I suspect that if you're reading this article and you're an Android Central regular that you're pretty tech-savvy. You've probably also been called on more times than you can count to help solve some sort of (real or imagined) tech crisis for friends and family. For many like us, this deluge of calls and texts is usually centered around the holidays, but now that we're all pretty much working from home and cooped up, you may have had an uptick in requests recently.
Here are some of the tips, tricks, and tools I use not only to write my articles but to help out my friends and family when they ask (just don't remind them, ok?).
How to provide remote tech support
Having done customer support in the past, I can tell you that it can be infuriating to try to diagnose a problem over the phone or via text. Honestly, though, it's just as frustrating for the person needing the help as it is for the person giving it. Hands-down the best way to diagnose and solve family tech issues (aside from actually being there with them) is over a video call.
It doesn't really matter which platform you use, but I recommend one of the better cross-platform consumer applications like Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp. Chances are your friends and family already have these apps on their phones and are familiar with them, so why complicate matters further with a new app? Oh, and if you have a Mac computer, iPad, or iPhone laying around, don't forget about FaceTime. It's one of the default video calling apps, and chances are at least some of your friends and family use it exclusively.
Many of these common apps have screen sharing functionality and the ability to switch between front and rear-facing cameras so that you can see what your loved one's problem is and talk them through how to fix it. You can also use most of these apps on the web or through your phone. Finally, you can group from 8-12 (or more) people through these apps, so if both your grandma and uncle have issues, you can (try) to talk them through it at the same time.
- How to set up and start using Google Duo on the web
- How to set up and start using Google Duo for Android
- Top 15 Google Duo tips and tricks for better video calls
- How to use WhatsApp's group calling feature for video and voice calls
Screen recording is a great way to walk your loved one through their problem or show them how to do something on their device in a step-by-step manner that they can watch, and rewatch, to their heart's content.
Technically, screen recording has been built into Android since Android 7 Nougat, but it was buried and you could only access it via adb commands (it's also been on iOS since iOS 11). This feature is supposedly finally coming system-wide with Android 11, but we may have to wait on that a bit longer.
For now, OEMs like Samsung, LG, and OnePlus all have screen recorder options built into their versions of Android in the system settings, and they are extremely easy to use.
You can also download a third-party screen recorder like AZ Screen Recorder if your phone doesn't currently support this functionality natively. Just be sure to always exercise caution, as some of third-party recording apps have been known to be potential vectors for malware and bad actors.
- How to use the screen recorder on the Galaxy S20
- How to use the new screen recording mode in OxygenOS 9.5
Screenshots and markup tools
If the problem you're trying to solve is not complex enough to warrant recording your screen, or if you don't think your friends or family will follow along easily, another workaround is to take a screenshot of what you're working on and mark it up.
Static notes like this are easy for anyone to reference later, and they can even save them in their messaging or notes app, or Google Photos. In fact, you can even message your marked-up photo to the person you're helping thanks to Google Photo's new messaging features.
All you need to do is take a screenshot on your phone or computer and then add notes to it through your photos app or another markup app. Google Photos is currently beta testing the ability to markup photos directly in the app, but there are many markup apps available on Google Play that can do this as well.
Phones with styli like the Samsung Galaxy Note, LG Stylo, and Moto G Stylus are great for this, as the pens give you the precision and editing tools that you need to write up an explanation. I'm fortunate to have access to a Galaxy Note, an Asus Chromebook Flip 214 with stylus, and an Apple iPad 9.7 with Apple Pencil, and those devices are all great for marking up images and notes. However, even my fat fingers have gotten the job done.
Why reinvent the wheel. Sometimes a good YouTube explainer does the trick just fine.
Some people learn best when they can watch someone else perform a task; it's why some of the most effective teaching tools involve video calls or screen recording. However, I'm not always around or available to help out and to be honest, there's already a ton of great how-to content from many device manufacturers on platforms like YouTube.
I realize that your family may not follow Samsung, Amazon, or Apple's official YouTube channels, but they actually have a lot of great, digestible, snack-sized content on how to use their devices and features.
There are more extreme ways that you can provide remote tech support, such as using an app like TeamViewer or Chrome Remote Desktop, but I'd caution against this approach. While it may be satisfying to just take control of your friend or family's device and fix the problem yourself, you're also potentially setting yourself up for future problems.
For starters, you have to trust that the person on the other end understands how to set up the software properly, and this in and of itself will probably involve its own degree of tech support. You also don't want the worry, hurt, or liability that comes with messing around on someone else's device. Finally, once you've done this once, you've opened yourself up to a lifetime of similar support (you just set the bar way higher my friend).
Besides, it's more gratifying for everyone if you can give people the tools to fix their own problems moving forward. It's like Confucius supposedly said: "Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime."