(Credit: Lancy Whitney)

With Android 9 Pie, Google is trying to help you better use your phone by predicting what you want to do. And one feature that falls into this strategy is App Actions.

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With App Actions enabled, Android Pie suggests apps or app features that it thinks you want to use. App Actions relies on artificial intelligence to track and remember which apps you use the most frequently, how you use them, and when you use them.

The more apps you install on your phone, the more crowded and cluttered your app drawer becomes. Even though the app drawer displays suggested apps at the top, you may still have to hunt around to find certain apps. App Actions is a way to help you cut to the chase by drawing attention to one or two apps that you use on a regular basis.

Since App Actions is available exclusively in Android Pie, it supports only those phones that have been graced with the new flavor of Android. For now, those include Google's own Pixel smartphones and the Essential phone. Owners of other Android devices will have to wait.

Coaxing App Actions into gear requires a few steps and some time and patience. With the Android Pie upgrade, App Actions is enabled by default. But you still should make sure it's turned on. Long press the home screen and tap Home settings. At the Home settings screen, tap Suggestions. Make sure the switch for Actions is on.

Now, use your phone as you normally would. Make and receive calls and messages, especially to the same number. Request a text message from a known number, but don't answer it just yet.

Listen to music from the same app through headphones. Open your favorite apps. Try to create a certain routine, so that App Actions can figure out how and when you use specific apps. Not all apps factor into App Action's predictions. Some examples are Lyft, Spotify, Nest, WhatsApp, Google News, and Audible, as well as built-in Android apps such as Hangouts, Drive, and Maps.

You may need to wait a few days for App Actions to take effect. To try it out, swipe up the screen to display the app drawer. Two rectangular buttons will appear under the top row of suggested apps. If the predictions are on the money, you should see buttons for apps and app features that you use regularly, perhaps the same time each day.

You can tweak App Actions after the fact. If you like a certain action, drag it onto your home screen for quicker access. If an action isn't accurate, drag it from the app drawer to the icon on the upper right for Don't show. Another app action may take its place. In its first incarnation, App Actions is limited. You won't see more than two action buttons. You can't add your own actions. But for now, App Actions is an interesting experiment worth taking for a spin.

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  1. Android Pie's App Actions tries to predict which apps you want to use and when you want to use them.
  2. The feature learns from your behavior and patterns, so it may take a while to kick in.

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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."