December 13th, 2011
The Android app model is a bit different from the iPhone app model. For the last few years, iPhone apps have generally been pay-for apps, and Android apps have generally been ad-supported cost-free apps. The last two years, I spent exactly $0 on Android apps and was just fine with the functionality I had. I would check out some pay-for apps to see what was out there, but nothing made me think “I would definitely pay for that.”
That was until I found Tasker.
It’s a relatively expensive app (currently US$6.49), but it’s totally worth it. It basically allows you to improve phone usability, automate tasks, and save battery life.
Granted, as you’ll see if you read the reviews, the interface isn’t the most intuitive. However, once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite easy to use.
Here are some of the cool things I’ve been able to do with Tasker:
- Adjust volume per app. Angry Birds volume tends to be a bit too loud. So with Tasker, I set up a profile that turns the media volume down whenever I launch Angry Birds, and then turns it back up when I’m done playing Angry Birds.
- Adjust mobile data type for weak signal spots. When I’m at work, the Edge signal is way better than the 3G or 4G signals, so I set Tasker up to see if I’m at work, and, if I am, to switch the phone to the Edge network only. Once I leave work, it switches back to 3G/4G preferred.
- Autorotate for select apps. I used to use a toggle button to turn autorotate off and on as needed. Really, though, the only app I use autorotate for is the photo Gallery app. So I set up Tasker to turn autorotate on when I launch Gallery, and then turn it back off again when I’m done.
- Conserve battery life. Before I used Tasker, I’d tried an app called Juice Defender. It was a good app and actually did conserve battery life. The primary way it did that was by turning mobile data off when the screen was off and then turning it back on again when the screen is on. The annoying thing was that if you had the screen off for only a moment, the data would turn off. In practical terms, that would mean that if I was looking at my phone to see when the next bus would arrive, I’d check it, turn the screen off, and two minutes later, I’d turn the screen on to check and have to wait about ten or twenty seconds for the data to turn back on. With Tasker, I can set it up so that the data will turn off if the screen is off… but only after five minutes. If I turn the screen back on again within five minutes, data will just be on the whole time. If I keep the screen off longer than five minutes, data will turn off. I’ve also set it up to switch from 3G/4G preferred to 2G only if the battery life is critically low. And I’ve set it up to turn on autosync every hour for five minutes and then turn autosync back off.
- Quiet camera shutter. At least on three Android phones (two that I’ve owned), the shutter sound when a picture is taken is way too loud. So I set up a Tasker profile for lowering the system volume when the Camera app is launched.
- GPS when needed. Yes, generally speaking, GPS on Android turns on only when you launch an app that needs GPS. There are exceptions, though. For example, at least with the version of Facebook for Android that’s out as of this writing, the Facebook app will turn on GPS when you launch it, even if you don’t want to actually share your location with Facebook. So I’ve just turned off GPS, and Tasker allows me to specify which apps I want GPS to launch for (e.g., Maps, Navigation, Yelp, Movies).
- Headphone volume. If I have my headphones in, I want the volume turned down—for music, for Netflix streaming, for phone calls. When I take my headphones out, I want the volume up. I have a Tasker profile for that, too.
- Silent for school assembly. Almost every morning, the school I work at has a brief all-school assembly. So I set up a Tasker profile to detect if I’m at school and to silence my phone during the hours of the assembly and then un-silence it afterwards.
- Longer screen timeouts per application. Generally speaking, I like the 30-second timeout on the screen. If I’m not touching the screen for 30 seconds, I want it to turn off to save power. Certain applications I want the screen kept on longer, though. For example, if I’m playing Words with Friends or WordFeud, and I’m staring at the screen for three or four minutes as I think of a move. I don’t want to keep touching the screen periodically to keep it on. With Tasker, I set it up so that the screen timeout is 7 minutes for certain apps and then 30 seconds for everything else.
- Suppress Notifications. If I’m listening to music, I don’t want notification sounds interrupting me, so Tasker lets me turn the notification volume off when I’m listening to music.
These are only the things I personally have set up Tasker to do. Others have set up a whole host of Tasker profiles. On the Tasker website, you can find many examples of profiles that may be useful to you.
If you consider US$6.49 to be an expensive investment sight unseen, you can try out a seven-day free trial of Tasker. Try it. You won’t regret it.