Unlock your Android phone’s physical gesture magic

When we talk about Android gestures, we’re typically talking about the on-screen variety — y’know, the assorted swipes, swirls, and swivels that help you fly around your phone faster than a flamingo on ice skates.

Here’s a little-known secret, though: You can also control your Android device and make it do all sorts of useful stuff by shaking it, flipping it, or even throwing it across the room. (For full disclosure, the throwing part is mostly just if you want to break the thing. But the other two actions are much more practical.)

And all you need is the right off-the-beaten-path app and about 60 seconds to set things up.

So crack those gnarly knuckles and start stretchin’ those tendons: It’s time to introduce a whole new level of physical gesture control to your favorite Android gadget.

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Android physical gesture #1: Simple shaking

We’ll explore two different paths for advanced Android gestures today — a super-simple, fuss-free option and then a way more versatile and potential-packed (but also more complex) power-user possibility.

Up first is the simple setup, and it’s a virtually effortless app that’ll add one specific physical gesture onto any Android device you’re using: the ability to flip your phone’s flashlight on and off with an easy chopping motion.

If you’ve ever used a Motorola Android phone, you’re probably familiar with the concept — ’cause Moto’s been baking this feature into its devices ever since Google briefly owned and controlled the company a handful of years back.

There’s really not much to it, either: You hold your phone firmly in your hand and shake it as if you were chopping wood (as one does). And that physical gesture causes the phone’s camera flash to turn on or off for easy illumination and/or awkward squinting.

No matter what kind of Android apparatus you’re carrying, an app called Shake-Torch (Flashlight) will show you the light and empower you to make this illuminating move.

All you’ve gotta do is install the app from the Play Store, open ‘er up, and follow the prompt to disable Android’s battery optimization (as the operating system putting the app to sleep when it isn’t actively in use will prevent it from performing properly).

Then just chop away and see how easy it is to get your flashlight to come on. If it isn’t working with a double-chop gesture or your scapula is screaming from the effort, play around with the “Shake intensity adjustment” slider at the bottom of the app’s main screen until you find the sweet spot.

You want it to be reasonably easy to activate but not so easy that it’s likely to happen inadvertently on its own, when you aren’t deliberately making the move. Personally, I’ve found somewhere around the 75% mark to be a good balance on my Pixel 8 Pro.

Android physical gestures: Flashlight JR

The Shake-Torch intensity slider lets you control exactly how easy the physical gesture is to activate.

Told ya it was simple, right?

Shake-Torch is free to use (with optional donations, if you want to support its developer). It doesn’t collect any user data and doesn’t require any eyebrow-raising permissions.

And if you think that’s impressive…

Android physical gesture #2: Advanced automation

Our second option takes the same concept we just went over and turns it up about a thousand notches. It’s a true Android power-user tool, and it allows you to create all kinds of custom physical gestures for doing almost anything imaginable on your device.

It’s an app called MacroDroid, and the easiest way to think about it is as an uber-advanced automation station for any Android gadget. I’m tellin’ ya: The possibilities this thing will unlock on your phone are virtually limitless and frequently mind-blowing.

Specific to our current conversation, MacroDroid will let you set your phone up to open any app, change any mode or setting, or even speak the current time aloud whenever you shake it or flip it over in a particular way.

Ready to explore what’s possible?

  • First, go snag MacroDroid from the Play Store.
  • Open it, make your way through its introductory messages, and then tap the big “Add Macro” button on its main screen.
  • Tap the plus icon within the “Triggers” box and select “Sensors” from the list that pops up.
  • For a shaking gesture, tap “Shake Device.” For a flip, tap “Flip Device” and then pick from any of the flippin’ options.
Android physical gestures: MacroDroid JR

MacroDroid can map all sorts of actions to different physical gestures, including a flip of your phone in any direction.

Once you’ve got your trigger set, tap the plus icon within the “Actions” box and decide what you want your phone to do. And my goodness, have you got choices!

  • To open a specific app, tap “Applications” and then select “Launch Application” to find the one you want.
  • If you’d like your gesture to take a photo or capture a screenshot, look under the “Camera/Photo” menu.
  • For that time-talkin’ trick we tattled about a minute ago, tap “Date/Time” and dig up the “Say Current Time” option.
  • You can find the flashlight on/off command, similar to what Shake-Torch does, under “Device Actions.”
  • The “Volume” menu holds a host of useful commands for changing your phone’s sound settings, including toggling silent or Do Not Disturb mode on and off.

And onward from there.

Whatever you choose, your work here is almost finished: All that’s left is to tap the “Enter macro name” field at the top of main setup screen and give your macro a name — any name at all; it really doesn’t matter (I recommend Clancy) — and then hit the left-facing arrow in the corner of the screen to save it.

Oh, and one more thing: You’ll absolutely want to cackle gleefully and show off your phone’s fancy new feats to any iPhone owners in the area, as a reminder of the next-level productivity power only Android can provide.

MacroDroid is free to use with an optional $5 upgrade to eliminate ads throughout its setup interface and to enable some extra features (which aren’t required for anything we went over today). It doesn’t sell or share any sort of user data or require any disconcerting permissions.

And that, my fellow Android-appreciating animal, is all you need to know for this fast and fragrant upgrade. Have at it — and have a blast shaking, flipping, and/or throwing your phone to get stuff done!*

*Again, throwing your phone is not recommended, unless you actually want to break it — in which case it is extremely advisable. The author of this story takes no responsibility for any device damage or groin injuries incurred by random phone throwing. He will, however, chuckle quietly from afar.

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