One of the reasons to own a smartphone in this fast paced but nevertheless ‘customizable’ day and age is that it allows for quite a bit personalisation. Some of the new operating systems allow you to creatively tailor a handset, purely from a superficial stand point as well, to your preference. Very recently I had a few friends switch over to Android from other platforms like Symbian S60 (non touchscreen editions), S40, Java based OS’ and even BlackBerry’s and were not really sure how to get the ball rolling with this UI. I was quite surprised that I was even asked such ‘noobish’ if you’ll excuse the term, questions but I figured, since I was asked so often about functionality recently, I might offer an ‘Android One oh One’ sort of introduction for new users.
So only for those not really sure how to get started, here’s a quick start guide on Android and a few simple ways to spruce up your new device and customize the UI to your liking and the best part is, they’re all free!
Since Android is a Google based platform, you’re naturally required to have a Gmail account. On startup you’ll be asked to enter Gmail address and password and this will set take care of your Android Marketplace sign in as well as your Gtalk, YouTube and of course Gmail accounts. You’re obviously welcome to use and sync other accounts later on with Android including Microsoft Exchange accounts. The Wizard, like with most smartphone platforms these days is quite easy to follow. You can’t go wrong, especially since tutorials for some specific apps like special onscreen keyboards like ‘Swype’, if you haven’t heard of it are part of the start up process.
Multiple Desktops, shortcuts and Widgets
The Android platform offers the use of multiple desktops. What that means is, like the iPhone, which I’m sure we all know by now, it allows you to have many home screens with shortcuts to apps we would use most often. You can choose just how many you wish to have from the settings menu that can be accessed by touch sensitive keys found below the display. In rare cases these are actual physical keys. A return key takes you back to previous menus, a Home key back to your primary home screen and a search key that allows you activate an option to look for anything and everything on your phone and the net.
To access wallpapers, widgets, folders or shortcuts, just ‘long-press’ any desktop for a pop-up menu. Shortcuts can also be added by simply pressing and holding on to an app icon from the menu. Moving apps around on the desktop is also via the same method – press, hold drag. To remove a desktop shortcut drag and drop it onto a little ‘Garbage Can’ icon that will show up at the bottom centre of the display.
‘Widget’ isn’t a term that’s affiliated with just the Android platform. For those coming in to the smartphone segment just now, it refers to quick access ‘shortcuts’ that can be placed on your phones homepage/desktop. However these aren’t merely shortcuts to applications but are actually mini apps themselves. They can provide information or allow certain amounts of access to the corresponding app directly. For example, the Facebook widget allows you to see current updates from your friend’s right on the desktop and also allows you to update your own status without having to open up the dedicated application.
The same goes for other social networking widgets etc. The Google Search widget saves you time by allowing you to start a search from the desktop without opening the browser, waiting for the Google home page to load and then typing in a search subject. Essentially they're designed to make things simpler and more accessible. To move or remove widgets, use the same methods as you would for shortcuts. Keep in mind some widgets could take up a whole homescreen/desktop, while others are smaller. Some even have multiple sizes to choose from.
Facebook and Twitter are apps you may need to download (available for all versions off the App market) and with them come corresponding desktop widgets. Some widgets can be downloaded separately for various functions and others are built in to preloaded interfaces and are different from Google’s preloaded variety.