in headphones, or turn power-draining features off as soon as your battery dips below a specific level.

There are various triggers you can use to create actions, which makes this app quite versatile. Other potential actions you could set up include switching to vibrate instead of the ringer when you connect to your work Wi-Fi, to avoid those meeting disruptions. You could also trigger maps, GPS and a specific playlist for music when you connect to your car’s Bluetooth. It’s a real time saver.

Tasker ($6.50)

You may have heard about Tasker before. It’s basically the most comprehensive automation app for the Android platform. It provides you with lots of potential triggers, over 200 possible actions, and the ability to create extremely complicated rules. If you want to unleash the potential power of Android automation, and you don’t mind a learning curve, then Tasker is the only choice.

It will take some time to get to grips with and it’s probably overkill for some people, but the things you can do with Tasker are impressive. For example, it goes beyond setting a basic alarm for a specific time in the morning. You could specify that on a certain day of the week your alarm goes off, plays a specific music track, loads up a news app, and says “Remember to drop Amy at swim practice.” The things you can achieve by tweaking the rules make it worth persisting with and you can find help on the Tasker website and elsewhere online.

AutomateIt (Free)

The free version of AutomateIt offers an impressive array of options and it is relatively straightforward to use. You can easily set up rules based on a wide variety of triggers and there are plenty of possible actions. It’s not as comprehensive as Tasker, but it is also slightly easier to use. If you don’t like ads then you can pay $1.60 for the Pro version, which also gives you a few extra triggers and the ability to set multiple triggers and actions for specific rules.

Other apps

There are quite a few automation apps for Android that you might want to check out. They each have a different set of capabilities so shop around and read the reviews to see what might suit you best. Take a look at Llama – Location Profiles, Modus Operandi, Timeriffic, and Smart Settings. If you know of any others you would recommend then post a comment and tell us why they’re worth checking out.

Samsung TecTiles ($15 for 5; Amazon)

There are a lot of potential uses for NFC and Android automation using programmable NFC tags is one of them. TecTiles from Samsung are basically wee stickers that you can program with a set of instructions for your phone and then place somewhere useful. You’ll need the free TecTiles app, along with a pack of tiles to start. They come in packs of five and you can reprogram them for new instructions or you can lock them down to a specific instruction or function.

You could have a bedside tile that sets your alarm at night or a tag on your dashboard that sets your preferred car profile. You could also set one up to display a message to whoever taps their phone on it or it could automatically link them up with your LinkedIn profile or register a Facebook like. You could have a tile that launches a specific app or automatically sends an SMS to a specific number. There are loads of great possibilities, from simple directions or web page links, to sharing contact details, all with a simple tap.

TecTiles are new and not as far-reaching as you might like. The ability to program tiles to trigger multiple events from different categories would really elevate its potential usefulness. At $15 for five tiles you may feel it’s a bit expensive and underpowered right now.

Automation is the future for Android

As Android has developed, each release has offered new features to make life easier. Things that used to only be available as apps or widgets have been rolled into the operating system. It would be great to see some automation options in the next major platform update.

Have you tried any Android automation apps yourself? Do you like the idea of TecTiles? Do you have any tips or recommendations for anyone looking to automate their Android phone? Post a comment and tell us what you think.

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