While you're waiting for Android L to come down the pipe, here's a useful hack you can apply to your current Google-powered phone or tablet. You no doubt spend much of your day switching between locations, from home to work to the gym, and reconfiguring your device each time can be a chore.
With the help of a few third-party apps and services, you can tell Android to modify its behavior automatically based on where you happen to be, and it's not difficult to do. Read on and pick the best method for you.
Tasker will set you back three bucks from the Google Play store, but it's worth its virtual weight in gold. It gives you access to a wealth of settings within Android that enable you to fully automate almost any task: sending SMSes, displaying pop-ups, modifying settings, playing sounds, and so on and so on. The app can identify any cell tower, Wi-Fi network or set of GPS coordinates to fix your position and then change your device's settings accordingly.
Perhaps the only downside to Tasker is that it can be tricky to get to grips with for new users, but don't worry—we've got your back.
From the Profiles tab, tap the + icon and choose Location. One long press anywhere on the map sets the place to be used in a task, and you can configure the radius and accuracy settings underneath (see the Tasker user guide for a full explanation of your choices). Tap the back button (top left) to return to the Profiles screen. With the location now set you can assign it a name (such as "Work" or "Bob's House").
Tasker will prompt you to create a new task from this location, so tap New Task and give it a relevant name. Tap the + icon on the Action screen; this is where we'll tell Tasker what to do when the Location profile is matched. There are a whole host of actions to experiment with when you get the time, but for now choose Net and then Wi-Fi. You can set your phone to switch Wi-Fi on or off when you arrive at work, or to toggle whatever the existing state is.
That should give you enough of an idea of how to set up a basic Tasker profile and task. You could choose Display instead of Net to alter the phone brightness or switch it to car mode, or select Phone from the Actions list to send out an SMS every time you reach the office.
Llama is less advanced but simpler to use than Tasker, and it's free from Google Play (use the in-app purchase option if you'd like to send the developer a donation). You already get some example areas, events and profiles included for you, so it's easier to get up and running, but you can't set locations on a map; you need to be in a particular area to tell Llama about it.
Long-press on Home from the Areas tab (or Work if that's where you currently are). Choose Start Learning Area and tell Llama how long you're going to be at this location for. It then uses nearby cell towers to determine your location, which doesn't rely on GPS coordinates and thus is kinder to your battery. Once the time period has elapsed (the longer the better), Llama should have a decent fix on your location.
With your home or work area set, you can switch to the Events tab and tap the + button to set up a new event. You'll need to give your event a name, then choose Add Condition and Enter/In Area to tell Llama where it should activate the event. Tap Add Action and you can instruct the app to enter airplane mode, play a sound, display a reminder or set a screen lock password (something that will be built into Android by the time the L release rolls out).
Use the Profiles tab to set up audio profiles to tie to tasks (quiet for work, loud for home for example). You might also want to set up matching complementary tasks for each location—turn Wi-Fi on when you arrive at work and turn it off when you leave, and so on.
IFTTT can turn its hand to almost anything, and location-based Android settings is no exception. There are only three options here, but setup is simple and fast. First of all, get the IFTTT app installed on your device and then you can start setting up your recipe from the opening screen (tap the pestle and mortar icon then the + symbol).
Choose Android Location as your trigger event and select the relevant area on the map, then pick Android Device as the action. The three options are mute ringtone, set ringtone volume and update device wallpaper, so unless you want to put a business-friendly backdrop on your phone every time you arrive at the office, the volume ones are probably of most use.
Of course, all of IFTTT's other actions are available, so you can send out texts, emails, social media updates and the rest whenever you arrive in a particular spot. Another way of achieving the same result is to select Android Device as the trigger event—you can then adjust volume settings based on which Wi-Fi network you're connected to, which may work better for you than trying to get a fix on your phone's location.
Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at work to save battery, mute your phone in the library, turn off data roaming when you reach the airport, it's up to you.
If you've already got a handy location-based setup configured on your phone, let us know about it. And have fun with a phone that knows what you want it to do without being asked, based only on where you go.