The world is getting more and more automated. From virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo to Smart Home Automation, pretty soon we won’t be doing the menial tasks that used to be a regular part of our day. Heck, when I was a kid, we actually had to get up to change channels, so things have come a long ways.
There are two platforms that are changing how we manage many aspects of our busy mobile lives: Tasker and IFTTT. If you are an Android phone user, you need to check into the ways that you can add automation to your smartphone to help you with daily tasks using both of these “smart” platforms. You will be blown away by the things they can do.
Tasker is an app that can perform actions based on context such as time, location, specific events, and much more. IFTTT is a web-based service that is based on triggers – if this happens then that happens. Both are discussed and compared in this article from Life Hacker.
Wouldn’t it be cool if your phone knew to enter airplane mode when you go to the theater, or text your spouse when you leave work? IFTTT and Tasker can automate countless tasks like these to turn your phone into an attentive personal assistant. Today, we’re putting them both in the ring to see which one’s better at simplifying your life.
One of Android’s greatest benefits is how much you can customize it to your liking. That doesn’t just mean you can change your font or use a different app launcher. That stuff is child’s play. Automation apps can do everything from switching off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth when your battery gets low to turning your phone into a voice-controlled remote for your living room. Today, we’re looking at two of the most powerful automation tool on Android:
The examples we’ve given just scratch the surface of what these two services can do. If you’re not sure where to start, you can check out our readers’ favorite Tasker actions here. IFTTT also has a huge library of recipes you can browse if you’re not sure how to make your own. You can build on the work that many intrepid tweakers have already done to make your phone do some pretty amazing things.
If we were to compare Tasker and IFTTT on ease of use alone, IFTTT would win with no contest. IFTTT’s recipes are built around a simple, familiar programming phrase: if this then that. If your phone leaves the house, turn off Wi-Fi. If Google Calendar says you’re in a meeting, mute your phone. This simplicity, combined with a gorgeous and accessible app design, makes it easy for just about anyone to automate simple tasks.
On top of this, IFTTT already has a huge library of published recipes from existing users. You can browse the library here, select a recipe you like, and click Add. Boom, you’re done. The most you have to do is install the IF app for Android and connect your various services to IFTTT. It couldn’t be simpler, even for beginners.
Tasker is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Tasker’s interface is far more complex and the app comes with only the most basic tutorials. We have our own guide here that can help you get started. You’ll also need Tasker’s official wiki to understand many of the features in the app. There are also Tasker-focused user communities can provide templates for how to automate certain actions, and you’ve shared some of your favorite actions too,but if you can’t find an existing action for the thing you want to accomplish, you’re on your own. Unfortunately, being on your own involves a lot of trial and error, research, and troubleshooting. While you don’t necessarily need to be a coder to use Tasker, it will help to at least understand the logic of how automating simple tasks works. Which is more than IFTTT asks of its users.
Once you get over Tasker’s learning curve, though, your reward for climbing that hill is totally worth it. With Tasker, you can do nearly anything with your phone. For example, this person set up voice commands with Tasker to control his lights, TV, and home theater PC. Another built this makeshift one-handed mode for giant phones. You can use Tasker and a few plugins to make custom voice commands for anything Tasker can do. Most of these aren’t the kind of thing you could set up in five minutes, but Tasker is only limited by how much time you’re willing to put into it.
IFTTT, on the other hand, doesn’t give you nearly as much flexibility. You only have a small set of Android actions and triggers to choose from. For example, you can change your phone’s wallpaper, play music on your phone or from your favorite apps, and modify other system settings like volume, Wi-Fi, and more. Unfortunately, you can’t do more complicated things that Tasker is capable of, like create your own voice commands. In fact, you can’t even create IFTTT recipes with multiple triggers or actions. For example, say you wanted to create an action to find your lost phone by texting it, even if it’s muted. You can create one recipe to unmute your phone, and you can create a separate recipe to play a notification sound, but you can’t trigger both actions in the same recipe. This can get complicated if you want to perform two actions from the same trigger, since you can’t determine what order recipes are executed in.
Fortunately, you don’t have to use just one or the other (and we’ll come back to that), but for those who like tweaking their setup, Tasker is going to offer a lot more direct control. IFTTT is perfect for beginners or users who only want to do simple tasks.
Tasker and IFTTT are both highly extensible, but in very different ways. Tasker supports third-party plugins, which add new functionality, while IFTTT connects to third-party online services to extend its features. Let’s start with Tasker. Here are a few of our favorite, most useful Tasker plugins:
Third-party plugins are responsible for helping Tasker learn a lot of new skills since it first came out. While you can do some cool things with the basic Tasker app, it’s hard to deny that adding voice commands or Cortana support is pretty awesome. You can find more plugins on the developer’s web site here.
For its part, IFTTT doesn’t have plugins, but it connects to other supported online services. This means that you can change your phone’s wallpaper by posting to Instagram, or turn on your home’s smart lights when you get home. You can check out IFTTT’s massive list of channels here. We couldn’t possibly highlight everything you could do with these, but there are a few that are particularly useful:
These are just a few examples, but you can see how channels that aren’t directly related to Android can still be useful.
This video demonstration shows how you can control your lighting using Tasker.
According to Android Central, the Tasker app is a little confusing to figure out but once you catch on you won’t be able to live without it.
Tasker is a puzzling little app on first glance, and while Tasker does many, many, many things, the easiest explanation is Tasker is an automation app that takes advantage of Android’s openness and versatility to help you do more. Want to turn on Bluetooth when you get in the car? Tasker can do that. Want to disable your lockscreen while you’re at home? Tasker can do that, too. Want to hack together your own personal assistant to read out texts and caller ID while driving, and dictate responses? Tasker can do that, and one of its plugins can do it even better. Tasker can replace (and does replace) many apps for many people, if they delve into the actions and contexts that can make all of this happen and tinker.