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4 things you didn't know you could do on your Android phone or tablet

Here are a few cool things your Android device can do.
Beth McIntire

An Android phone will let you call, text, email, surf the Web, watch videos, check Facebook and Twitter, check the weather and read news headlines. But did you know it could take screen shots, auto upload photos and videos to the cloud, print to your computer's or network's printer and be configured to let you wipe or lock the device if it's ever lost or stolen? Here are some tips for getting more out of your Android phone or tablet.

Take a screen capture
Take a screen capture Beth McIntire

Take a screen capture

More recent Android phones let you take a screenshot - a picture of what's on your phone's display - without any additional software. On an Android phone running version 4.0 or above, hold down the power and volume down buttons at the same time to take a screen capture. The captured photo will save to your Captured Images folder in the Gallery app. For older versions of Android, you can use an app such as AirDroid.

Print from your phone or tablet
Print from your phone or tablet Beth McIntire

Print from your phone or tablet

The most recent Android version, available on the newest phones and tablets, lets you print from the device, without requiring a separate app. Starting with Android 4.4 KitKat, you can set up Cloud Print to allow printing directly from an Android phone or tablet. Some newer printers come with built-in compatibility with Cloud Print.

For printers that don't have this capability, you need to login to Google Chrome on a computer that connects (either locally or via a network) to the printer you want to use on your Android device. Click the gear icon in Chrome (upper right corner), then Settings, and you'll see an option to set up Cloud Print. Next, go into Settings on your Android device and set up Cloud Print there. It should automatically find the printer you set up in Chrome.

Wipe or lock a lost or stolen phone
Wipe or lock a lost or stolen phone Beth McIntire

Wipe or lock a lost or stolen phone

Plan ahead in case your phone is ever lost or stolen. Set up Android Device Manager, and you'll have the ability to remotely lock or wipe your Android phone or tablet. You'll need access to a computer with Internet access and the device itself in order to set up Android Device Manager. Then, bookmark the link to Android Device Manager in case you should need it some day.

If your Android device becomes lost or stolen, you'd login to the site and choose whether to wipe the phone clean or simply lock it. You also have the option of making the phone ring loudly several times - useful if you've misplaced your phone, but you believe it's somewhere in the building.

Sync photos and videos with your computer
Sync photos and videos with your computer Beth McIntire

Sync photos and videos with your computer

If you still transfer photos and videos from your phone by emailing them to yourself or hooking a USB cable from your phone to your computer, wouldn't it be great if your phone could automatically sync media files with your computer? If your phone breaks or gets lost before you transfer all of your photos and videos, you'd lose precious moments that you'd captured for posterity.

Dropbox offers 2 GB of free space and opportunities to earn additional free space. Set up a free Dropbox account, then download the app from the Google Play Store. Next, go through the initial setup on your device, telling Dropbox to automatically upload photos and videos. You may want to have it execute transfers only over Wi-Fi, since uploads could quickly drain your monthly mobile data allotment. Large media uploads can also drain your battery, so you may wish to manually turn off auto-uploads when you won't have a charger available for awhile.

Google Drive also offers easy to use cloud storage, giving you a whopping 15 GB of free space. Auto uploads of photos and videos take place through a simple setup with Google Plus, though you don't ever need to share your photos on Google Plus unless you want to.

Both Google Drive and Dropbox offer free Windows software for you to install on your computer, so your photo and video files sync will sync there, too.