We haven’t yet reached that mystical future where there is ubiquitous Internet connectivity. Wi-Fi networks still go down, your mobile carrier may have left that lightly populated county off its coverage map, or there are those days when Amazon takes down half the Internet.
So, if you want to keep using your phone, you’re going to need to plan ahead. With a little forethought and ingenuity you’ll be able to survive that long flight, car trip, or wayward outpost without your phone turning into nothing more than an expensive mirror.
Productivity experts say you should get the most cumbersome task out of the way first, so let’s do that here and talk about what you need in order to keep working.
Since you’re on Android, you’re likely a user of Google Drive. You can quickly and easily set aside a file for offline. Touch the overflow menu (three dots) on the file preview or inside of the actual document.
The file will then be saved to your phone’s internal storage. Drive does cache some files that you’re working on, but this method will ensure that what you want is there for sure.
Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, and other cloud providers have similar processes. With Dropbox, for example, you can also select an individual file to save offline.
In Word, you can also use the Save menu to ensure you can keep working if the subway train goes through a tunnel. The bottom line is: don’t assume that your stuff will be there unless you make sure it is. If you know that you might lose a connection, use your phone’s storage.
Offline work can also be had in several other apps that don’t require as much planning. For example, Google Keep will keep on trudging alone, letting you create new and edit existing notes if your phone is disconnected. There’s nothing for you to do—just keep working as normal, and Keep will sync up when you get connected again.
Similar success can be had with OneNote and Evernote, which will keep working with most of their functionality, even without an Internet connection. I didn’t run into any trouble accessing older notes when throwing my phone in airplane mode and trying it out, but if your collection is extensive then it’s possible that not everything from your larger archive will be available without the app talking to the servers.
Keep reading and listening
Reading an article and then having it suddenly cut out or not switch to the next page can be pretty annoying. You can take some steps to avoid this.
For example, the Washington Post app (also the classic edition) allows you to save an article for later, as do many of the other most popular news reading sources. Or, grab an app like Instapaper (the premium version is now free) or Pocket to clip articles from Chrome back to the app for later reading.
For eBooks, the Kindle makes it very easy to save a file offline. Touch and hold the title when viewing it from the carousel, and then save it to your device.
Music is also an area that will require some preparation. Spotify says you can have 3,333 songs saved offline on a total of three devices. If you stay under that limit, you can save any playlists, albums, songs, or podcasts to your device.
Same goes for Google Play Music, which is far less popular but remains a rather good music service for Android. You can set albums, songs, or podcasts for offline playback. Additionally, in the settings you should turn on Auto-download. With this enabled, Google Play Music will cache content in your current stream so that you’ll be able to keep listening for a while if your connection drops.
Don’t get lost
Google Maps can ensure that you don’t end up in the middle of nowhere if your journey takes you outside of the internet lands. You can save any area of a map to your phone. To do so, go to Offline areas. You’ll see any other places you’ve saved offline, but then there’s a spot to pick Custom area.
Just drag the map to the spot you want to save. Maps will also tell you how much space it’ll take so that you can adjust if needed.
Kick back for some fun
Not everything needs to be about work or even learning. Sometimes, you just need to play a few games and relax. If it’s offline gaming you’re after, obviously you’re going to keep away from titles like Clash Royale or Pokémon Go, which don’t exist without a connection to the vast cloud storage where the games are being played.
Or there’s the excellent Kingdom Rush Frontiers, if you’re a fan of the tower defense genre. Minecraft: Pocket Edition is nice fun for the long-form variety of mobile gaming. If you know you’re going to be disconnected, like say for a long flight, be sure to load up on the games before you go, and start them up at least once to make sure they don't need to download an update.
Be smart about storage
None of this offline bliss can happen without sufficient storage space. To verify how much space you have, check Settings > Device > Storage.
At this screen, you can dig into some of the specifics to see what’s taking up space on your phone, so you can delete large apps you don’t need anymore.
Real success with using your phone offline is twofold: know what it is you want to have available, and make sure that you have the space for it. If your lifestyle is one that takes you to sketchy connection areas or you just like to avoid the wait that sometimes comes with cloud connectivity, you have the power to make things work the way you want.