Tech Tip: How to Back Up Your Android Phone


Google saves your settings and some app content to its cloud, but third-party programs may give you a more complete backup.

Q. How do you automatically back up an Android device without a computer, and where do the files live?

A. Google includes a basic online backup service in the standard Android system that stores copies of your settings and other data on its servers. The backup feature may already be enabled, depending on how you set up your phone or tablet. Open the Settings icon and tap the Backup or Backup & Reset icon to see.

You can set the backup preferences for your Android device in the system settings.CreditThe New York Times

Many of Android’s default apps and services — like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Contacts — are based in the cloud. When the automatic backup is enabled, your settings and other data for those services are copied; third-party apps and music from Google Play and Google Music are also backed up through your Google Account.

Tech Tip: Get Gmail to Stop Archiving and Start Deleting


The mobile app for Google’s service may be set to automatically archive messages you’ve swiped past, but you can change the setting.

Q. When I swipe to get rid of a message I don’t want in the Android Gmail app, it says Archived instead of Deleted. I don’t want these messages around, so how do I delete them, and how do I get rid of anything that was “archived”?

A. The Gmail app for Android gives its users two choices for discarding a new message: archive or delete.

The Archive action removes the message from view in the inbox and puts it in the All Mail area, in case you ever need it again. You can find archived messages by using Gmail’s search function. Messages addressed to a group of people can return to your inbox if someone on the address list replies to the original.

The Delete action moves the selected message to the Trash area, where it stays for 30 days before it is permanently deleted. If you do not want to wait that long to dump your mail trash, tap the three-lined menu icon in the top-left corner of the Gmail app, select the Trash icon on the left and tap the Empty Trash Now button at the top of the mailbox window.

To make the Gmail app delete unwanted messages instead of archiving them when you swipe the screen, tap the Menu icon again, scroll down the left pane of the window, select Settings and choose General Settings on the next screen. Tap “Gmail default action” and select “Delete” instead of “Archive.” If you want to be warned when deleting messages, select “Confirm before deleting” on the General Settings screen.

In the Gmail app’s settings, you can choose to archive or delete messages you do not want to see in your inbox.CreditThe New York Times

The steps for changing the setting in the Gmail app for iOS are similar. On the Settings screen, tap your account name, go to the General area, select “When removing messages, I prefer to” and choose “Move to trash.” (If you download mail from your Gmail account through the standard iOS mail app, you can also choose between archive and delete in the account settings.)

As for messages that were archived instead of deleted, you can find them by opening the Menu icon and selecting All Mail. Here, you can swipe each message to delete it. If you want to dig up messages from certain people or on specific topics you no longer care about, you can use search operators to round up mail that matches very specific criteria. For example, the search string -in:inbox -has:userlabel” seeks out messages that are not in your inbox and do not have any custom labels you may have used to sort your incoming mail.

Tech Tip: Weave Together Your Twitter Thoughts


When just one tweet isn’t enough, you can use Twitter’s threading tool to write and publish a series of connected posts on a topic.

Q. On Twitter for Android, how do you make one of those multiple-part tweets? Do you have to write them as you go?

A. The lengthy Twitter “thread” is a connected string of posts, usually made to elaborate more fully on a topic and beyond the 280 characters now allowed in a single tweet. If you feel the urge to create a thread on a particular subject, you can compose all the posts in the series before you share it with the world.

To create a thread using the Android (or iOS) Twitter app, start a new post as you normally would by tapping the quill-shaped Compose icon. Write the first message in your planned thread and then tap the small plus (+) icon in the bottom-right corner of the composition window to create a window for the next post. Write that next tweet in the thread and repeat the process until you have made your point — or otherwise finished sharing your thoughts.

When you set up a Twitter thread, you can add and edit all the posts in the series before sharing.CreditThe New York Times

Along the way, you can delete a post in the thread by tapping the gray “x” icon to remove it. Selecting the blue “x” icon in the top-left corner lets you save the thread as a draft or delete the entire thing. (Reviewing your saved thread in the Drafts area after a short break is a good opportunity to proofread the series of posts.)

Tech Tip: Curing the Full-Up Tablet Blues

Tech Tip

If you can’t download more movies and shows because your Android tablet has run out of storage space, consider these expansion options.

Q. My Android tablet says it’s running out of space and can’t download videos. Is it possible to add more, and if so, how?

A. Many Android tablets — including certain models made by Lenovo and Samsung — have built-in slots for optional memory cards, but you typically must purchase the cards separately. Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets and some of Barnes & Noble’s Nook tablets can also accommodate such cards. Check your tablet’s user guide for the card type and maximum storage capacity your device can take; many tablets use the tiny microSD cards, but may restrict you to 128 or 256 gigabytes of memory.

Once you purchase the appropriate memory card, insert it into the slot on the back or side of your tablet. You should see an alert box pop up, asking you what type of storage you would like to use.

If your Android tablet has a slot for an external memory card (circled), you can use the card for extra storage.CreditThe New York Times

Choose the Portable Storage option if you want to use the card to store temporary files like photos and videos. If you need extra room to store additional apps (and the data those apps create), choose the Internal Storage option instead. After you make your decision, the Android system should guide you through the rest of the setup.

Tech Tip: A Wrinkle in Time Keeping

Tech Tip

If you don’t want your phone’s calendar to change time zones when you travel, you can lock down your appointments.

Q. When I travel, how do I make my iPhone’s calendar stop moving the business appointments I originally made at home to the time zone of the city I’m in? I want my phone to act like a paper calendar where an appointment written down for 11 a.m. stays at 11 a.m., no matter where I happen to be.

A. Unless you have gone to the Date & Time settings and turned off the “Set Automatically” option, the iPhone picks up the time in your current location when it connects to a nearby data network. This can be convenient for traveling because you get the local time instantly. (If your phone does not automatically update even though you have it set to do so, it may also be because of a bug some users have reported in iOS.)

If your calendar appointments are shifting to reflect the local time and throwing off your schedule, you can tell the calendar app to ignore the time zone the phone is using. So this means an 11 a.m. appointment made in New York will still be scheduled for 11 a.m. on the calendar, even if the phone’s own clock has moved five hours ahead to London time.

The Time Zone Override controls in the iOS settings can stop your calendar appointments from shifting to the local time when you travel.CreditThe New York Times

In recent versions of iOS, go to the Home screen, open the Settings icon and select Calendar. On the Calendar settings screen, tap Time Zone Override. Tap the button next to Time Zone Override to enable it and confirm that the time zone listed below shows your home location where you make all your appointments. Previously scheduled events on the calendar should then stay put, regardless of the time zone the phone is in.

Android users have a similar setting for the Google Calendar app. Open Google Calendar, tap the Menu button in the upper-left corner and select Settings. On the next screen, tap General and turn off the button next to “Use device time zone” to stop appointments from shifting.

For iPhone-toting business travelers who do not want to mess with override settings or those who share calendars with co-workers in multiple time zones, there is an alternative approach. Instead of disabling your calendar’s ability to automatically shift time zones to match the phone’s location, just schedule the meetings for the designated time zones when you set up the appointment.

If you do not want to stop your phone’s calendar from adjusting itself, take an alternative approach. When you schedule a meeting to take place in a different city, add the time zone there so the event will be correct when you arrive and your phone updates to the local time.CreditThe New York Times

When you tap the plus (+) sign in the iPhone’s calendar app to schedule a new appointment, set the time and then tap Time Zone underneath to choose the city where the meeting will be held. When your phone and calendar automatically shift when you land in the new time zone, the meeting should be on your calendar for the proper local time.

Google Strikes Humble Tone While Promoting A.I. Technology

Mr. Pichai said artificial intelligence had uncovered breakthroughs in health care that humans would not have spotted. An artificial intelligence program running on Google’s so-called machine-learning software that helps diagnose eye disease from a retina image found that the same photo could be used to identify cardiovascular risk.

It is the type of meaningful breakthrough that Google executives love to promote, but it has little to do with Google’s core web products or the way it makes money. But even those services are getting an artificially intelligent makeover.


Developers from Sri Lanka, Bolivia and India were among the visitors at the conference.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The company demonstrated how its Google Assistant computer software is now capable of calling a person at a hair salon or a restaurant to make a reservation. Google said artificial intelligence had allowed the computer’s voice to sound more human — complete with “uhs” and natural pauses, as well as logical follow-up questions — so the person at the other end does not know that he or she is speaking to a computer.

Improvements in A.I. have allowed Google’s computer assistant to have different voices and accents, including the ability later this year to have the singer John Legend tell you the day’s weather.

The company also demonstrated a new artificially intelligent feature in Gmail, called Smart Compose, that starts to suggest complete sentences in email as you type. Google said this would help users complete emails more quickly with fewer spelling and grammar mistakes. It plans to add this feature over the next few weeks.

But one of its most significant A.I. breakthroughs will never be seen by consumers.

Google said it would roll out a new processing chip to power many of its machine-learning programs. A.I. programs require a great deal of computing power, and custom-made chips housed inside data centers to handle this data crunch have fueled an arms race among the tech industry’s biggest companies. Google said its new chip would be eight times more powerful than the chip it introduced last year.

Mark Hung, a research vice president at the research firm Gartner, said the conference demonstrated how much Google relied on A.I. to make its products stand out.

“Almost everything Google is announcing now is A.I. related,” he said. “Google has a lead on artificial intelligence over many of its competitors, and it’s going to use that as a weapon to advance their products forward.”

In keeping with a theme of a more responsible Google, the company also introduced features aimed at addressing how technology is burrowing deeper into our lives — sometimes in negative ways.

Google unveiled a series of “digital well-being” updates in the next version of its Android smartphone software. They include a timer that allows a person to limit time spent on certain apps each day and a Do Not Disturb feature that silences phone calls and notifications, and that can be turned on by placing the smartphone screen face down on a table.

The company is also trying to encourage good manners with its Google Assistant. The new “pretty please” feature, which encourages children to use “please” when asking for assistance, aims to address the concern that children are learning to speak impolitely because they are talking to more digital assistants.

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Tech Tip: Why Are There So Many Android Versions?

Q. Why are there so many different variations of Android compared to iOS? Which version is most common?

A. Since the iPhone arrived in 2007, Apple has kept a tight rein on its mobile operating system and only allows it to work on its own hardware — making it proprietary or “closed” software. Although enthusiasts have been able to hack around and tinker with iOS over the years, Apple frowns upon doing so.

Android, the operating system Google has made for mobile devices since 2008, is largely open-source software. As such, developers and manufacturers have taken the basic system software and adapted it to their own devices — which makes for many more variations of Android in circulation.

This means Samsung can make a version of Android (called the “Samsung Experience”) that works well with its Galaxy S hardware and Amazon can spin off a Fire OS variation for its Kindle tablets. The unadulterated version that Google puts on its own Pixel hardware is usually called “stock” or “pure” Android because it lacks the add-ons and modifications made by others for their own specific gadgets.

Google generally stops offering free Android system updates to devices after a few years, but the company does make updates to its popular apps available for older system versions.CreditThe New York Times

Google typically releases one major update to the Android system each year. Android 8.0, code-named “Oreo,” is the latest mainstream edition and Android “P” (nickname yet to be determined) is expected later this year. However, Google does not guarantee that its own hardware will get the newest versions of the system after about two years from the purchase date, though it makes security updates available longer. Older devices can fall behind (but still work) and wireless carriers and hardware makers may roll out updates on their own schedule — or not at all.

Google’s own developer’s dashboard has a chart showing all the versions of Android still in active use, based on information from the Google Play store. Last year’s Android 8.0 has slightly more than 4 percent of users while Android 6.0, code-named Marshmallow and released in 2015, is currently the most popular version, with a 26 percent share. Android 7.0 (nicknamed Nougat and unveiled in 2016) is running on about 23 percent of devices, and the five-year-old Android 4.4 (KitKat) is on 10 percent.

Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology to This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.

They Tried to Boycott Facebook, Apple and Google. They Failed.

Ms. Cunningham, who has freelanced for The New York Times, added that she had immediately begun missing Facebook as a research tool for her documentaries. “I don’t know if I can get out of the ecosystem,” she said.

People looking to punish major tech companies by abstaining from their products have been bedeviled time and again by the difficulty in escaping them. After Google fired an engineer, James Damore, for criticizing the company’s diversity efforts last year, hundreds of people on social media called for a boycott of the company. But an analysis of nearly 7,000 tweets using the hashtag #BoycottGoogle since August showed that 26 percent of the tweets came from devices using Google’s Android software, according to Keyhole, a social-media research firm.

One Twitter account named Milton Prescott tweeted on Aug. 8: “Google’s firing of James Damore proves his point completely. I will no longer be using Google for any services. #BoycottGoogle.” The tweet came from an Android device. A message to the account went unreturned.

Even Breitbart is running into the same dilemma. The conservative website is planning to host a panel on how tech platforms like Facebook suppress conservative voices — and it said it would livestream the discussion on Facebook. Breitbart didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Marisa Richardson, a program manager at a life-sciences company, said she began boycotting Amazon recently after learning that it offered the NRA channel on its streaming-video service. So when she needed laundry detergent, she avoided the e-commerce site and instead braved the crowds and traffic — and spent a few dollars more — at a nearby Target.

But a few days later she shopped at the Whole Foods near her home in Oakland, Calif. “I completely forgot that they’re owned by Amazon,” she said.

After the shooting in Parkland in February, gun-control activists called for a boycott of certain Apple and Amazon services because they hosted the NRA channel.


Ms. Bruzzese said her social media options were limited. Few of her friends are on Twitter, and many have stopped using Snapchat.

Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times

People used the hashtag #March1NRABoycott to spread the message on social media. An analysis of about 58,500 tweets with the hashtag showed that nearly half came from an iPhone or an iPad, according to Keyhole. Those included popular tweets using the #March1NRABoycott hashtag from the actress Alyssa Milano.

“Had I sent the same tweets from an Android phone, the same issue would apply. There is an NRATV app for Android phones,” Ms. Milano said through a spokeswoman. “We are only just beginning to understand how these companies have infiltrated not only our ideologies, but also our lives in the most in-depth way imaginable.”

Nearly a third of the 4,700 tweets using the #BoycottApple hashtag since August came from iPhones, according to Keyhole.

“I do have an iPhone, but as a customer of Apple’s, am I not allowed to hold them accountable?” Mr. Knight, the activist who used an iPhone to call for an Apple boycott, said in an interview.

Eddy Cue, a senior executive at Apple, recently said that the NRA channel didn’t violate the company’s policies. Facebook, Google and Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Many of those who recently abandoned their Facebook accounts are still in the company’s orbit, not only with Instagram but also with the company’s popular messaging apps WhatsApp and Messenger.

When Cher recently deleted her Facebook page, she said on Twitter, “2day I did something VERY HARD 4 me.” But her Instagram account, with 768,000 followers, was still active.

Likewise, Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX and Tesla, deleted the Facebook pages of both companies — but left their pages and his personal account active on Instagram. The photo-sharing platform, he said on Twitter, is fine “so long as it stays fairly independent.”

Stephen Cox, 39, a woodworker in Los Angeles, recently posted on Facebook that he was deactivating his account in favor of Instagram. When someone commented that the two sites were owned by the same company, he replied, “It’s a double-edged sword, but for me one edge is slightly more blunt than the other.”

Instagram has proved an effective hedge for Facebook against people losing interest or trust in its main site. While the percentage of American adults who use Facebook has remained flat at 68 percent since 2016, according to a January survey of 2,002 American adults by the Pew Research Center, Instagram use rose to 35 percent from 28 percent over that period. Instagram is also more popular with younger people than older people, according to the survey.

Rayven Bruzzese, 26, a sign-language student in Philadelphia, said she had been a frequent user of Facebook for years but deleted her account in March because she found it upsetting and a drain on her time. Now she spends her time on Instagram.

While she acknowledged the irony of moving to another Facebook-owned service, she said her options were limited. Few of her friends are on Twitter, and many have stopped using Snapchat.

“Where am I supposed to go?” she said. “I wish there was something else.”

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