Dec 25, 2011
So, you’re an Android owner now? Congratulations! Welcome to this world of little green robots! Here’s a variety of tips to help get acclimated to this mobile OS.
Android is all about making the user experience tailored to how the user wants to do it. Don’t like the home screen software the carrier has preinstalled? Alternatives are available on the Android Market – I prefer LauncherPro, many users like to use ADW Launcher. Many themes are available on the Market to skin these in many ways – check out the archives of our Theme Thursday posts for ADW themes to try out!
See something in an app that should be shared with the world? Keep an eye out for the sharing icon, and the sharing command in menus. Text, images, videos, and other content can easily be shared between apps. It’s one of Android’s best features, and very useful.
This menu is a very deep and tricky to navigate. Use Display to set lock screen options, system-wide font, brightness, and other settings regarding the screen. Sound will help set ringtones and volume, including different volumes for different sound types. This menu also handles vibration. Applications can be used to manually delete apps, or close down apps that are slowing down the phone. Finally, About Phone has a useful menu: Battery use. This helps keep track of just what is using up the battery, and what can be tweaked to help extend battery life.
4. Batteries and Acessories
Many Android phones’ batteries can be switched out by users. This means that it is trivially easy to just switch out batteries when the phone is dying, instead of using bulky external power adapters (although they exist as well) – the cheapest option is often eBay, where batteries and external chargers can be had for $10-$20. As well, eBay will likely have the best variety of accessories at the best prices, as compared to places like Radio Shack or Best Buy.
5. Apps Have More Power
If coming over from iOS, the most important thing to realize is that apps can hook into system functions deeper than they can on iOS. This means that Google Voice can be used for all calls, or even Skype! Alternative browsers like Dolphin or Skype can replace the primary browser. Apps like Handcent can be used in place of the default messaging app. Even alternative keyboards can be used, such as SwiftKey X or Flex T9. Pretty much any default function can be replaced. If something isn’t working as well as it could be, there’s likely a good alternative somewhere out there!
Don’t like the way the phone is running? There are many developers that develop heavily customized and streamlined versions of phone software that can help make it run smooth as butter. A great jumping-off point is the XDA Developers Forums – there are many helpful FAQs and software located there to help the burgeoning tinkerer play with their phone. Just remember that it will likely invalidate any warranty on your device, so be careful!
7. The Apps!
Once you are comfortable with your new Android device, you’ll want to start looking for some apps. To find the ones that we like best, check out our App Rundown for all of our app and game reviews. There’s also the Editor’s Choice section at the Android Market for reference.
As well, here are some very useful tools:
Dropbox: This cloud-based storage utilty makes it very easy to share files between any manner of device. Uploading any kind of file to Dropbox is very easy through built-in Android sharing.
TweetDeck: There are many different Android apps for Twitter, but few compare to this. The multiple columns, with customized notification and update settings, make it a must-have for the dedicated Twitter addict. It also has probably the smoothest interface of any Twitter app.
Google Goggles: This app can scan any photograph that is taken in order to scan it for QR codes, or even to look up info on real-world locations that are taken with the photograph. It also can work in the background with photographs that are taken with the native camera app.
Google+: For new Android owners, why not get into Google’s own social network? It’s easy to take part in video chat hangouts, and to share all kinds of photos and witticisms to selected friends. As well, the option for uploading all photos to a private album automatically exists, making it easy to share photos from the phone while on a computer.
Winamp: This is a great music player, with the option to wirelessly sync over files from the desktop app, all for free! As well, check our guide for alternatives to Winamp that offer wireless syncing as well.
SimplyNote: Need to type up text-based notes that can be saved to Dropbox? This is the best way to go.
imo: The best multi-service IM client, this makes it easy to be logged in to multiple Google Talk accounts, to do Skype text-chatting, and to use other IM services in an easy way.
Skype: For those who need to use Skype voice and video chat, this app even provides the ability to replace the built-in dialers automatically.
ScoreCenter: For sports fans who need ways to check their favorite teams’ scores and to get the latest news, the Worldwide Leader’s app is a great way to check out sports scores.
File Expert: For those who need to explore their file system and manage files directly, this free option provides a fantastic option for managing them, and it even offers root access for those advanced users.
Album Art Grabber: Have songs that don’t have album art? This app makes it easy to search for those missing pieces of artwork to make them all show up in your music player of choice!
Awesome Drop: This is the easiest way to get a file from a desktop to Android, period. Even easier than using Dropbox.
Netflix: Now available on most devices, the streaming movie and TV service works great on Android. For phones and tablets with TV output, this is a must-have.
8. The Rundown
Last, but most certainly not least, where you are right now, Android Rundown. It’s your best source for the very best in Android apps and games. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and even Google+.
Remember, Android has a little bit more of a learning curve than an entirely closed-off operating system like iOS; however, there is so much more power available to users that it makes Android a very personal experience!