A Beginner’s Guide to an Android Smartphone

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If you have recently switched from iPhone to an Android smartphone, there are a few things you should be aware of. Of course, Android is a vast yet complex environment compared to Apple’s simple and seamless Continuity ecosystem.

However, limitless user customization is where Android outshines iOS. Due to its open-source nature, OEMs can develop their custom skins layered on top of the core framework, offering a whole different Android user experience. Thus, your experience with Android will vary based on the device you choose to purchase.

Still, all Android devices share the same core foundation, with plenty of things common between them. For those having their hands on Android for the first time, we have prepared this beginner’s guide to help them get the most out of their new Android devices.

Setting up a Google account

Android is developed by Google, and it’s pretty much mandatory for every OEM to preload Google apps on their devices. It includes Chrome, Drive, Gmail, Maps, Photos, YouTube, and many more. To access most of the following Google services, you will also need a Google account.

You probably already have a Google account in case you used it with apps and services on your iPhone or computer before. If not, you can go to accounts.google.com/signup from your preferred browser to create one right now. Additionally, you can sign up for it directly from the first-time setup wizard on your new Android smartphone.

A Google account unlocks dozens of benefits. Seamless cloud synchronization for contacts is probably the most useful feature in the bunch. Instead of saving your contacts to the SIM card, you can import them to Google Contacts. Once you do that, you can access and manage your contacts across all devices connected to your Google account.

Furthermore, Google can automatically scan for duplicate contacts and recommend you to merge them at one-click. All you have to do is export your contacts from iCloud in CSV format, then visit contacts.google.com to import them. When you sign in to your new Android device with the same Google account, your contacts will be automatically synchronized to it.

Google also offers Docs and Sheets, which are free, web-based alternatives to Microsoft’s Word and Excel software. Thanks to the continuous cloud save feature, you can migrate your work over to the following apps and access them directly from the Drive app on your Android phone.

Transferring older data via built-in tools

Most Android OEMs (e.g., Samsung, LG, Xiaomi) offer tools to help users transfer content from an older device to the newer one. However, you can do it right from Google’s first-time setup wizard, which gives you the option to restore files from not only a Google Drive backup but also from an iPhone over a wireless connection.

In case you have used an Android device before, most of your important files cloud-synced to your Google account will move over to your new Android phone without problems. Having said that, you need to make sure to back up the files on your older device before you switch. We have a separate guide to help you switch to your new Android phone without losing any existing data, which you can check out here.

If you are searching for ways to back up and restore your WhatsApp chats and SMS messages, check out our guides below.

Transferring photos and videos

Media files seem to occupy a considerable amount of storage space on our phones. Hence, it’s a great idea to upload your personal photos and videos on a cloud storage service if you wish to keep them.

Google Photos is overall the best option for Android users, as it always stays linked to your Google account. You can upload years worth of photos and videos to the service for free – provided that you are okay with slightly reduced quality (photos compressed to 16 MP and videos compressed to 1080p). However, Google has recently announced that media uploaded to Photos after 1st June 2021 will count towards your Google Drive storage.

In case you currently have several gigabytes of media on your older Android device or iPhone, you can install the Google Photos app from the Play Store or App Store. After that, you can sign in to your Google account and choose to back up all the photos and videos over a high-speed Wi-Fi network. When you switch to your new Android phone and log in with the same Google account, you can access your uploaded media directly from the Photos app and download them whenever you wish.

If you have been using iCloud Photos for backing up your personal media, you need to download the photos and videos from icloud.com/photos on your computer, and then upload them to photos.google.com. Otherwise, you won’t be able to access your older media from your new Android device.

While you can back up your personal media files in original quality on Google Photos, you will definitely have to cash out extra on paid cloud storage subscriptions, starting from $1.99/month for 100 GB. Other viable cloud storage options include Dropbox and OneDrive. Both of them offer photo and video backup options, and you can access your backups from most of the devices you use.

Uninstalling preloaded apps

When you complete setting up your new Android phone, you will notice plenty of third-party apps and games in the app drawer that you won’t ever launch. Such preloaded apps are called bloatware, which most Android device manufacturers decide to bundle with their custom skins.

Fortunately, you can uninstall most of the junk apps and games directly from the app drawer – or opt-out of installing them in the first place during the setup wizard. Some manufacturers choose to push bloatware as system apps, so you have no choice but to create a folder and move them to all there.

You can use ADB tools to remove system bloatware, but you might end up bricking your phone in case of a mishap. If you still want to give it a shot, there are plenty of guides on the web you can follow to remove preloaded apps from your Android device model. This Android debloating guide from XDA is straightforward to follow.

Changing ringtone/notification/system sounds

For some reason, most Android devices are pre-configured to make sound and strong haptic vibrations when you touch the screen. It gets quite annoying after a while, just like the default ringtone and notification sounds.

If you have a Pixel, Moto, Nokia, or OnePlus device, simply go to Settings > Sound > Advanced and scroll down to the Other Sounds And Vibrations row. From there, you can disable dial pad tones, screen locking sounds, charging sounds, touch sounds, touch vibration, and call status vibration. The top row of options is dedicated to ringtone and notifications, which you can also change to match your preferences.

To disable keyboard haptic feedback, head over to Settings > System > Languages & Input > Virtual Keyboard menu. After that, choose the virtual keyboard app you are using. You can then toggle off “Vibrate on keypress” or a similar option from the following keyboard preferences page.

Once again, it’s worth mentioning that the exact location of these settings varies based on the brand of your new Android phone.

Changing default apps & Android keyboard

Google offers its stock version of the Phone and Messages app for non-Pixel Android devices, which you can install from the Play Store and use instead of the ones provided by the OEM. You can switch back to the system apps later from the Settings > Apps & notifications > Default apps menu.

The same can be said for the web browser. Many custom Android skins bundle their own browser app, but they don’t offer the same fast and secure experience as Google Chrome. Its emphasis on seamless cloud synchronization means your browsing history and bookmarks are auto-synced with the Chrome desktop app and all other devices connected to your Google account. You can set Chrome as the default browser from the same Default apps menu in Settings.

Like iOS, you can pick up your favorite virtual keyboard app on Android. Considering companies like Samsung, LG, or Xiaomi preload a generic keyboard app on their devices, it’s great to have the ability to replace it with a more sophisticated option.

Gboard (Google Keyboard) and Microsoft Swiftkey are two of the best free Android keyboards available on the Play Store. Gboard is the default keyboard on stock Android versions, so it’s simple and easy to set up. If you are looking for additional customization options and better auto-correct/word suggestions, go for Swiftkey instead.

You can change the default keyboard from the Settings > System > Languages & input menu. When you install a new keyboard app from the Play Store, you can launch it from the app drawer and follow the on-screen instructions to set it as default.

Accessing quick settings

Similar to iPhone’s Control Center, Android’s notification shade offers access to quick settings toggles. You can toggle on/off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular data, airplane mode, adjust the screen brightness, etc. Depending on the Android version and skin, the look and feel of the notification shade may vary. Despite that, they all are similar in function.

Swipe down from the top of the screen to access the notification shade, then swipe down once again to expand the QS toggles. You can customize, add, and remove the QS tiles to personalize your experience.

In case you want to quickly open the full Settings menu, tap the cogwheel in the shade. Alternatively, tap and hold a particular QS tile (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) to expand the additional options related to the quick setting.

Of course, you will also be able to view and manage your notifications from the notification shade if you didn’t figure it out already.

Customizing Android home screen

The Android home screen is where users generally spend most of the time, so it makes sense for the home screen to be extensively customizable.

You can add shortcuts from the app drawer to the home screen for quick access to your favorite apps. Some apps also offer widgets, which you can add to the home screen as well.

To add a widget on a home screen page, long-press on the empty space, and then select Widgets in the following context menu. From there, you can also change the home screen wallpaper.

The bottom side of the home screen is called the dock, where you can keep five to six shortcuts to your most-used apps. Make sure to drag your favorite apps from the app drawer and drop them to the dock.

To keep your home screen clutter-free, you can organize your shortcuts in folders. All you have to do is drag one app icon over another to create an app folder. You can rename it too.

To remove an app shortcut or widget from a home screen page, you can drag it to the trashcan icon at the top or bottom of the screen.

Third-party Android launchers also let you shake up the user experience. They give you more control and an endless amount of customization options over the home screen and app drawer layouts. There are plenty of popular launchers you can download from the Play Store, such as Lawnchair, Nova Launcher, Microsoft Launcher, Shade Launcher, etc. Some launchers also support app icon packs, which you can download from the Play Store as well.

Taking screenshots

To take a screenshot in Android, press and hold the volume down and power button simultaneously on your device. It should make a capture sound, followed by a notification at the top. You can click it to view the screenshot and share it.

On select devices, you can set up a three-finger gesture to take screenshots on the go. The physical button combination to take screenshots is the same on pretty much all Android phones.

Managing files

Unlike iOS, Android has a proper file management system. If your Android phone has a microSD expansion slot, you can potentially have double the storage space. When purchasing a microSD card from e-commerce websites like Amazon, always go for the fastest option to ensure optimal read/write speeds.

Importantly, you can use a file manager app to manage and transfer files from internal storage to external storage without relying on the cloud or a computer. Some of the best free file manager apps on the Play Store include Files by Google, Solid Explorer, FX File Explorer, etc.

Else, you can pay for a monthly cloud storage subscription on Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive to store your important files and access them anytime over a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

Wrapping up

This is where we wrap up this beginner’s guide to Android smartphones. Although we only covered the essentials, it will definitely help you begin your daily life with the Android operating system. You will understand the rest as you spend more time with your phone.

We also regularly cover detailed guides for both Android and iOS on different topics, so follow us on Google News to stay updated.

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