Android gestures: 3 cool ways to control your phone

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Getting around your smartphone by scrolling is so 2008.

These days, using an Android device is all about high-tech and hassle-free shortcuts. We've focused a lot on the voice-oriented side of things -- controlling your phone by speaking with Google's Voice Actions and Vlingo, for example -- but talking to your technology isn't always a practical option.

That's where the power of Android gestures comes in. With the right set of Android tools, you can open apps, make calls, and even surf the Web by drawing simple lines on your phone's screen. It's quick, it's easy -- and it always gets a fun reaction out of non-Android owners in the area.

So what are you waiting for? Read on, and get ready to give your phone the finger. You know -- in a good way.

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1. Android Gestures: Search Your Phone

Gesture Search Barcode

Our first Android gesture tool is the most well-known of them all -- and it's no surprise, as it's made by the same people who make Android.

Google's Gesture Search lets you dig through your phone by drawing letters on the display. With each letter you draw, you move closer toward forming a word, and the program narrows down its results to hone in on what you're trying to find.

Android Gestures: Gesture Search

Gesture Search can look through your contacts, Web bookmarks, apps, and music files. You can specify which of those areas it searches, too, using any combination or all of them at once.

Throw a shortcut to this sucker on your home screen, and you'll save tons of time trying to track down what you need. Gesture Search is available for free in the Android Market.

2. Android Gestures: Set Up a Speed Dial

OftSeen Gestures Barcode

For quick access to your most frequently called contacts, check out a handy little app called OftSeen Gestures.

With OftSeen Gestures, you set up custom gestures to dial anyone in your phone with a single touch. The gesture could be the first letter of the person's name, or even just a basic shape or line. Once you get the program configured, all you do is tap the app, draw the symbol, and you're in business -- your call is placed, no confirmation or extra steps required. (Just make sure to uncheck the "Confirm number" option in the app's settings to enable the one-touch dial mode.)

Android Gestures: OftSeen Gestures

OftSeen Gestures supports multistroke gestures and even recognizes the direction in which you draw. That means you could have a left-to-right dash to call your girlfriend's cell phone, and a right-to-left dash to call her work phone. The possibilities are practically endless.

OftSeen Gestures is available for free in the Android Market.

[Related: Improve Android battery life: Here's how]

3. Android Gestures: Surf the Web

Dolphin Browser HD Barcode

Our last utility brings the world of gestures into the World Wide Web. Dolphin Browser gives you a robust system of surfing the Web by drawing quick commands on your phone's display. You just tap the browser's gesture icon -- a transparent icon located in the bottom corner of the window -- and gesture away.

Dolphin comes with a bunch of preset gestures in place, but it's easy to customize them and add new ones to suit your style. You can set gestures for basic browser navigation -- moving forward or back, jumping to the top or bottom of a page, and opening or closing a tab (yes, Dolphin supports those, too) -- as well as for more advanced commands, like refreshing a page, clearing the cache, or sharing a page with others.

Android Gestures: Dolphin Browser

You can also configure gestures to load specific URLs. For example, if I draw a lowercase "e" on my screen, Dolphin loads eSarcasm, my geek-humor site. If I draw a lowercase "f," it pulls up Facebook. You can even set up gestures to activate one of the app's many add-ons, which let you do everything from language translation to full-page screen captures.

Dolphin Browser is free on the Android Market. If you're running Android 2.0 or higher, you'll want the "Dolphin Browser HD" version; if you're on Android 1.5 or 1.6, the regular "Dolphin Browser" is the one for you. The app is ad-supported by default; you can also opt to buy a paid license ($4.99) to browse ad-free.

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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