Android has lots of tweaks available in its main Settings app, as well as the options panels in various apps. But did you know that the Developer options menu hides additional tools you can try?
The Developer options portion of Settings is hidden by default, but it’s easy to reveal the menu and poke around inside. Let’s dive into the best Android Developer options that you should check out.
How to Access Developer Options in Android
Android hides the Developer options menu by default. Because the options aren’t necessary for normal use, this keeps inexperienced users from changing settings that could end up harming their experience.
While we’ll explain each setting as we go through them, be sure to watch what you tap in this menu. Adjusting certain options by accident could result in performance issues.
To unlock Developer options, launch Settings and scroll all the way down to the About phone section near the bottom. Tap this, then near the bottom of the resulting page, you should see the Build Number entry. Tap it several times until you see a message that says You are now a developer!
Once you do this, go back to the main Settings page and tap the System category. Expand the Advanced section (if necessary) and you’ll find a new Developer options menu entry.
We used a Pixel 4 running Android 12 for this list. Keep in mind that this process (as well as the options in the menu and their names) may differ if you have a phone from another manufacturer or run a different version of Android. Google also sometimes changes the settings in the Developer options menu, so what’s here now might disappear in the future.
Now that you’ve opened this menu, what are the best Developer options worth using? Since they are intended for software developers, not every option is relevant for the average user. Let’s look at the most useful choices.
1. Stay Awake
With this option enabled, your phone’s screen will stay on when plugged into a charger. For developers, this is useful for keeping an eye on your app over long periods of time, but normal users can take advantage of it, too.
If you need to keep Twitter or a similar app open for live updates without regularly tapping the screen to keep it awake, this setting can help. Just note that if you have an AMOLED screen, you should be careful about leaving the screen on for too long to prevent screen burn-in.
2. OEM Unlocking
As you may know, most Android devices give you the freedom to install a custom ROM, which replaces the default OS with a new one. To do this, you must first unlock your bootloader. Without doing so, the flashing process—which overwrites the current OS—won’t work.
Note that enabling this setting does not actually unlock the bootloader; it only gives the phone the ability to do so later using fastboot commands. Thus, you shouldn’t enable this unless you plan to install a custom ROM on your device. Having it turned on makes your phone more vulnerable.
3. Running Services
In Windows, you can use the Windows Task Manager to review current processes. Android doesn’t have an app equivalent to this, but this Developer options entry is close. Running Services lets you view how much RAM currently running apps are using. Tap one to see each of its current processes and services in more detail.
While this is useful information, you shouldn’t worry about managing anything you see here. Android does a fine job at handling RAM on its own, so you shouldn’t need to intervene.
We recommend using this data for informational purposes only. If it seems like apps use too much RAM consistently, see how to properly manage memory on your Android phone.
4. USB Debugging
No list of Android Developer options tips would be complete without mention of USB debugging. It’s essential for developers and useful for everyone else.
USB debugging lets your Android device interface with your computer by using certain commands. Paired up with the Android SDK on your computer, you can issue commands to your phone to install apps, collect logging information, or even root the device. See our full explanation of USB debugging for more info.
It’s a powerful function. But to stay secure, you should only enable this option when you need it, then turn it off afterward.
Android requires you to manually approve all USB debugging connections to new computers for safety. However, someone who stole your phone with USB debugging turned on could still mess with it by approving the connection to their own machine. You can tap the Revoke USB debugging authorizations option below the slider to reset all computers you’ve trusted in the past.
5. Feature Flags
You may recognize the term “flags” from other Google apps, like Google Chrome. They represent experimental features that Google may add to stable releases in the future or discard entirely. The Feature Flags menu is where you can look to find these features for Android.
At the time of writing, this menu was empty on our Pixel 4 running Android 12. You may see more options here at different times, especially if you’re running a beta version of Android. Take a look every once in a while and see if there’s anything you’d like to try.
6. Force Peak Refresh Rate
Some newer Android devices, including the Pixel 6 line, have screens capable of outputting at high refresh rates. Historically, most phones have used 60Hz as standard, but this is improving as devices become more powerful.
If your phone dynamically changes refresh rates based on certain criteria, as modern Pixel devices do, you can force it to always use the high refresh rate with this option. Keep in mind that this will increase battery consumption, though.
As a companion option, if you’re curious to know what refresh rate your phone is currently using, enable Show refresh rate to display it on the screen all the time.
7. Mobile Data Always Active
With this option on, even when your phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network, it will keep its mobile data connection alive. It does so to make network switching faster, which is convenient if you often switch between the two.
Whether you should use this depends on your use case. Having mobile data on in the background will use up more battery life, especially if you’re in an area with poor reception. In such cases, you might want to keep this Developer option off.
However, if you use Wi-Fi Calling, you should leave this enabled. Without it, calls will drop if you switch network types.
Also, if you often use MMS to send picture messages, you shouldn’t turn this off, as MMS doesn’t work on Wi-Fi for some carriers. It’s best to leave it on and only turn it off if you desperately need better battery life.
8. Default USB Configuration
Android has several modes you can use when connected to a computer via USB. By default, it will only charge your device and you have to select a data transfer mode each time, which becomes tedious if you connect often.
Use this option to select a default mode, including PTP, USB tethering, and others. For maximum security, though, you should leave this alone.
9. Disable Absolute Volume
By default, absolute Bluetooth volume is enabled on Android, which means that the volume buttons on your phone and your Bluetooth device both control the same volume level. Generally, this is convenient, but it can cause problems with some Bluetooth devices.
Turning absolute volume off (enabling this slider) means that your phone volume and the Bluetooth device will use two separate volume levels. Try doing so if your Bluetooth device’s volume doesn’t work properly with your phone, or if it’s extremely loud or quiet. With absolute volume disabled, you can set your Bluetooth device’s volume to an acceptable level, then use your phone’s volume buttons for fine-tuned adjustments.
You may need to disconnect and reconnect any Bluetooth devices, or even reboot your phone, for absolute volume changes to take effect.
10. Show Taps and Pointer Location
This pair of options lets you see more about what you’re touching on your phone. When Show Taps is enabled, a small circle appears on the screen wherever your finger touches. This can be useful in two situations.
The first is for accessibility—those who have difficulty with precise motion might appreciate having visual feedback on where they’re touching. Having these circles is also useful if you’re creating a screencast from your phone, such as a tutorial. They let viewers see exactly where you’re touching.
For more touch data, try enabling Pointer location. This will show lines on the screen representing where you’ve touched, along with data about your inputs at the top of the display. This could be useful if you’re testing to check why a part of your Android screen is not working.
11. Animation Scales
Depending on how fast your phone is, you might not notice them, but Android plays animations when opening or switching between apps. Using the Window animation scale, Transition animation scale, and Animator duration scale, you can adjust how long these transitions take.
Try setting these at 1.5x the normal speed (or higher) if you’d like to make your Android device feel a bit snappier. However, depending on how speedy your device is, these animations might act to mask some hidden loading times when switching between apps. Thus, it might be best to change them back to normal if your phone seems clunky after speeding them up.
12. Override Force-Dark
Starting with Android 10, there’s been a system-wide dark mode in Android. If you have it turned on at Settings > Display > Dark theme, compatible apps should also appear in dark mode—but not all apps support this yet. Enabling this slider makes all apps use a dark mode, which is nice if you hate light modes.
Keep in mind that results will vary, though. For example, some apps still use light elements or have text that’s hard to read on a dark background. Give it a try and see what your favorite apps look like.
13. Don’t Keep Activities
We include this Android Developer option as an educational example. When you enable this slider, Android will destroy every app’s process as soon as you leave it. Developers can use this to test how their app behaves under different circumstances, and we can use it to see why you shouldn’t constantly close apps on your Android device.
Regularly closing apps manually, or using a task killer, destroys processes running in the background—processes that Android keeps alive to make sure you can switch back to other apps quickly. This ends up forcing your phone to do more work (stopping and starting the process) than it would if you had just left it alone.
You can enable this setting if you want to experience the awful performance that killing every app brings, but you shouldn’t leave it on once you’ve tried it out.
14. Standby Apps
Modern versions of Android keep track of which apps you use the most often, allowing your phone to allocate resources to apps according to the time you spend on them.
This usually happens in the background, but if you’re curious what frequency your phone has assigned to each app or want to change it, open this menu. Next to each app, you’ll see one of several values and can tap any entry to adjust its setting.
The settings are:
- Active: Apps that you’re using now or have used very recently. These apps have no restrictions on background usage.
- Working Set: The app runs often, but is not currently active. Usually, these are apps that you use daily. Android puts a few minor restrictions on these.
- Frequent: Any app that you use often, but not every day. This would include apps that you launch at regular times throughout the week. They have more restrictions than the above.
- Rare: Apps that you don’t use frequently, like those that you only use at specific locations. Android puts a lot of restrictions on these apps.
- Restricted: The app uses a lot of resources, is almost never used, or acts in a suspicious way.
If you’ve disabled Android’s Doze optimization for any apps, you’ll see them grayed out and the Exempt status listed.
There’s also a hidden Never entry, which only applies to apps that you’ve installed but never opened. Android restricts these apps more than any other category.
15. Select Mock Location App
It’s no secret that our phones regularly track our location, which raises privacy concerns. But did you know that Android is able to report fake locations instead of where you really are? This setting requires you to install a separate app that can create mock locations, such as Location Changer.
Once you have the app installed and selected from this Developer option, you can use it to make your phone report that you’re anywhere you like. However, keep in mind that this only spoofs GPS coordinates—apps and websites can detect where you really are through other data points, such as your IP address. You may wish to use a VPN on Android for additional obfuscation of this information.
The Best Android Developer Options for Everyone
There are plenty of other settings in the Developer options menu, but most of them are useless unless you’re developing Android apps. It’s great that Google provides these tools for developers, who would otherwise have to jump through a lot of hoops to recreate certain conditions.
And even better, as we’ve seen, many of these Developer options still have a purpose for the average user. Try them today to get even more from your Android phone.