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.
Assistive Touch places a button on your iPhone screen that floats above everything else. 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. 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.
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 <em> [Broken Link Removed] </em>
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.
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 <em> [Broken Link Removed] </em>
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
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.
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. We also have a collection of audiobook readers and a list of great file managers to pick from 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 device.
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 [No Longer Available], $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. 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 [No Longer Available], just like the one listed above. You may also want to consider QuickTouch [No Longer Available].
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