Getting Started on an Android Phone

Summary: Do you know someone who is thinking about buying their first Android smartphone? Switching to a new system can be tough, so we've put together a walkthrough guide for your first day with a new phone.

By |

The soaring popularity of phones running Google’s Android system is undeniable. Analysts forecast that 80% of the world’s smartphones will use Android by the end of this year, meaning you or someone you know is likely to be buying one — maybe for the first time.

Smartphones are like tiny computers, and as such, they can take a little getting used to. Knowing the location of popular tools or settings is essential to using a phone effectively, but from all of the feedback we’ve received over the years, it seems Android is more difficult to master than an iPhone.

But never fear! The WhislteOut team is here to break you into the Android ecosystem. If we don’t cover something below, feel free to send us an email us with your question, or follow us on Twitter.

Follow the prompts

Regardless of which company makes your Android phone, the first few minutes with your new handset are pretty much the same. After you turn the phone on for the first time, you’ll be guided through a series of questions to help set up your new phone.

We recommend you connect to a Wi-Fi network when prompted; the phone may need to download updates and you don’t want to spend your valuable mobile data on these downloads.

Your Google Account

Having an active Google account (or Gmail Account) is an essential part of the Android experience. The email address you enter during this set up process will become the default account for your phone, and it is difficult to change it to a different account later.

Make sure you enter the Gmail account you use most. A lot of data will be associated with this account in future, including app purchases, movie rentals, books and music, plus important user settings.

If you don’t have a Google account, or you’d like to create a new one, you can register an account during the set-up process.

A virtual tour of Android

Home screens

If you are familiar with a Windows PC, you’ll notice some similar concepts in Android. The main screens you’ll see are the ‘Home Screens’ which serve the same function as the Desktop in Windows.

You can put shortcuts to apps on the Home Screens, create folders to group similar tools in a single place, and position Widgets — interactive app shortcuts that display important information, like the weather or calendar entries.

To move between Home Screens, swipe horizontally across the screen.

Apps Drawer

If Home Screens are like a Windows Desktop, then the Apps Drawer is like the Start Menu. This is the place where all of your apps are stored — both the ones that came with the phone and the ones you download.

The icon for the App Drawer may look a little different on your phone, but it is often a small cube or circle filled with dots — like the one pictured.

If you want to put a shortcut to an app on the Home Screen, simply press and hold down on the icon in the App Drawer. Keep holding while the Home Screen appears and then position it where you’d like before letting go. If you make a mistake, press and hold the icon again and move it again.

Notifications Panel

One of the key features of the original Android’s design, that has since been copied by Microsoft and Apple, is the Notifications Panel. A one-stop location for all your incoming messages, reminders and app controls.

From the Home Screen, you’ll see a black bar across the top displaying the time, your network signal strength, battery life and a number of other icons. To access the Notifications Panel, swipe down the screen starting from the black notifications bar.

From the Notifications Panel, you can launch apps by selecting any messages there, or you can dismiss the reminders by swiping horizontally on them.

System Settings

One of the great advantages of choosing an Android phone is the level of customisation available through the System Settings. These tweaks might include changing your wallpapers, adjusting the screen brightness or volume of your ringtone.

Some important tools are tucked away in the Settings too, like the ability to share your mobile data over Wi-Fi with a laptop — known as a ‘portable hotspot’.

There are way too many bits and pieces to go through here, but it is worth your time going through the settings and familiarising yourself with some of the options available.

To access System Settings, pull down the Notification Panel and select the icon that looks either like a small cog or like a person standing in a box.

The Core Apps and Tools

Phone, Messages and People

OK, this is the absolute basics, but we would recommend that if you are unfamiliar with Android that you make sure shortcuts for these frequently used tools are front-and-centre on the first screen you see when you turn your phone on.

You can also place a ‘Direct Dial’ or ‘Direct Message’ widget for a specific contact on the Home Screen too. In fact, you could create a folder containing Direct Dial links to a number of contacts — close family and friends — so they are easy to find when you need to get in touch.

Play Store

This is your one-stop shop for new apps, movies, books, magazines and music. To use it effectively, you’ll want to associate a credit card with your main Google account (the one you used to sign in during the set up process). If you’d prefer not to use a credit card, you can purchase Google Play gift cards from a number of retail stores.

Gmail and Google Calendar

These apps are pretty self explanatory, but both are a good example of how your new Android phone connects to your Google Account via the cloud. By default, the Gmail app and Calendar will automatically sync with their counterparts on the web. This means that if you sign in to Gmail on your computer and add a new contact, the same new contact will automatically show up on your phone. The same goes for new entries in your calendar — if you create a meeting on your phone, it will sync with Google Calendar on the web.

Even better, if you begin writing an email in Gmail on your phone, the draft for that message is automatically available when you sign in to Gmail on a PC, and vice versa. It is all interconnected and it makes things much easier.

Transferring Music and Videos to your phone

If you have a collection of media you want to take with you on your phone, the process of getting it from your PC to your Android phone is probably much simpler than you think.

Unlike iPhone, Android doesn’t need an annoying iTunes-like app. Instead, you plug your phone into your PC and wait while it connects the memory in your phone to the computer — similar to what happens when you plug in a USB memory stick.

Once connected you can drag and drop your media files into the phone’s memory, and once it has finished transferring, you’re good to go.


Well, that's the basics, folks -- your beginner's guide to Android. Below is a list of other articles we've written that will help advance your knowledge of Android, when you feel ready.


Tagged:


News by Topic

Phone Reviews

Featured

Global roaming: which carrier is best?

Global roaming: which carrier is best?

We compare the big US carriers to see just which one offers the best value for...

Your guide to global and travel SIM cards

Your guide to global and travel SIM cards

Planning an international trip, but want to take your own phone? We've compared...

Best Wireless plans with BIG data

Best Wireless plans with BIG data

If you've fully embraced a digital lifestyle, then you're probably in the...

 

Related News

Is the Nexus 5X an iPhone Killer?

Is the Nexus 5X an iPhone Killer?

The Nexus 5X wasn't designed to contend against the top players, but that's...

Android Wear for iPhone is Live

Android Wear for iPhone is Live

You can now download Android Wear from the Apple App Store for use with your...

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes Meets Abysmal Reception

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes Meets Abysmal Reception

The first Star Wars mobile game to receive the blessing of Disney is not...

Android Marshmallow is Coming Your Way

Android Marshmallow is Coming Your Way

Marshmallow confirmed. 6.0 confirmed. Status: incoming.

Google launches Inbox: a new way to sort your email

Google launches Inbox: a new way to sort your email

Google wants to change up the way you sort your mail. Currently invite-only.

Android One takes smartphones to low-income markets

Android One takes smartphones to low-income markets

Android's new low-cost device initiative aims to bring the platform to...

 

Guides

How to Create and Share GIFs With Google Photos

How to Create and Share GIFs With Google Photos

Turning your images in to GIFs is amazingly easy in Google Photos, sharing them...

What is Google Keep?

What is Google Keep?

Google Keep is a note-taking app. It's best for users who want a short-term...

What is Google Hangouts for Android

What is Google Hangouts for Android

Hangouts lets you send SMS, MMS, instant messages and directions. It allows you...

What is Google Now?

What is Google Now?

Google Now is a personal assistant with the power of Google Search. Unlike...

Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4

Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4

The Nexus 5 certainly has the advantage in processing power and price-tag, but...

4 tricks to speed up internet on your Android smartphone

4 tricks to speed up internet on your Android smartphone

You can't turn a 3G phone in to a 4G one, but you can make things move a little...

 

Compare phones & plans from the following carriers...

Sprint Cell Phone Plans Freedom Pop Cell Phone Plans Ting Cell Phone Plans Simple Mobile Cell Phone Plans H2O Wireless Cell Phone Plans TracFone Cell Phone Plans
T-Mobile Cell Phone Plans Verizon Wireless Cell Phone Plans Straight Talk Cell Phone Plans Tello Cell Phone Plans U.S. Cellular Cell Phone Plans CREDO Mobile Cell Phone Plans
Cricket Cell Phone Plans Boost Mobile Cell Phone Plans US Mobile Cell Phone Plans Virgin Mobile Cell Phone Plans Project Fi Cell Phone Plans TextNow Cell Phone Plans
MetroPCS Cell Phone Plans AT&T Cell Phone Plans Total Wireless Cell Phone Plans Page Plus Cell Phone Plans ROK Mobile Cell Phone Plans GreatCall Cell Phone Plans
The People's Operator Cell Phone Plans RingPlus Mobile Cell Phone Plans Net10 Cell Phone Plans Republic Wireless Cell Phone Plans
 

Cell Phone Deals

HTC 10 Compare Carriers

HTC 10 Compare Carriers

The hot new HTC 10 is out now. Compare deals

Best Phones Under $200

Best Phones Under $200

Smartphones for $200 or less - Compare Results

See iPhones for Under $300

See iPhones for Under $300

See a list of iPhones currently being offered for less that $300 outright

NEW! Samsung GALAXY S7: Compare all Carrier Deals

NEW! Samsung GALAXY S7: Compare all Carrier Deals

This hot new phone is available from all major carriers - we have all the deals here