Maybe you didn’t grow up with a smartphone in your hand. Your children might make it look so effortless; they seem to know what to do intuitively. But to you, this smartphone thing is new and not so easy.
If they ever make you feel bad about it, just remind them that you had to show them how to put on pants.
If you are making the switch from iPhone to Android, things are bound to be a lot different. Android does not intend for every one of its phones or tablets look or behave the same way. Android’s slogan is “Be together, not the same.” Android celebrates differences, but with diversity comes some complexity. Nonetheless, it gets easier as you go, and sometimes the biggest challenges become the biggest rewards.
1. What is Android?
Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? A TV, a watch, headgear? The answer is yes.
Android is an operating system that can be used in any number of devices and by many different manufacturers. It’s similar to the way Microsoft Windows is used on various types of PCs. Like Windows, it also has different versions. Currently, the newest version is Android 7.0 Nougat, but many users are just getting 6.0 Marshmallow. Most people have assorted versions like Lollipop or even older versions. To determine which version of Android your phone is running, go to your Settings menu (it looks like a tiny gear and can be found amongst your apps) and scroll all the down to where it says About Phone or About Device.
Android is the free and open source. What this amounts to is any third-party company or developer has a chance to create apps or products through Android. This is a move that’s heavily criticized by Apple, who claims that it makes Android less secure because it doesn’t exert the tight control that Apple does over every release. But this is not to say that Android doesn’t exercise any oversight of its offerings; instead, it relies on the hope that being flexible and open will spur more creative and innovative solutions.
Google developed Android. The same company that’s famous for its search engine and Gmail. At this point, Google has its hand in all kinds of endeavors, and one huge factor that enables this is that the Android operating system used in many types of products.
One of the first things you will be asked to do on your Android device is to create either or sign into your Google account.
2. What Makes Android Unique?
What makes Android unique is—you. There are far more customization options you can do with these devices than any iPhone. You can make your phone truly reflect you.
You can add to, remove, rearrange, and decorate your screen. You can organize how you want to. If you want a different feel, you can also use a different launcher. A launcher makes it easy to customize the home screen, try out what it would be like to have an Android phone made by a different manufacturer, exercise more control over how your phone behaves when switching screens, and more.
You can change out your keyboard if you don’t like it. You can use widgets, which are mini-apps for your convenience. You can automate your phone to accomplish certain tasks.
And if you’re ready to make big changes, you can tweak the operating system itself by rooting or installing a custom ROM. The last two options are not without risk, however. In these situations, it is important that you feel comfortable asking things a new Android user is afraid to ask, but need to know.
3. Data Transfer & Backup
If not right away, at some point you will most likely find it necessary to move content to or from your Android. There are desktop apps that you can use for this purpose, such as Wondershare’s Dr. Fone, but you can also take advantage of inherent features on your Android phone.
Go to Settings -> Backup and Reset and ensure that both Backup My Data and Automatic Restore are enabled and linked to your Google account. That will backup app data, settings, and Wi-Fi passwords to your Google account. To preserve your contacts, go to Settings -> Account -> Google and enable Contacts Sync. The Contacts app should also allow you to import contacts from an old phone by going to the menu and choosing Import/Export.
Download: Dr. Fone
4. Know Your Interface
When you turn on your phone, the first thing you should encounter is your lock screen, which you have to swipe down to enter. It helps you keep intruders out by requiring a PIN, pattern, or password to go any further. You can set it up through Settings –> Security. Once you’re in, you arrive at the home screen, where you will probably want to utilize some of the stock apps available.
Access the rest of your apps by tapping on the app drawer (a circle with dots) button located at the bottom of your screen. At any point you can relocate apps from the app drawer to your home screen by pressing, holding, and dragging the app to the home screen. A quick tap will launch an app. You can switch between apps by using the multitasking button (it looks like windows stacked on each other), long-pressing the home button, or double-tapping it.
Access your camera by either clicking on its icon, or many phones will allow you to bypass the lock screen to get to the camera by swiping the screen a certain direction or alternate gesture, even in the locked state. Use the Internet by launching your browser if you already have a data or Wi-Fi connection, or visit Settings –> Wireless & Networks to log into Wi-Fi.
See notifications from apps, battery strength, time and date, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS information, missed calls, texts, and emails from your notification bar. Access it by swiping downward from the top of your screen. Swipe downward again from the bar and you will find quick settings, which give you fast access to some of these same features and more.
It is still possible to use your phone as a phone. The calling function is an app represented by a picture of a more old-fashioned phone. Or send a text using the icon that looks like a chat bubble. Email is typically represented by an envelope icon, and you’ll have a choice between the stock email icon that leads to several options for creating accounts and Gmail, which is already nestled amongst your apps.
6. Google Now Voice Commands
It’s your personal digital assistant (or know-it-all). Open the Google search app (looks like a rainbow-colored capital G) and say “OK Google” or tap the microphone.
To ensure it can detect your voice, tap on the menu (three lines in the upper left corner) and go to Settings –> Voice –> “OK Google” detection.
7. Android Device Manager
Once you’ve spent some time with your device, or maybe even just after you’ve shelled out hundreds of dollars, losing your Android completely will seem devastating. Earlier we talked about backing up some of your data, but you will also want to have a plan if your phone is stolen or lost.
Google has thought of that and given us Android Device Manager. The app is capable of remotely helping you find, ring, reset your lock screen PIN, and if necessary, erase the data on your Android. You can download the app below to your phone, but when the time comes you will need to also access your Google account on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or another phone.
Download: Android Device Manager
8. The Google Play Store
Once you have your phone up and running you may want to explore more apps, games, movies, TV shows, books, or music. The Google Play Store is your superstore. Google Play (the service) also functions to give your apps updates, security patches, and new features automatically. You don’t have to download the Google Play Store unless you have removed it. It should already be there on your home screen or amongst your apps.
If you are looking for a particular item in the store, use the search bar at the top or the magnifying glass in the upper right corner to conduct a search. Note that some apps require money, and others do not. Quite often the same app will offer both a paid and free version. You will likely have to endure more ads and perhaps fewer features on the free version. Building an app is work, and usually, nothing is totally free.
9. Just a Sampling of the Best Android Apps
You might find the Google Play Store’s selection of over 2.2 million apps to be overwhelming. And of course, someone’s opinion of an app largely depends on the person. Nonetheless, these are apps that a majority of users swear by. Nova Launcher is an extremely popular launcher.
Download: Nova Launcher
Google Drive gives you up to 15GB of storage stored on Google’s servers and allows you to create and access documents, spreadsheets, slides, and photos anywhere you take your Android.
Download: Google Drive
SwiftKey Keyboard is a great customizable keyboard.
Download: SwiftKey Keyboard
Tasker will help you automate your Android.
Zedge can help you customize wallpapers, notifications, ringtones, and more.
7 Minute Workout helps you stay in shape.
Download: 7 Minute Workout
Mint: Personal Finance assists you in managing your money.
Download: Mint: Personal Finance
If you just bought your phone or have only now started using it, you are only at the beginning of your journey. There’s a lot more to learn, and this was just to whet your appetite. There are plenty more apps, settings, customizations, and features to explore. And never be afraid to ask questions; no one can know everything.
Do you know of other ways to save Android battery life? Let us know in comments.