6 New Year's resolutions for Android fans in 2016

Android Resolutions 2016

A set of realistic goals to sharpen your smartphone experience -- and save you money! -- this coming year.

It's the start of a new year -- and we all know what that means: Time to make wildly ambitious resolutions you know you'll never keep.

But hey, do that on your time, won't ya? We've got important business to attend to here -- namely making some beneficial yet very realistic goals for the Android side of our lives.

If you have one or more Android devices, step off the scale for a few seconds and commit yourself to some of these immensely achievable 2016 tasks:

Resolution #1: Get your security situation in order.

Android security is a loaded subject, but the long and short of it is that there's really not much to worry about -- provided you (a) use common sense and (b) take advantage of the tools Google gives you.

The two halves of that equation are equally important. If you already took my advice and performed a personal Android security audit at the end of 2015, you get a pass on this one for now (though I'd recommend revisiting it again come summer). If you didn't -- well, what are you waiting for?

It won't take long -- promise. Everything you need is right here.

Resolution #2: Start earning free Play Store credit.

Okay, here's a dirty little secret: I haven't paid for anything from the Google Play Store in a really, really long time. I've bought plenty of stuff -- don't get me wrong -- but not a single penny of the cost has come out of my own pretty pocket.

The reason: I've got oodles of built-up Play Store credit. Some of it is from random device purchases that came with free bonuses, but much of it is from a neat little app called Google Opinion Rewards.

If you haven't installed the app yet, you're missing out. Once you've got it set up on your phone, Rewards gives you occasional prompts to complete quick surveys (usually about your thoughts on some random product/service or a business you've visited -- nothing too personal). Most of them take a mere matter of seconds to complete, and each one gives you a Play Store credit in exchange for your input.

Now, before you get too excited, these surveys aren't gonna give you millions of dollars in virtual currency (or, um, even tens of dollars -- not in a single swoop, anyway). Most of 'em add anywhere from 10 cents to 90 cents onto your Play account balance. But knock those suckers out any chance you get, and it's pretty easy to maintain a nice little running balance that'll take care of the occasional movie rental or app purchase with next to no effort on your part.

Speaking of which...

Resolution #3: Buy some apps.

It's easy to develop a mentality of "everything on my phone should be free," but you know what? People work pretty damn hard to design and develop all those apps we use every day. On Android in particular, lots of developers are actually small, independent operations -- often with a single sleep-deprived person doing everything from programming to support and even marketing. And the only way such folks can keep creating and maintaining their efforts is if they're able to make a living doing it.

It's just the two of us here, amigo, so let's be honest: For most people, the price to support our platform's developers is pretty effin' affordable. A paid or pro version of a quality Android app typically costs a few bucks, give or take -- less than you spend on your Venti Soy Fizzatino (extra fizzy, please) every morning. And when you stop and think about it, that kind of cash for a lifetime software license -- including years of ongoing upgrades and support -- is an absurdly good deal.

(There are, of course, exceptions. But c'mon: The price of most paid apps and upgrades is almost laughably cheap. And don't forget, too, that you can get the goods and support the devs without even paying from your own pocket. Scroll back up to the previous tip, you silly forgetful goose.)

So the next time you're on the fence about snagging that polished $4 podcasting program or the $5 pro upgrade to an app you adore and use for hours every day, go ahead and tap the blasted button. You'll get expanded functionality, the developer will get paid, and we'll all feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Resolution #4: Try something new.

This ain't iOS, folks: Android is full of cool tricks, tweaks, and customizations that can make your device do more. For the new year, dedicate yourself to trying something different on your phone or tablet.

Maybe it's experimenting with a new Android launcher like Action Launcher, Nova Launcher, or Aviate. Maybe it's trying (or retrying) an unusual kind of email client like Google's increasingly good Inbox. Maybe it's diving into a context-aware automation tool like Agent or Tasker and giving your smartphone some extra smarts. Or maybe it's something as simple as learning to take full advantage of Android's ever-expanding voice command capabilities.

Whatever it is, step out of your comfort zone in 2016 and try something that's new to you. Even if every experience isn't a winner, you never know what you might find when you open yourself up to the platform's many possibilities.

Resolution #5: Streamline your cloud storage.

Cloud storage is quickly becoming the filing cabinet of our modern lives -- so, gee willikers, isn't it about time you cleaned up your clutter? (Isn't it also about time you stopped saying "gee willikers"? Pshaw!)

Set aside some time this year to organize your stuff in a way that makes sense for you -- and to get rid of old crap that's eating up valuable space and making it harder to find the things you actually want. I just did a big ol' cleanup of my own Google Drive account, and despite the fact that I uploaded several gigs of new material in the midst of it, I ended up with half the amount of eaten-up storage by the time I was done.

If you split your data across multiple cloud storage services -- and it's never a bad idea, especially if you have a lot of data -- an app called Unclouded can simplify your life in an immensely satisfying way. In short, the app gives you a single centralized spot to view and manage all of your files from various services like Drive, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive. It even makes it easy to move files from one service to another, as if they were all connected, and it lets you search across your providers to find duplicate files and keep things nice and tidy.

If you want to store some data locally on your device, meanwhile, think about an auto-syncing app like FolderSync. It can keep local folders mirrored to cloud-based equivalents, effectively making your phone or tablet part of your cloud storage portfolio. (Good use of "portfolio" there, right? Damn, I feel smart.)

Whatever your need, now's the time to get your house in order. Think of it as New Year's cleaning for your digital closet -- you sloppy, sloppy boar.

Resolution #6: Re-evaluate your mobile plan.

It's 2016, people. Unless you live in an area with extremely limited options for coverage, there's really no reason to still be paying an arm and a leg for smartphone service (let alone to be signing oppressive and cost-ineffective contracts). If you haven't taken a close look at your plan possibilities in a while, there's a decent chance you're shelling out more than you need to for your mobile data and minutes.

So resolve it with me now: I will not let myself fall into the trap of complacency. Set aside an hour this month and research your options. From some of the newer contract-free postpaid plans to the variety of prepaid configurations and Google's own pay-only-for-what-you-use Project Fi service, there are plenty of choices that can give you what you need for a surprisingly low amount of shekels.

Maybe a more traditional plan still makes the most sense for you. That's certainly A-OK. But you owe it to yourself -- and your wallet -- to do your homework and make sure that's actually the case.

And with that, my friends, our 2016 resolutions are complete. Now stop reading (wait, not quite yet...) and start acting.

(Okay. Now. Go! Time is a-wastin'. Hey, we're all in this together.)

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