Mrs. The Droid Lawyer’s parents just purchased a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and a Samsung Galaxy S4. They’re in love with their phones, but certainly, like any new user, they need some help.
For starters, I’m going to recommend that you read this post, which will give you an overview of Android and the system.
The great thing about Android is that most, if not all, of the Android devices currently available have similar setups. Thus, in this lesson when I refer to a setting or location, you should be able to find the reference point quite easily.
Also, for reference, I’m going to recommend that your device has Android 4.1 or 4.2. This version is known as “Jelly Bean.” There are some technological improvements that separate Android 4.1 and 4.2 from its predecessors. This rule also brings us to the first question:
Which phone or tablet is the best?
I’ve given up recommending specific Android devices simply because there are so many variants. At this time though, the current leaders are Samsung, ASUS, and Motorola, with Google developing its own line of “Nexus” devices.
If you want a true Android experience, then you’ll want a Nexus device. Nexus phones and tablets come with “pure” Android experience without the manufacturer or cell provider adding extra apps. We’re anxiously awaiting Motorola’s Moto X phone, which we suspect will be a “Nexus” device.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking for a tablet, plan on spending about $250-$500.
Setting up your new Android device
I was shocked to discover that when my father-in-law purchased his new phone (Samsung Galaxy S4), the cell provider charged a $30 setup fee.
Of course, the “helpful” salesperson is going to force feed you into believing setting up an Android device is difficult, but it’s not. Note too, it’s significantly less complicated if you’re coming from an older Android device, or you have a Google account.
I have a Google account
If you already use a Google account (i.e. you use Gmail), then setup is a snap because your information will automatically sync to your new device. Simply follow the prompts to sync with your Google account. Note: these screenshots use Android 4.2’s additional user setup feature so the may differ slightly from the new device setup. Don’t worry, just follow the prompts.
The first prompt that you’ll see is a welcome screen similar to this:
Just read the words and press the “Google Play” triangle to move to the next screen.
Click “Yes” to move on.
Enter your Google account credentials and click the forward triangle. You’ll now sign in to your Google account and Android.
Wait for the signing in process to complete. You’ll now be prompted to use Google Wallet. I generally say no. But I do have my account linked to Google Wallet. Basically, Google Wallet is an online payment system, similar to PayPal, that allows you to store your payment information and use it to purchase goods. It’s safe and secure for shopping online.
If you’re quasi-conspiratorial, you’ll probably want to opt out of Google’s location services on the next screen.
I’m fine with the whole process so I just leave the 3 boxes (I know, you only see 2; trust me, there’s 3) checked, and click the forward triangle.
At this point, you should see a page similar to this:
This confirms that you’ve finished linking your Google account and your Android device. Now, Google’s servers will begin syncing your contacts, Gmail account, and any previously/currently installed apps. This might take a while.
I don’t have a Google account/I’m not going to use Google
Unfortunately, without a Google account you’re going to lose access to some Google services such as Maps and Gmail. But,that doesn’t mean you can’t use your Android device.
Start the setup process like before, and click “No” when you’re asked about your Google account. During the setup process, you’ll have an option to create a Google account or proceed without the account.
Select “Get an account” and you’ll be prompted to enter your Google information or sign up for a new Google account.
If you don’t want to connect your Google account, just select “Not now” at the previous prompt.
Click the forward triangle to move to the next screen, otherwise, you’ll need to find a different different device.
After moving forward, you’ll enter your name to personalize your device.
Finalize the setup by clicking the forward triangle.
That’s all. You’re done. Remember though, unless you connect a Google account, you won’t have access to Google Play (and apps) or any of Google’s products.
But I didn’t want to sync that stuff
Sometimes, especially for Google accounts, you only want to sync specific information. For instance, I sync three different Google accounts to my Android devices. Yet, for two of the accounts, the only information I want to see is the email messages.
Android makes it easy to sync only what you want. To change your sync settings, go to Settings > Accounts and select the account you’d like to modify. Uncheck the box next to the information you’d rather not sync.
This goes for any account (such as LinkedIn or Facebook) which has access to your device’s information.
How do I add my other accounts?
Android supports a number of different accounts. The two most common, non-Google accounts user add are Exchange and POP3/IMAP email accounts. For further information on using Microsoft Exchange with Android, check out this post. I also prefer to forward my POP3 accounts (thedroidlawyer.com has a POP3 account) to my Gmail address. I suggest you follow the instructions in this post to add additional email addresses.
I can’t customize my contacts
Some people, namely Mrs. The Droid Lawyer’s dad, love customizing their contacts, especially ringtones.
You can also set your own custom ringtone by downloading the tone (usually MP3) to your Android device (I store mine in my Music > Ringtones folder), then set the ringtone under the contact’s information. Manually setting a ringtone will vary by device, but generally there’s an option to set a default ringtone under the contact’s information.
Give me some apps
Android has 2 main app stores: Google Play and Amazon Appstore for Android. The Appstore requires a specific Amazon Appstore app and an Amazon account. Google Play comes pre-installed on most devices, and is by far the most popular Android app store. Thoroughly review this post for more information about the two stores.
To satisfy your app fancy, you’ll definitely want to check out these posts:
Android App Reviews (category)
Don’t forget to check your permissions
I’d hate to see you get bamboozled because you unknowingly installed a malicious application, so here’s two pieces of advice: check your app’s permissions and get virus scan.
Next, you’ll want to only install applications from reputable app stores, such as Google Play or Amazon Appstore for Android. This will minimize the chances you’ll acquire a virus or other malicious application. Also, you’ll want to check the permissions of the app you’re installing.
By design, Android apps can only access specific parts of the Android OS for which they receive permission. Every app will outline its permissions, which you must accept prior to installing the application. Some apps require no permissions, while others contain quite an extensive list.
Therefore, regardless of the app or developer, check the permissions.
Permissions will also describe what information the app has access to. For instance, if the app is a game, but requests permission to make phone calls or access your contacts, you might think twice about whether you want to install the app.
But you said Android was customizable
In my opinion, customization is one of the key features of the Android OS. Sure, you can “go geeky” and fully customize your ROM (called rooting), but you can make things even easier just by using a custom launcher, like Nova Launcher.
Launchers replace your system’s user interface (UI) with a more customizable system. Of course, you can leave things as they are (i.e. use the launcher’s basic settings) or go into full-blown customization mode. I normally take the middle road: customize some settings, add gestures to control features (my favorite is swipe up to open Google Voice Search), and make sure my dock has as many apps as possible.
I also use folders to organize my apps into groups, thus saving me the hassle of having to scroll through the app drawer to find a particular app. The folders sit on my home screen ready for use.
Use the voice, Luke
I love Android’s voice to text feature. You can save a lot of time and improve your productivity by using your voice to command your Android device. This post gives some suggestions to improve your voice to text use, including the suggestion to use it. You’ll find the speech microphone on the Android keyboard, or in the Voice Search app. If you’re really brave, you might even try using voice to text as your replacement for Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Harnessing Android’s voice search ability also comes in handy with Google Now. Google Now is a feature introduced in Android 4.1, which allows you to control your phone and gives you information via “cards.” You should read this post to see how Google Now and Voice Search help improve your Android experience. I’m also going to suggest you read this follow-up post, which discusses how to adjust the Google Now cards to bolster the relevance of the information you receive.
Experiment with Android
My final suggestion in helping you get the most out of your Android device is to experiment. Take a chance to play around. Install fun apps. Make customizations. Be original. There’s entire Google+ communities committed to Android customization, and some of the screenshots from users are just amazing. So, have fun!
I doubt you’re going to screw things up too bad, and even if you do, there’s always factory reset.