Since the iPhone made touch screen smartphones the standard, we’ve used touch and not much else to navigate around our phones.
But Google and other developers have worked to build a more versatile environment and assist disabled users in using smartphones. You might not have known about the different ways to operate Android that don’t require touching the screen at all.
Here are the five major ways you can navigate around your Android phone.
Let’s get the most obvious method out of the way first. Everyone is familiar with touch screen phones. Phone makers have come up with numerous improvements, shortcuts, and design languages in years past to refine that experience.
You can long-press to reveal more options, double-tap to perform a quick action, swipe to switch between tabs, and similar. But with screens as large as they are now, touch isn’t always ideal even if you have giant hands.
Therefore, we recommend checking out tips and apps to make handling big phones easier. These apps also highlight the biggest upside of touchscreens: they’re so dynamic that they unlock endless possibilities for developers.
Many have hailed voice input as the future of digital interaction. And that’s no surprise. Nearly every gadget you own today can be triggered by voice, especially considering how rapidly smart home appliances have grown. In addition to that, it’s also a convenient method for users with handicaps to operate their phones.
Google Assistant is one major way you can partially control your Android phone. You can execute quick commands like “Play a song” or “Turn off the Wi-Fi” with Google’s voice assistant. We’ve even looked at how to automate your life with the help of Routines.
However, this is not a full-fledged solution. Google realized this a while back and released an app called Voice Access. This lets you use your phone completely with just your voice.
As soon as you launch Voice Access, the app initiates an always-on module. It listens for your commands and assigns a number to every action available on your phone’s screen.
You can simply speak a particular number to perform that action. For instance, on the home screen, if you’d like to tap the Phone icon, just say the digit assigned to it and it will open up.
What’s more, fundamental actions like scrolling and tapping Back have a fixed command such as “Scroll Down” and “Go Back.” Since Voice Access’s speech recognition capabilities are derived from the same technology behind Google Assistant, you won’t need to worry about repeating phrases. In our testing, it was quite responsive and accurate.
Download: Voice Access (Free)
Steering an Android phone with your face is now possible as well, thanks to an app called EVA Facial Mouse. It aims to allow people with varying disabilities such as amputations, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injury to easily handle their phones.
The app does so by monitoring your facial movements and manipulating a pointer on the screen accordingly. To move the cursor, you have to move your face in the appropriate direction.
To interact with elements, just hover over it and wait for a second or two. The app works surprisingly well, and even allows you to configure its various properties like the pointer’s speed and sensitivity.
Plus, you can also switch on a dock for quickly accessing a bunch of core actions including home, multitasking, and more. If you’re concerned about privacy here, you should know the only permissions Facial Mouse asks for are camera and accessibility.
Download: EVA Facial Mouse (Free)
4. External Keyboard and Mouse
When it’s time to get some real work done, most of us reach for our computers with a real keyboard and mouse. But believe it or not, you can have a similar setup on an Android phone as well. The OS is natively compatible with both of these accessories.
You have two ways to connect a keyboard and mouse. If they’re wireless, you can simply pair them over Bluetooth and you should be all set without any further tweaking.
For wired USB keyboards, you’ll need a special dongle to use USB OTG (On-The-Go). This enables you to plug in a full-size USB-A connector to your phone’s micro-USB or USB-C port. Due to the platform’s support, you don’t need to modify any settings to start using the keyboard.
Android even lets you employ standard keyboard shortcuts like Alt + Tab switching or using the Tab key to navigate around. It’s also possible to control Android with your PC’s mouse and keyboard through a third-party platform. Pair these with a docking station and your smartphone can replace your desktop.
5. Reachability Cursor
If you want to stick to touch as your input method on Android, you’ve probably run into a few hurdles as manufacturers continue to increase phone sizes.
To put an end to those woes, try Reachability Cursor. It’s a new app that brings a clever touch-based input system to Android by adding a computer-like cursor/pointer on your phone.
Reachability Cursor works by placing a floating handler on the edges, which you can think of like a computer mouse. Use it to drag around the cursor; to tap an element, you have to “single-click” the handler itself.
There’s a good reason behind dividing the concept into two floating icons instead of one. The handler always stays about two inches away from the cursor, letting you reach corners you wouldn’t be able to otherwise with a single hand.
The whole process feels snappy. It’s something I wish every phone maker would take notes from—especially Google since it doesn’t offer any reachability tools. The developer even seems to have ensured the cursor doesn’t accidentally activate. It stays out of your way when you don’t want it.
You can even personalize where you’d like to pin the handler and its trigger area. In addition, you have the option to configure edge actions for quickly pulling down the notification shade or quick settings. However, you have to pay for most of these supplementary features, and for long-press clicks as well.
Download: Reachability Cursor (Free, premium version available)
Different Ways to Type, Too
Once you’ve settled on how you’d like to navigate around your Android phone, we recommend you check out all the different ways to type on Android and configure the one which suits your needs best. Making your phone more personal is always awesome.