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Smartphones are in a rut. Whether you’re using an iPhone or something running Android, you get a static row of icons at the bottom along with rows and rows of additional ones above or in a drawer. Doing anything generally involves stopping what you’re doing and tapping on one of these icons.

Fortunately, on Android, we can make changes that speed up how we interact with our phones — no rooting or flashing required. Developers have come up with some rather creative shortcuts for placing a call, sending a text, and quickly accessing other common tasks. Many of them have opted to emulate Assistive Touch for iOS. Hey, whatever works.

Here are five that caught my attention.

1. EasyTouch

Assistive Touch 7 "Hidden" iOS 5 Features You Might Have Missed [iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch] 7 "Hidden" iOS 5 Features You Might Have Missed [iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch] iOS 5 added so many features, tweaks and improvements to Apple’s mobile operating system that many inclusions seem to have gone by unannounced. Everyone (including us) has been raving about the new Notification Center, the... Read More . When you tap the icon, you’re presented with an array of actions. Examples include locking the screen, toggling Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, launching one of your favorite apps, firing up the camera, or performing a number of other tasks.

When Assistive Touch launched for iOS, some Android apps had already experimented with the idea of putting a floating button on the screen. Still, many of the options that have come out since have used Apple as a model.

EasyTouch is one of those apps Easy Touch: Quickly Access Settings, Apps & Shortcuts From Any Screen [Android] Easy Touch: Quickly Access Settings, Apps & Shortcuts From Any Screen [Android] Read More . Despite being around for a few years, it embraces Android’s current design language, and that’s a big draw. The settings screen and the shortcuts alike look like something that could have come from Google.

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The downside to apps like this is that the button is always visible. Fortunately, compared to some of the other options you’re about to see on this list, EasyTouch’s icon isn’t all that annoying. Nevertheless, you can change the size and transparency to make it less intrusive. Plus there are plenty of themes.

EasyTouch is free to use. There are no in-app purchases, but there are some ads.

Download: EasyTouch for Android (Free)

2. Shorty

Rather than a generic icon, Shorty uses an S inside a red circle. Tapping on this button provides access to up to five tasks. What these tasks are is entirely up to you, as the app provides none out of the box.

Possibilities include placing a call directly to one of your regular contacts, sending a text along with a pre-written message (such as “Almost there”), taking a photo, or launching an app.

AndroidShortcutApps-Shorty

That’s all there is to Shorty. This is one of those delightful options that does one thing well while looking perfectly at home next to Google-made apps. Shorty isn’t free, but the 99 cent up-front payment really isn’t all that much to ask.

Download: Shorty for Android ($0.99)

3. Floating Toolbox

Floating Toolbox uses a floating button, but instead of opening a menu when you tap that icon, you get a list of your favorite apps. A panel of them drops down from the circular button, and it retreats back in when you’re done. Then the icon fades so as not to obstruct your view.

You can tweak the transparency, size, and color to get the appearance to your liking. While the free version doesn’t let you access toggles and other settings that similar shortcut apps are known for, you can do those things by buying the pro version for $2.03

Download: Floating Toolbox for Android (Free | $2.03)

4. Simple Shortcuts

Tired of buttons that take up part of the screen? Simple Shortcuts is a solution that you may forget is even there. The app sits invisibly off to the side of the screen, waiting for you to swipe in from the edge. This brings up a pane of apps. You can select a few favorites or have Simple Shortcuts show every piece of software that you’ve installed.

AndroidShortcutApps-SimpleShortcuts

The app is ad supported, and the display banners make the configuration screen look rather cluttered. Fortunately you can remove those distractions and unlock the ability to sort your apps into additional columns by paying $1.00.

Download: Simple Shortcuts for Android (Free, $1.00 in-app purchase to unlock)

If you find yourself wanting more apps to fill Floating Toolbox or Simple Shortcuts with, here are a handful of music players that all look great on new Android phones 6 Gorgeous Material Design-Inspired Music Players for Android 6 Gorgeous Material Design-Inspired Music Players for Android Looking for a music player that's been updated with Material Design in mind? Look no further! Read More . We also have a collection of audiobook readers 3 Simple Ways to Listen to DRM-Free Audiobooks on Android 3 Simple Ways to Listen to DRM-Free Audiobooks on Android Want to listen to audiobooks without the restrictions of DRM? We sure have a treat for you. Read More and a list of great file managers to pick from The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android There are a bunch of file management and file exploring apps out there for Android, but these are the best. Read More as well.

5. Assistive Touch 2

There are a number of apps in the Play Store that simply call themselves Assistive Touch. Most of them are largely the same, and there isn’t much of a reason to choose them over EasyTouch aside from a difference in appearance.

Assistive Touch by the Assistive Touch Team is one of those apps. You can arrange icons differently, select from various colors, and change the floating button into assorted pictures. When we’re talking about customizing your phone to feel just the way you want, it’s often the small things that serve as hangups, so it’s nice to have options

Really though, it’s the follow-up app that warrants a mention. Assistive Touch 2 shrinks the floating button into a smaller, less intrusive target. The launcher that pops up consists of a ring of circles instead of a single transparent square. The functionality is largely the same, but this is a distinctive visual twist that still looks great on a Lollipop or Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow: What It Is and When You'll Get It Android 6.0 Marshmallow: What It Is and When You'll Get It Android Marshmallow is here -- but why should you care? Read More device.

AndroidShortcutApps-AssistiveTouch2

The app has more ads than I care for, and when I tried to toggle my flashlight using the default shortcut, that didn’t work. The other ones I tapped worked, though, so I would still consider this worth a look.

Assistive Touch 1 lets you remove ads for $1.98, but removing them from Assistive Touch 2 is roughly half the price at 99 cents.

Download: Assistive Touch for Android (Free, $1.98 to remove ads), Assistive Touch 2 for Android (Free, $0.99 to remove ads)

How Do You Navigate Android?

Every time I press the home button and open the app drawer, I run the risk of getting distracted and tapping on an icon that had nothing to do with what I originally wanted. One way I’ve combated this time-sucking problem is by only installing apps I consider to be essential 5 Simple Ways to Be a More Mindful Smartphone User 5 Simple Ways to Be a More Mindful Smartphone User It's easy to get sucked into the smartphone world in the modern age and forget about the real world. Here's how to take back control of your life. Read More . But installing any of the apps above helps tackle the same problem.

For folks who are enamored with Assistive Touch for iOS, there really are no shortage of additional options. There are quite a few to choose from that are simply called Assistive Touch, just like the one listed above. You may also want to consider QuickTouch.

Why do you use shortcuts to get around? What changes to the interface do you wish Google or other Android phone makers would implement? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits:Shortcuts businessman by jumpe via Shutterstock

  1. gadget
    March 22, 2016 at 12:19 am

    Check out "Swapps", it's in the Play Store.
    I've been using it for a couple of months now and really like it.
    I can access any app on my phone from anywhere.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      March 22, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Man, I used to really want a launcher like this. Swapps is basically what I wanted Action Launcher to be back when I first experimented with that app.

  2. Rafael Gudiño
    March 20, 2016 at 2:20 am

    how about SwipePad? I think it's pretty neat, and you don't get the floating button. It's always one of the first things I install after getting a new Android.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      March 22, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      From what I've seen, SwipePad is a solid app. Great recommendation.

  3. Larry Boustead
    March 19, 2016 at 5:59 am

    It would seem that our smartphone's have become the Center of everything past, present and future. So I would like an App that captures all of that activity and places it in to a daily journal automatically. This makes sense and would be a reflection of one's day.

    • Pauline Young
      March 19, 2016 at 9:19 am

      I have been using Bar Launcher for a long time now. I like it because the shortcut icon stays in the notification bar and when you want to use it you access it like any other notification.

  4. Tygerr
    March 18, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Galaxy S7 Edge...

  5. Saki R
    March 18, 2016 at 5:06 am

    its really amazing article you were shared with us. its really superb and very much useful. thanks for sharing amazing useful.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      March 18, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Glad you liked it!

  6. Maddypra
    March 18, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Omni swipe

    • WIND
      March 22, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Omni swipe -

      It is a great app - no floating buttons - just swipes the edge of the screen and all your apps are on your fingers.

      You have 3 pages/options - favorite apps, recent apps and tools (wifi,light, bltwt, camera, calculator etc.).

      If you choose the bubble theme you will have more spaces for shortcuts, than other themes - 3 pages*13 shortcuts.

      There are options to add recent and favorites contacts.

  7. Hildy J
    March 17, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I use Quick Shortcut Maker. It searches through system and app APIs, lists what it can find, allows you to search the lists, and allows you to test the shortcut before you create it. It also supports renaming shortcuts and assigning icons from a number of icon packs. Free with no ads or in app purchases.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      March 18, 2016 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation. This is one area where Android has many great options to choose from.

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