Taking Screenshots on Your Android Phone

Android users, have you been frustrated that your friends with iPhones can easily take screenshots of their phone, but you can’t?

iPhone and iPad users simply hold down the power button and then press the home button to take a screenshot.

While some newer Android devices can in fact take screenshots using keystroke combinations, this is a relatively recent development, and behavior across manufacturers and wireless carriers is inconsistent — and not always well documented. If your Android device does have built-in screenshot capability, let us know the model and button combo in the comments below.

You may have heard that to take screenshots on Android, you’ll need to root your phone or install Android SDK (software development kit) on your computer. And maybe you don’t want to void your phone’s warranty, lose data, or you’re daunted by something that sounds a little too technical.

Well, you may not need to root your phone after all.

A possible solution: Screenshot ItScreenshot It home screen

Screenshot It is a paid app that is easy to use and works on many phones that have not been rooted. I’ve been very happy with it on my Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S). Note that it also works on rooted phones, if you have one.

While the $4 price tag may seem slightly high, if you need to take screenshots, I think it’s easily worth a few bucks.

Screenshot It lets you set the length of delay before the screen is captured. You’ll see a notification, and your screenshot will be saved in a separate folder in the photo gallery.Screenshot It display after taking screenshot

You can take a screenshot by pressing an icon in your taskbar, shaking your phone, or holding down the Search button  — so you never have to exit the app you’re using to capture the screen.

You can also:

  • crop, annotate, or sketch on your capture
  • share screenshots directly from the app
  • save as jpg or png

The Screenshot It family

Because Screenshot It’s developer offers several similar apps, it can be confusing which one to install. Follow these steps:

  1.  First, download the free, trial versionScreenshot It Trial. You’ll get 5 chances to test if the app works on your unrooted phone. There are some settings you can change if your screenshots look slightly off.
  2. If the trial works, download the full ScreenShot It app ($3.99). You’re set!
  3. If the trial doesn’t work, there’s another option, but it is less convenient. No Root Screenshot ($4.99) functions very much like Screenshot It. However, to enable the app, you must install a desktop program on your computer (Windows or Mac). You’ll need to connect your phone to the computer every time you restart your phone. This doesn’t seem very practical to me, but it could work if you only take screenshots for a specific, planned purpose.

Why would you take a screenshot?

If you haven’t been sitting around longing for a screenshot app, you might be wondering why you’d want one. Some ideas:

  • screenshot of map with annotationYou want to share something with a friend — a map showing restaurant options, a great new app you’re using, maybe a snippet of text conversation.
  • You need to perform an OS upgrade. This will likely clear your home screens, where you’ve probably organized shortcuts to all your favorite apps. In addition to backing up your data, use a few screenshots to document how you’ve arranged your apps and bookmarks.
  • You’re troubleshooting a problem and need to document it for tech support.
  • To illustrate your guest post for Mobilized!

Some questions for you

  • Do you have any creative uses for screenshots from your phone or tablet?
  • If you have a newer Android, does your device have built-in screenshot functionality?
  • Have you used any other screenshot apps on your unrooted Android phone?

Please leave your comments below.


2/20/2013: Unfortunately, I am unable to recommend solutions for specific devices, because there are so many different ones out there.

Here are some general suggestions from Chris Hoffman at MakeUseOf:

  • Android 4.0 and later: Press and hold the volume down and Power buttons simultaneously.
  • Samsung devices: Hold the Home button while pressing Power.
  • Google “screenshot” and your particular device
  • See the Manufacturer Shortcuts and Device-Specific Apps sections of Hoffman’s article

As a commenter below mentioned, you can also try Screenshot Ultimate (free).


Published by

Leslie Kleinberg

Leslie is the User Services Projects Coordinator at the UCSF Library.

16 thoughts on “Taking Screenshots on Your Android Phone”

  1. My android phone can take screen shots. it is an HTC vivid. like the iPhone, I just hold the power button and press the home button and it takes a screenshot. 🙂

  2. I have an android phone, I don’t know what kind. But it doesn’t have anything on it for me to take screen shots. What’s the best FREE NON trial app I can get to take screen shots?

  3. Sarah, you might try out Screenshot Ultimate, recommended above by Maarten. I haven’t tested it very thoroughly, but it is free and has many options so you can customize how it works for your Android phone. It also has some drawing/editing tools you can use to annotate your captures.

  4. On Nexus devices (and any custom ROMs worth their salt) you can take screenshots by holding power and pressing “Screenshot”–and this comes with the ROM

  5. The Samsung Galaxy S3 can take screenshots by swiping the edge of your palm from one side of the screen to the other. It takes a little bit of finessing because sometimes the running application will try to do something with the touch input.

    1. Sorry, but because there are so many different devices out there, I’m unable to recommend solutions for specific devices. Since you have a Samsung, try holding the Home button while pressing Power.

  6. On my Samsung Prevail I downloaded this series of apps called Go apps. Go launcher, Go locker, etc. On Go launcher, you get the option of taking a screenshot. But only on the homescreens. I rooted my phone not too long ago, so I can take screenshots easily from the Toucher app that I downloaded.

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