Android 101: Some Helpful Tips For First Time Android Users
As you may have noticed by now the majority of smart phones and tablets are increasingly Android-ized. Sure Apple’s iOS is still one of the most popular mobile operating systems with its iPhone, iPod, and iPad offerings but Google is quickly making up the difference. For every iPhone or iPad available there are multiple Android phones or tablets offerings for slightly lower prices.
Due to this most new smart phone or tablet owners are using Google’s Android operating system for the first time. To help understand the Android user interface I offer a few simple tips to help make things less complicated.
The first thing most notice about Android is how its desktop differs from normal smart phones or tablets. You have a lot of freedom to customize the look and feel with out being limited to four simple rows of perfectly aligned square icons. As a result, you can customize the Android desktop to reflect your interests, and you can make it as full and dynamic as you like.
The Android desktop is composed of multiple home-screen panels with anywhere from five to seven customizable sections depending on how the manufacture initial set it up. When turning on your phone, you see the main home-screen panel. This panel is your main panel and you can access additional panels on either side of the main one by swiping your finger left or right. What goes on the home-screens is up to you. You can fill the space with any combination of shortcuts, widgets, and folders.
To customize each panel simply press and hold your finger on a blank part of the screen and a new menu will pop up with options to add shortcuts, widgets, folders, or to change the desktop.
Shortcuts are exactly as they sound, small icons that let you load apps or other functions on your phone. You can set a shortcut to do anything from opening a program to linking to a specific Web page to initiating a phone call.
Widgets programs that operate directly on your home-screen, like giving you the latest weather, or letting you check the status of your friends on Facebook. If you want more than what came preloaded with your phone, you can download additional widgets from the Android Market. One very useful widget is the Power Control widget; it creates a handy one-touch control for you phone's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, data syncing, and screen brightness.
Folders work exactly like on your desktop computer by allowing you to keep your content organized. A folder lets you group multiple shortcuts in a single space. When you tap on a folder, a box pops up showing all of the shortcut icons inside that folder.
Getting around in Android
Android phones have four standard keys: a Back button, a Menu button, a Home button, and a Search button. These keys will help you navigate through your phone more easily, no matter what program or process you're running.
The Back key takes you back one step to whatever you were previously doing in any application. Essentially think of it as the back button on your web browser or the escape key to get out of what you were doing.
The Menu key brings up a list of options relevant to the application you're currently using. When pressed while on the home screen, it gives you access your phone's settings and other customization options.
The Home key has two functions; press it once to go back to your home screen, press and hold it to allow you to multitask and switch to other programs you've recently used.
The Search key has different functions depending on where you are. From your home screen, it brings up a Quick Search Box that you can use to search the Web and your phone at the same time. Within an app, the Search key starts a search specific to that program enabling you to search your email or contact list for example.
Looking for your apps
The app launcher allows you to see all the apps on your phone or tablet. To open the launcher, tap the square icon at the bottom of the screen. The launcher may look different depending on what version of Android you have, and whether or not your phone has a custom home screen but the icon should always be square and in the center of the screen at the bottom.
Android's notification panel is one of the best features of the operating system and is something that even Apple has tried to recreate. Android puts incoming information at your fingertips, no matter what you're doing, from many different places: e-mail, voicemail, text messaging, even individual applications. When a new notification comes in text will flash across the top menu bar and then an icon will appear at the top-left of your screen. You can pull down the panel to see detailed information about the notification and then take action if you wish.