Saturday, 18 January 2014

Making the most of your Google account

If you are any level of a Google power user, even a "light" power user, you'll probably already know all of the things I'm about to share. But it's quite surprising really, just how many of my friends and colleagues are unaware of the perks of owning a Google account. Some of them don't even know what a Google account is, or that they have a Google account. So before we move on, if you have a Gmail account, or if you use Android, you have a Google account. In case anyone wasn't sure. One of the greatest strengths of having (and using) a Google account is the connectivity we can enjoy. We can have multiple devices in our arsenal - a smartphone (or two), a tablet, and a desktop/laptop, but thanks to our Google account, all our devices will always be connected. And if you use iDevices don't worry, you can have a Google account on your devices as well. There are many benefits of connecting our devices with our Google account, and here are just a few of them.

Synced contacts
How often have you seen someone post to social media "I lost my phone! Please PM me all your phone numbers!"? With a Google account, you'll never lose your contacts ever again. Instead of saving contact info in your sim card or phone (like in the past) you can should save your contacts' info in your Google account. Access it from your phone, tablet, even Gmail, and never lose the info ever again.
Contacts from my phone, viewed in Gmail
Synced documents 
If you are a student or a businessman, or even a stay-at-home parent, you have documents that you want to be able to access from any of your devices. You could just use Dropbox to store your documents in the cloud, or you could use Google Drive, which is a cloud storage service and a productivity tool as well. While you can only store files in Dropbox, in Drive you can create and edit files as well. A great productivity tool for any purpose, especially collaborative efforts where multiple users can all edit the same document. No more e-mailing files to colleagues ever again.
Documents created on my laptop, accessible from my phone
Auto-backup photos
For many people, their photos are the most precious things on their smartphones. So if they lose their device, or if they are forced to reset their device, the thing they miss most is their photos. Similar to documents, you can also use Dropbox's auto-backup feature for your photos, but also like synced documents, using Google's service is just a bit better in my opinion for photo back-ups. With Google's (Google+) auto-backup service, not only are your photos backed-up, they are also automatically enhanced as they are uploaded. And with auto-awesome, you can get collages, gifs, videos and other kinds of cool effects for your photos. Oh, did I mention that if you upload your photos at a standard 2048px resolution (instead of full size), you have unlimited storage space for your photos? Something you might want to consider if you take a lot of photos and videos.
Auto-awesome movies from your photos and videos

Search history
Have you ever searched for something on your desktop/laptop, and needed to search for it again on your phone/tablet? If you use your Google account when you search, your search history (and all web browsing history following your search) will be stored and synced to all your devices. Search for a website from your laptop, view it on your phone without needing to search for it again. Looking up a place on Google Maps from your browser? It's there in your recent history on the Google Maps app on your phone. Searching for something you already searched for is inefficient, and with a Google account you won't have to do that anymore.
Search queries from my laptop, synced to my phone
Hangouts
Not many Android users know what Hangouts is, despite the incredible utility of the service. It's basically an instant messaging client, which allows you to chat with your contacts, or video chat with them, individually or in groups. It doesn't use your phone number (unless you use the service for SMS), but instead uses your e-mail address (Google account) so you can keep the same account even if you switch phone numbers. It's available on your phone, tablet, in Gmail or even as a Chrome extension, so you can take your conversation anywhere you go, and unlike iMessage, it works on both Android and iOS too, so you can communicate with your friends regardless of what OS they use. Hangouts on Air is pretty cool too.

Setting up a new device
Above all else, utilising your Google account is most rewarding when you setup a new device. I recently got a Nexus 5 to replace my HTC One X, and setup was almost instantaneous. All my contacts were synced to my phone from my Google account, all my apps that I had on my One X were automatically downloaded to my Nexus 5, photos from my old phone were also available from the backups, and some other settings were also synced as well. Having all this done automatically meant that I was using my Nexus 5 in no time at all.
Backup your data, so you can easily restore them to a new phone
A Google account is basically the same thing as an Apple ID. But the main difference here is, while an Apple ID is restricted to only iDevices, you can use your Google account on Android, Mac, Windows and iDevices as well. Cross-platform functionality is a huge win for any consumer. Those were just some benefits of using your Google account. I'm sure many others could name a few more, so feel free to share your tips in the comments below!