Android gotchas: Fast fixes for 6 common problems


Smartphones have the power to make our lives more efficient. They also have the power to cause major migraines.

Let’s face it: Technology wouldn’t be technology without the occasional facepalm-inducing failure—and mobile devices are no exception. But an annoying Android error doesn’t have to send you scrambling to the nearest clueless carrier store or online help forum. I’ve been covering and personally using Android since its infancy, and I’m here to help. (My certified-geek badge is on file in the main office if you need to see it.)

Check out the fixes below or save this story for a rainy day. With these troubleshooting tips in hand, you’ll be swatting away problems and getting back to business in no time—no aspirin required.

1. What to do when your Android phone freezes or won’t start

It’s one of the scariest feelings of our always-connected lives: glancing down at your phone and realizing it’s frozen on some screen and not responding to your touch. Worse yet is the heart-dropping sensation you experience when you try to turn your phone on and absolutely nothing happens.

on your phone and follow its prompts for automatically syncing your data to the cloud. Once the app has finished backing up your stuff, look for the “Free up space” option in its main menu to remove the now-redundant local copies.

  • Got a Google Pixel or Nexus phone? Your device has an option to automatically remove local copies of backed-up images as space is needed. In the Storage section of your system settings, tap the line labeled “Manage storage” and make sure the “Smart Storage” option is activated.
  • Regardless of what phone you have, head into the Storage section of your system settings. On newer versions of Android, you’ll see a menu icon in the upper-right corner with an option called “Free up space.” That’ll give you a list of files and apps that haven’t been used in some time and make it super simple to delete any or all of them on the spot.
  • If you don’t have that option—or even if you do—look in the main area of the Storage settings. There, you’ll see a breakdown of each type of content on your phone and how much space it’s using.
  • Tap the line labeled “Apps” to see which apps are using the most space, then consider uninstalling any apps you no longer use—especially ones that are higher up in the storage-use list.
  • Tap the line labeled “Cached Data” to clear away temporary cached files for all of your apps. This could free up a fair amount of space, but just be warned that any gains you make may be short-lived.
  • If the line labeled “Audio” shows a lot of space being utilized, consider switching to a service like Google Play Music, which lets you store your music collection in the cloud at no cost. You can then delete your locally stored collection and simply stream songs on the fly as you wish, and also easily manage what music is downloaded on your device at any given moment through the app.
  • Head back into your app drawer and look for an item called either Downloads or Files. (If your phone has the latter, look for a folder called “Downloads” upon opening it.) There, you’ll see all the files you’ve downloaded from email, web browser, and other apps. Delete anything you no longer need.
  • 6. How to fix account sync issues

    An Android phone tends to rely heavily on your Google account, so when your account has issues syncing things can get funky fast.

    If you’re seeing an error about account syncing or simply finding that your data (email, calendar, or anything else Google-related) isn’t up to date, try the following steps:

    1. Head into the Accounts section of your system settings and select the “Google” option. That’ll show you a complete list of Google accounts connected to your device along with each account’s current sync status.
    2. If one of the accounts is, in fact, not up to date with its syncing, try tapping the menu icon in the upper-right corner and selecting “Sync now” to manually force a sync.
    3. Still having trouble? Tap the specific Google account in question, then make sure all the toggles are activated for any services you want synced.
    4. If none of that works, your best bet is to remove the account from your phone entirely—you’ll see the option in the menu on the same account page you accessed in step No. 3—and then add it back as new. Just be prepared that any associated apps, data, and settings will also be erased, so it’ll take some time for everything to repopulate and sync back properly.

    And there we have it: problems solved and headaches avoided. Doesn’t that feel good?

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