You and your new Android device – a getting started guide
Let me begin by saying welcome to the family. You have your first Android device! I don’t know what you had before this, but since this is your first Android, we’ll cover a few things to get you started.
It may seem a little daunting, this awesome new operating system, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never want another. Everything is customization and you’ll even surprise yourself with how easy it is to catch on. With the right steps, this transition will be really easy.
The training wheels come off
Setting up your new Android device is something you should relish. This is the time you get to become acquainted with your new toy and really make it yours. With other operating systems, things are done for you. Apps are just there, and if you run out of room on the home screen… oh well.
With Android, you make the device yours. You can even make folders for apps that are pertinent to a certain interest of yours, and have apps in multiple folders.
Then we have widgets, a favorite of any Android enthusiast. Widgets are like peeking into the app without having to open it up. If you don’t like the clock widget on your device, just go to the Play Store and get a new one. Some programs, like HD Widgets, have a ton of customization options to really make your device shine. With so many options for widgets, you’ll never go wanting.
One thing that makes a lot of new users fret is the app drawer. That little circle with six dots in it, which shows you all your apps and widgets. See, with Android you don’t have to have every app on your screens. You may have an app that you use very sparingly, and don’t really care about having access to it at all times. That’s what the app drawer is for. You’ll always have the app, but it’s your choice as to how you want to interact with it. Think of it as a bookshelf of apps, and your screens as your desk. Some people like a desk with everything piled on it, and some people like a very minimal desk. It’s your desk, so do as you please. Tinker with your device a little, learn where stuff is, and how it all works. Set it up as you see fit to make it your own.
Say hello to the cloud
The days of storing files on your phone are coming to an end. While some stuff, like apps, has to be stored locally, storing music or documents on your phone is fading away. That may seem scary, but it shouldn’t be. You have a lot of options for storing documents in the cloud. If you don’t already do so, cloud storage is a great place to keep your stuff. Everything from files to pictures can be stored there, and it has a ton of benefits.
First, let’s talk about which cloud storage options are the best. I’ll cover the big three: Drive, Dropbox, and Box. They operate very similarly, so it’s really a matter of which interface you enjoy best. If you’re one who enjoys Google’s other services, I would suggest Drive. It’s integrated really well to Google’s variety of services, and doesn’t require that you link to a desktop to attach a file in Gmail. If you’re already using a cloud storage system that integrates with Android, then there’s no reason you should switch. Just download the app and you’re set.
Second, you don’t have to worry about losing anything. While cloud storage has its detractors, it can be fabulous at protecting your stuff from, well, you. You drop your device in water, you lose it, your kid buries it. Face it, you’re a wreck. With your stuff stored elsewhere, you won’t lose anything… except a few bucks for a new device. When you get a new phone, load the app and you’re back in business.
One thing to keep in mind is how you work. With Dropbox or Box, you are simply afforded the option to store files. Both can store any file, and are extremely easy to use. Drive, on the other hand, also allows you to create files. This is useful if you don’t have much need for Microsoft Office products. The documents you create in Drive are real-time and collaborative, so you could have another person working on a project at the same time without having to get together. I use Drive exclusively, and haven’t missed MS Office one bit.
With cloud storage, you never miss a beat. The obvious rebuttal is that you are dependent on a wireless connection, but let’s be honest about that. You’re almost never without a connection. Whether it be outside or in a building, you either have cellular service or access to a WiFi connection. If you’re in a spot where there is no hope of accessing service, maybe that spreadsheet from the meeting or pics from last years trip to Maui can wait.
Where’s my Beatles collection?!
So you’re probably wondering what is going on with music. Your music library is an important part of your life, and you want to make sure you have it on your new toy. Not to worry, there are ways to get everything you have onto your device. We’ll cover the two major music providers outside of Google Play Store.
Let’s start with iTunes. If you have it, you’re probably storing your stuff locally on your computer. With Google’s new Music Match system, you simply allow the service to access to your music files. It will check out your library, and match it with what’s in the Google Play Store. If you have something that isn’t available, don’t worry. You just download the Music Manager and it will upload the songs to your cloud library. While the Music Manager takes a long time to upload songs, it’s a small investment in time that is well worth it long term. Also, Google’s Music Match is free… something that can’t be said of similar services elsewhere. The caveat is Google Music doesn’t work in many countries outside North America and parts of Western Europe.
If you utilize Amazon’s music system, you’ll be fine. Amazon has an MP3 app available in the Google Play Store. Simply download it, and your music stored on Cloud Drive will all be there. If you had music stored on a device, it won’t appear, of course. Also, anything stored in Amazon’s Cloud is not readily available to load straight into Google Music. One company’s cloud storage does not have access to another, so you’ll have to download, then go through Google’s Music Match system. Amazon has a very straightforward Cloud Drive downloader available if you’re interested in going through the steps to have all of your music in one place.
Aside from iTunes, you can use just about any music app you like. If you’re really invested in Amazon, and don’t want to switch it all over to your Google Play Music account, no problem. You can keep using Amazon, but keep in mind that Google Play Music lets you store 20,000 songs for free before being charged. It may be a good idea to take the time and switch if you’re paying for any kind of cloud storage.
That’s right, Google that Android device up! Go to the Play Store and get all the Google apps you can. Get involved with Google+, or check out Field Trip. Hey, you can even play Ingress now! There is so much to the Google universe, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t worry, we’ll walk through the basics to put you on the right path.
If you’re a heavy maps and navigation user, take a minute to set up your home address in Navigation. Go online using your computer (which is just easier than using the app for this exercise) and star your favorite spots in Maps. They will always show up in the maps app, and navigation keeps a list of your starred places for easy access. Taking a few minutes to do those few steps will assure you never get lost.
Your new Android device comes with Chrome, and Chrome is a great browser for mobile. Not only does it have a great interface for your device, it links across platforms. All your bookmarks from your desktop Chrome browser are available on your mobile device, and vice versa. Another great feature is that you can access tabs you have open on your desktop. So if you have to take off in the middle of reading a great article on Android Authority, don’t worry! Just minimize Chrome on your desktop and pick up where you left off once you leave home. Taking a minute to log into Chrome will make your browsing experience that much better.
If you’re the type of person who needs to keep yourself organized, setting up and using Google Calendar is a wonderful way to keep yourself on track. Like many Google services, Calendar operates across all platforms, so adding an event on your desktop will show on your mobile device, and vice versa. Setting up pop-up notifications will alert you on your device when something is coming up or needs your attention. If you don’t already use it, Calender could be your saving grace.
To root or not to root, that is the question. On one hand, you get access to all kinds of awesome tricks and a fully customizable device. On the other hand, you can screw it all up pretty easily, and we’ve already established what a knucklehead you are. It really comes down to what kind of user you are. If you’re the type that is fairly fearless and likes to tinker, you should consider rooting. If, on the other hand, you just want a device that does what you want when you want, maybe rooting isn’t for you.
Rooting has a ton of benefits to it. First, you have the ability to change everything. You are the master of your Android house, and what you say goes. Rooting opens all the locked doors. With a root, you can load new ROMs onto your device. It will look and act exactly the way you want it to. There is a huge community of hackers and modders who create their own ROMs, widgets, and fonts. With rooting, the world is your oyster.
Then again, rooting your device is a tricky proposition. It takes a lot of maintenance to continually load new stuff, and unless you’re really savvy with tech related matters, you could brick your device. Bricking a device is exactly as it sounds; it’s as useless as a brick. It is locked up with little hope of bringing it back to life.
There is also the chance of burning out your device. With a rooted device, you’re running the risk of loading a game, widget, or ROM that may be too much for your device to handle. It could be that it requires too much of your processor, or your screen can’t handle it. Stories of people burning out a device or seeing dead pixels after loading a ROM are all over the place. While that’s harder to do now, it still happens. Rooting is basically asking for instability in your device, so if you’re going to do it, be prepared to handle some tough problems from time to time.
Rooting is a great thing for those who want to try, so don’t be discouraged if you’re curious. If you’re under contract, I would suggest you get hold of your carrier first. Often, rooting can void warranties and carriers won’t service your phone if something goes wrong. So, while you may have insurance on the phone, if you root it before you drop it in water, you may be out of luck.
Let’s face it, Android has the best mascot. Our little green guy is a lot of fun. He has a personality, he’s always doing cool stuff, and he’s collectible. It’s also someone to blame stuff on when things don’t go right with your phone. As Android enthusiasts, it’s great to have someone to rally behind. The only other symbol in mobile tech is a half eaten piece of fruit, and that’s no fun. Amazon has nothing, and I still think Bill Gates was originally a mascot before secretly purchasing Microsoft. It’s not a proven theory, but I have my suspicions.
Maybe the only drawback to Android over Apple is accessories. With so much variety, it can be difficult to find accessories you like for your phone. Apple has an advantage in that respect, so kudos to them for having all the Angry Bird cases you could possibly want. Accessories are cool, but having a phone that does great things is much cooler. If you do a little online shopping, I’m sure you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for.
So many choices
So, we’ll just assume you came from an iPhone for this part of the story. As an iPhone user, you had one device. It changed every two years, but it was always the same device more or less. While that’s useful for upgrading and not having a learning curve, it’s a bit boring, too. I always wondered what an iPhone upgrade was, exactly. Such subtle change never quite seemed like a true upgrade to me.
With Android, you have so much variety it’s hard to succinctly discuss. Android is an open source platform, and as such is open to modifications from manufacturers. Samsung and HTC both have a very nice touch they put on their Android devices, while a Nexus device is just pure Android with nothing added. You now have an option of which interface is best for you. Do you like stock Android or does HTC Sense fit your eye? Maybe Samsung’s plethora of services are more your flavor.
There is also the simple case of form and function. So many Android devices, so little time! If you came from an iPhone, there was surely a time when you said “I wish my phone would…”. Well, you’ll have that with Android, too. At some point, in some way, you’ll utter those same words. The difference now is that it does. Android is an operating system that travels across a lot of variety. Let’s say your HTC phone just isn’t cutting it, and you need a bigger screen and the ability to multitask. No problem! You can get the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and be as efficient as you like. You’re never pigeonholed when you have Android.
It won’t end
Android evolves more than any other OS out there. From devices to apps, everything about Android is refreshed all the time. While that’s probably a bit different than what you’re used to, it’s a great thing for us. It is nice to know that the company who puts out Android is always taking steps to improve it, and pushes those improvements out as soon as they can. The best part about the updates is that they happen in the background, so you don’t really have to fuss with it.
Android has a very loyal following and a very strong community. If you ever have a question, please don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t have a friend who can help, get involved with Google+ communities (we have a great one ourselves). There is always someone there to help, and some great discoveries can be made there. Let’s say after reading this, you still can’t decide which cloud storage app to use. Well, just ask for advice in the communities. If there’s one thing we as Android fans love, it’s a convert.
We take Android a little personally, but that passion is what drives us as well as Android. Whatever you need, your Android family is here for you.