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You bought your grandmother, sister or another loved one a new Android smartphone for the holidays: good move! Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they’ll know how to use it. If this is their first Android device or if they’re upgrading from an old version, print this article and include it with your gift. It’s the perfect companion for their first foray into the world of modern Android phones.
Congratulations for Your New Phone!
Ooh, shiny! Nothing like a brand-new, modern smartphone to start out the new year. But how do you get started with your new gadget? Sure, there are lots of apps and things you could do, but first things first: Let’s go over some of the basics we think anyone using an Android phone for the first time should know. We’ll make it quick and fun.
Making A Call, Sending A Text Message
The most basic features on a smartphone can often be obfuscated by a cacophony of visual noise – icons for other tools and apps.
Typically you’ll find the Phone button in the lower-left corner, although this can of course be adjusted for comfort. Tapping Phone will present you with the option to Dial a number, check Call logs, view Contacts (see below) and depending on your Android version, any Favourites or regularly called contacts.
You should also find the Messaging app situated on the bottom bar beside the phone icon. With this open, tap the compose button to start writing a message.
Importing and Syncing Contacts
Android has a contacts app that acts as a mobile address book and features some import options for users migrating from older phones.
If you’re using a SIM card from an older phone, then opening the Contacts/People app, tapping menu and selecting Import/Export will give you options such as Import from SIM card or Import from internal storage. Multiple contact details for the same person can also be combined into a single record using Linked contacts.
Another way of adding entries to the contacts list is by setting up an in-use Google account on the phone. Using a Hotmail/Windows Live/Outlook account for email? These contacts can be synced by installing the Outlook.com app or using the built-in email setup tool.
How To Take A Photograph
Your previous phone might have had a camera, but the quality was probably not spectacular. Sharing options can be limited, too. Chances are your new phone has a much better camera, and as an added bonus, it also makes it very easy to share any photos you snap.
If your device doesn’t have a hardware camera button – typically on the right edge – then it will have a software button on the display, typically in the bottom bar. Camera app not listed here? You should be able to add it for quick access. Find the icon in the app drawer, long tap and drag.
With recent versions of Android, the camera can even be launched when the screen is locked. Just press the power button to switch on the screen and then drag the camera icon into the center of the screen to begin snapping. Other phones have you swipe the screen to reveal the camera interface – play around with your phone in its locked state and see how it works.
Using Email And The Web
Want to access emails on your new phone?
The best option is to configure account in the Gmail app (using existing credentials or setting up an account from scratch), but it is also possible to add an existing email account hosted with another provider via the Email app. Yes, there are two separate apps – Gmail and Email.
To use the web on Android, all you need to do is tap the icon to launch the browser. As long as an Internet connection is active, browsing web pages will be possible.
The Notification Bar
One potentially confusing feature is the Android notification bar.
This can be a pitfall for any new Android user, as it is essentially the doorway to a hidden screen.
Information on the notification bar will typically include battery strength, signal strength, time, any missed calls, received messages and emails and whether mobile Internet data, GPS, Bluetooth and wireless Internet are active.
Further information can be found by dragging the bar downwards, whereupon it will act as a new screen. Tapping anything listed in the expanded view will open the relevant app; swiping items left to right will dismiss them, as will tapping the cross in the top right.
You shouldn’t find any adverts in the notification bar, but if you do then it is easy enough to block them.
Why The Battery Is Running Down Fast…
Another common problem with Android phones for anyone less experienced with smartphones is the apparent speed with which the battery runs down. There can be many reasons for this, from issue with the hardware to a poorly configured operating system, but the majority of the time the fault can be found with connectivity settings.
While you will no doubt be using the phone to make calls, unless conversations are eight hours long the battery should be fine. Problems will occur with the accidental activation of Bluetooth, mobile Internet, GPS and Wi-Fi, something that might occur if prompted by an app or if the settings screen is inadvertently opened. If the Android device has a power control widget (a set of controls that can sit on the home screen, as illustrated above), connectivity options can be accidentally activated as easily as they can be disabled.
Awareness is the key here, so keep a check on the notification bar for any icons you don’t recognize, or think should not be there (such as the GPS icon, when you’re not using the GPS for anything). You might also check our mobile battery care tips to help with squeezing as much juice out of your phone as possible.
…And Why Bills Are High
Mobile Internet – if accidentally enabled or activated by an app requiring more permissions than are comprehensible – can lead to needlessly expensive bills.
Sure, exceeding call credit or allowance on calls and text messages can be a big problem, but it is invariably mobile Internet that causes the biggest issues.
Opening Settings > Wireless & networks > Usage (as with the majority of steps here, the menu path may differ depending on your Android version) will display the options available to you in managing mobile data usage, which can be limited and reset. Our guide Why You Don’t Need Third Party Apps To Manage Background Data explains this in more detail, although note that if the Android device isn’t brand new then a third party app may be required. You can also setup an alert for when data use exceeds a pre-selected volume.
Of course, ensuring that mobile Internet is disabled will help keep bills low.
Installing Apps Made Easy
Apps are part and parcel of a modern mobile phone. However, you don’t have to use them. It is quite possible to go about your daily business making the odd phone call without requiring any apps for cloud storage accounts, social networking, games, TV catchup, etc.
Should you find that you do want an app, then this can be installed via Google Play. Note that while many apps are free, others are not.
App stores can be a bit of a distraction, however. It’s worth checking with the person who bought you the phone if they might be able to use their Google account for installing apps. This can be done by opening Settings > Add an account > Google and inputting the required information before switching to the Play Store, where the second account can be opened via the menu.
Using this method apps can be installed and removed remotely as required, without leaving saddling you with a potential app-pocalypse should you tap the wrong button.
Don’t Like The Look Of The Phone?
There are many different flavours of Android, from Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense UI to the various custom versions built on CyanogenMod. In other words, it is possible to completely transform the appearance of your phone – you are not stuck with whatever you got, if you don’t like the way it works.
If you’re finding life difficult with the Android version installed, you have an alternative in the shape of one of the many home screen replacements (also known as launchers) that are now available. These apps are an excellent way to present the phone’s features in a way that might prove more useful and intuitive. Our roundup of the best alternative launchers is a good way to become acquainted.
You might not even need to go that far. Home screen widgets – added by long-tapping the home screen – may add the extra functions or tools that you need to access regularly.
Enjoy Your New Phone – Don’t Let It Rule Your Life!
If you haven’t started making calls and sending text messages on your new phone, go ahead and start. The best way to learn something new is with practical experience, and once you’ve got the hang of the basics, the rest should fall into place.
You’ve got a great gift in your hands, one that can change your life – it’s time to enjoy it!