Guide to your new Android phone – Things every new Android owner should know!

July 24, 2010 Chilling_Silence How-To's / Guides / Tech info

So you’ve just got yourself something like the Nexus One, HTC Desire, Motorola Droid or HTC Incredible (Just to name a few). You’re the proud owner of one of the coolest phones on the planet, largely due to the fact that it runs Android. I mean, let’s face it, it’s incredibly easy to find yourself a phone that has a 1Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 5MP Camera … the hardware these days is largely the same. So, your phone is special, and (in my opinion) the best, because of Android!

What you have to understand however, is that your phone is also different. If you’ve previously used a PC, or you’ve had yourself another Smartphone like the iPhone, there’s a few things to be aware of, and a couple of nifty features of your new awesome-phone.

I’ll also give you the heads up on some cool apps that are well worth the look at which will compliment your new investment in portable telephony quite well!

(Screenshots / pictures below)

The first big thing that you need to know about your new phone:

Widgets!

Your home screen is completely customizable with cool things like news alerts, 1-touch buttons to turn WiFi on and off, Music player controls, 3G Data usage monitors and so much more!

Simply press and hold your finger where there are no other icons / widgets, and you can go nuts and add them.

For the better part, these will do absolutely *nothing* to your battery life, so you honestly don’t need to worry about that, which brings me to my next very important point:

You don’t need a task manager!

Yes, Android multi-tasks (That is, runs more than one program at once) but here’s the catch: It does it well!

Too often I see people on Forums complaining because they’ve downloaded a Task Manager (Because Android doesn’t ship with one) thinking they’re doing their Android phone a service. Unfortunately that’s not true.

Android is a very clever OS, and it’s perfectly capable of handling multi-tasking without interference. While task managers are there, and they generally speaking do what they say they’ll do, for the vast majority of users there’s no reason for you to have one on your phone. Android will kill apps as it requires the memory etc, and it’ll manage it well.

People get concerned about the likes of the Facebook app, or the Amazon MP3 app running when they don’t use them. I’ve seen people slam Google over these apps claiming they know better than the thousands of people who work on Android. Lets just say you could use them from time to time if you’re running into major issues, but for the better part of users you can live without a Task Manager app.

If you’re interested, you can read more here: http://geekfor.me/faq/you-shouldnt-be-using-a-task-killer-with-android/

So in summary, don’t bother with them.

The docks rock

Yes, it’s well worth grabbing a Desktop Dock, and a Car Dock if you travel regularly.

The way the Desk Dock works by the three little pins on the underside of the phone. It automatically turns on bluetooth and links the N1 to the Dock for streaming music to it. It doesn’t even have to be plugged in to stream music via bluetooth, which is absolutely awesome!

It also automatically changes the screen on your N1 to show the Clock, with easy access to turn it into a picture frame amongst other things. When you install the likes of Lightning Bug (mentioned below) it allows you to make launching Lightning Bug the default action when it’s docked.

Here’s a bit more of a review on the docks:

http://www.androidcentral.com/review-nexus-one-desktop-dock

Your SD card is upgradable

It might sound obvious but you’re not stuck with the standard amount of storage that came with the phone.

You have two methods of upgrading (I personally did it the first way, because I have a card-reader in my PC):

  1. Shut down the phone, take the SD card out, plug it into your PC. Copy everything off then take the card out. Plug in the new one and put all the files onto it. Safely eject it,  pop it into your phone, power it on. Easy!
  2. Plug your phone into your PC via USB Cable and on the phone tell “Turn on USB storage”. Copy the files across. Safely eject it, then on your phone tell it that its ejected. Shut down the phone and swap the cards. Power it up and connect it to your PC. Copy the files across then safely eject the phone. All done :-)

Screenshots, because everybody likes pictures:

Live wallpapers wont kill your battery life & you can actually check what’s utilizing your battery

I’ve found live wallpapers use around 2-3% of my battery. Considering I use it for a few hours on a full charge plus 8-9 hours on standby, it equates to about 5 mins battery life. I couldn’t care less personally.

Which brings me to a useful feature, checking what’s utilizing your battery!

From your home screen, press the Menu button, then Settings. Go down the bottom to About Phone, and then Battery Use.

You can look into each individual aspect of what is utilizing your battery, incredibly useful we thought! More-so than any task manager is!!

You can see I’d been plugging it in and out quite a bit while taking the screenshots, so it’s not quite the best demonstration, but it’ll give you an idea. It gets even better when you’ve been using Live Wallpapers, Music, Phone calls etc.

Wireless Tethering

Almost as though it was a direct slap in the fact for iPhone / iPad users, rather than being restricted to JUST tethering via USB to your laptop for example, you can share your Cellphones connection via WiFi. This was demo’d by hooking up a WiFi-only iPad to a Nexus One when Google first showed this off at their Google I/O Conference.

Basically it takes your internet connection from your phone and shares it wirelessly, making your phone a portable wireless hotspot.

From your home screen, press Menu –> Settings –> Wireless & network settings –> Tethering & portable hotspot

Once you’re there you can tick “Portable Wi-Fi hotspot” and your phone will do some magic in the background and set itself up as “AndroidAP”. Then if you have a nearby laptop, you can check in your available nearby wireless networks and you should see your phones wireless now appear!

You can also adjust the settings and password-protect your wireless network so strangers don’t start using it.

This way you don’t have to pay for a secondary 3G connection for your laptop / data stick / iPad for example. You can simply have one single connection on your main Cellphone SIM and potentially save yourself money while getting a “bigger” plan with a much higher data allowance. Brilliant!!

Awesome applications you probably want to check out

Have to recommend some of my favorite applications and get you kick-started.

Not only are many of these useful, but some of them allow you to put your friends with iPhones to *shame*, with that cool factor that they can only dream about!

ChompSMS

It’s a nice improvement over the regular SMS application. On-screen popup notifications, customizable ball-color notifications, a nice 4×2-sided Widget. It comes in a free version, but you can pay a couple of dollars and get it Ad-free. For the couple of bucks, why not, it’s worth supporting the developers I thought. Highly recommended (Both free or paid versions):

You can also remove the notifications from the default SMS app so you don’t get double-up. And no, you don’t need to worry about performance either! :-)

3G Watchdog

This superb application will keep track of all your 3G Data transfer. Simply punch in when your month starts, how much you have per-month, and it works out all the rest. It even tells you how much you’ll have used by your months end if you keep up your current use. You have the option of having a Widget on your home screen, and I find it nicely compliments the on-going notification:

This app is free from the Android Marketplace!

One thing to keep in mind is that the Widget only updates every 3 minutes by default I believe, this is to keep CPU usage to a minimum :-)

Nexus One LED Flashlight

OK so this is really specific to the Nexus One, but from what I gather there are other devices out there that either have similar applications, or that this works with.

If you’ve owned an iPhone or the likes, you’re no doubt familiar with the “Flashlight” applications that turn your screen bright white. That’s all very well and good, but when you have an uber-bright LED like the Nexus One, you’re going to feel (As I did) as though you’ve been cheated for the past two years when it comes to Flashlight applications.

This widget sits on your home screen. Just press it once, the LED comes on and the widget changes yellow. Press the widget again and it turns it off. Simple!

This app is also free from the Android Marketplace!

Mario Live Wallpaper

This is quite possibly one of the coolest ever wallpapers you could have.

Mario runs across your background on dynamically generated levels, with dynamic pathing based on what obstacles are in his way. You honestly have to see this to believe it, and it’s well worth the 2% battery life I found it was using.

This screenshot really doesn’t do it justice, but search for it, give it a whirl, and you’ll be very impressed! It’s hard to describe with words, it’s so awesome. Take that iPhone users!

Chrome to Phone

To use Chrome to Phone you need to be running at least Android-2.2 (Froyo). To check this, go to your home screen and press Menu –> Settings –> About Phone, and check the Build Number. If it begins with “FRF”, then you’re running Android 2.2 (Froyo), and you can use Chrome to Phone.

This useful wee app allows you to take any page you have open in your PC, and send it direct to your Phone. Things like a news article you’re reading, or navigation on Google Maps work excellently, and you really need to try it to appreciate how useful it is. It requires the plugin on your PC and phone.

Download the PC plugin here: http://code.google.com/p/chrometophone/

You want to click on the .crx file from within Chrome on your PC, and you want to send the .apk to your phone. Once it’s installed on both, you need to login to both with the same gmail account, and this won’t work if you have a custom Google Apps for your Domain login (currently), it has to be @gmail.com.

Once both are installed, from your PC you simply click on the little Phone icon and usually within about 4-5 seconds, that link is on your phone!

If you were on Google Maps, it’ll automatically load up the mapping application and direct you to the location you had open on your PC. It’s freakin cool and you’ll be surprised by how often you use it.

Lightning Bug

If you’ve ever tried any of the iPhone apps such as Ambience or Asleep, you’ll appreciate this.

Lightning Bug plays rain / thunder / lightning, amongst other things. It also flashes the lightning in time with the thunder rolls (marginally before it) which is pretty cool!

Above, is the main screen. It’s black, because when the lightning strikes you’ll see it light up. Because it flashes so quickly it was impossible for me to take a screenshot of :-(

There are additional “scenes” which you can purchase such as a beach with waves, but I’m a big fan of just the rain.
Also, if you have the desktop dock, you can program your phone to launch it automatically when you put it in the cradle. This occurs the first time you dock it after you have installed the app.

RockPlayer

This app allows you to play videos in a variety of formats.

Personally I’ve used it to play Music Videos which I bought through the iTunes Store back when I had my iPhone, and same for movies. It plays AVI files, MP4, MKV, WMV, MPG, and supports both DivX / XviD and h.264 video.
I can honestly say that compared to my old iPhone 3G, video on my Nexus One is a million times more vivid and better looking!

Replica Island

Every Android owner should try this. One of the oldest and better games available for the Android OS, its easy to pick up, not super challenging, but still fun.

It also makes nice use of the trackball to control the Android in this great platform game.

If you’ve ever had a spare moment where you’ve sat in the doctors office or something along those lines, then Replica Island will certainly help pass the time.

Flickie Wallpapers HD

This is where I got my cool background from. There’s a sweet collection wallpapers there to suit any style / preference / mood.

Just browse through either their top wallpapers, or they group them by similar themes .

Adobe Flash

Yes! You can install Adobe Flash on your phone if you’re running Android-2.2 (Froyo).

If you install Flash from the Marketplace, you’ll be able to go to the likes of TVNZ OnDemand ( http://www.tvnz.co.nz/video ) as well as a myriad of other flash-enabled websites:

When you close the browser, or have another app in the foreground, it appears to pause all the plugins. So, if you were hoping to buffer up that whole show in the background before playing it back, it isn’t going to happen. It’s a nice feature that will no doubt prevent battery drain!

In closing

Hopefully this has given you a bit of a taste for some of the cool things that your new phone / tablet can do. There are endless possibilities out there, if you’ve found something super awesome that you’d like to share then feel free to leave a comment and say so. If you’ve also found this in any way useful or educational, then please leave a quick note to say so :-)

Also, if you’ve got yourself a Nexus One, I’d highly recommend checking out the following 5 short videos, made by Google, about the Nexus One concept, design, testing & manufacturing process. Well worth checknig them out!!

Android, Android Market, Google, HTC Desire, iOS,


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