Jumper- A Beginners Guide to Android

Welcome:

So you finally did it, you finally decided to jump from your mobile OS to Android. Well let me be the first to welcome you and share a little pearl of wisdom; You’ve been handed a blank slate, half the battle is figuring out what you want to draw on it. That statement may not make sense to you now, but I hope it will when your finished reading this guide.  Since there are so many “flavors” of Android; I will be writing from the perspective of a stock build.  The stock build, (or very close to it) can only be found on the Google Nexus, Google Play Edition and 2013 Motorola brand of devices.  You could also obtain the stock version of Android by “Rooting” your device, but that’s a world and an article outside what we will cover here.    So lets jump right in shall we?

The Homescreen:

Once you hold down that power button you will be graced by a splash screen which will kick you right into a screen requesting your Google Account login information.  Once you work your way through your login and Wi-Fi information you will be greeted with your new Homescreen.  It will look like this:

JB Homescreen

So, unlike iOS where it’s a grid of icons with each representing an application of some type, Android takes a different approach. From bottom to top, left to right, you have three on screen buttons in the black bar below that will always be present regardless of which app you’re in.  Don’t worry if your watching media, they fade away to ensure your media watching experience isn’t obscured.  

Universal Back Button - The back button does exactly what it sounds like it does, it takes you backward to your previous screen or action regardless of where you are or what your doing. This button is truly a godsend as when I was in iOS, sure I had a “Home Button” but that would always take me back to the Homescreen.  In iOS where the back button is placed in different locations depending on the app; the consistent approach in Android is a much better way to implement this feature.

Home Button - Take me home! Well, that’s what this button does.  If you think of iOS, this button is will always take you back to your Homescreen.  As a matter of fact since Android gives you 5 Homescreens to build as you wish; If you ever want to get back to your primary Homescreen push this button and it will send you back there.

Recent Apps Button - So doing a comparison here with iOS.  In iOS you have to double click the home button to see your most recent apps, well Android has a different approach and has basically dedicated a button to that function.  When you tap this button you will be presented with a card like view of your most recent apps.  From this screen you have three options.  You can scroll up and down the list to see what you’ve opened recently, you can swipe any card left or right to “Kill” it and free up some ram (though you don’t really have to do this because Android manages this all for you) or you can use what most of us power users, use this for app switching. If you see an app you want to dive into simply tap the card and off you go.  This is the best way to jump from one app to another without having to go back to your App Drawer (more on that later).  

Dock - Above the black bar near the dock. Your dock is the constant in your life. It’s the one element that follows you across all your Homescreens.  So, like iOS make sure you put your most used apps in this section.  From left to right we have Camera, Chrome, App Drawer, Messaging and Phone.  We are all very smart folks so I won’t go elementary school here, I will leave it to you to figure out the apps; but I will speak to the App Drawer because this concept was foreign to me as an iOS user.    

Notifications:

Notifications  - At the top of the screen you will see a second black bar. This bar will always display icons for app notifications on the left, while displaying status indicators on the right. In the example from left to right at a glance you would know as a user that you have a notification from the Gallery and Play Store apps. On the right, you would see your sound is muted, and you have great Wi-Fi strength, you have no cell connection, your battery is charging and that it’s 10:52. That’s a ton of information on a screen eh? We have not gotten to the good part yet.  So do me a favor; take that pointer finger of yours and swipe downward from the top of the screen to the bottom and let’s dig a little deeper.

jb notifications

So above is an example of what you might see in your notification shade (Yes I know it doesn’t match the previous screen).  So above your notifications at the top from left to right you have the time and date. A settings button (Which only appears in 4.1 and below) and a dismiss all button for your notifications.  If you want to dismiss them one by one simply swipe them away from left to right like you did with your Recent Apps.

In the above example you also see that you have an appointment. This is what’s called an Expanded Notification, when a notification is expanded by a (two finger swipe) down motion.  The app will expand showing you more information, and sometimes you will have the ability to take an action on that notification without having to go into the application. In the example above you are being reminded of an appointment.  The notification is giving you the ability to snooze that notification so it’s not disturbing you.  Other notifications like the weather notification are simply informational notifications that will appear from Google Now.  When you tap that weather notification it will give you the full weather for the day, very useful eh?

Quick Settings:

In Jelly Bean 4.2 we got Quick Settings, which is a blessing to Android users.  So take two finger, and from your home screen swipe from top to bottom and you should get this screen.

quick settings

In Quick Settings you have quick access to your most used settings. I won’t go through them cause you can see them in the picture but I will give you a tip.  You can toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Off and On with a long press.  The other settings are a simple click to manipulate the setting.

That icon on the top right, the one that looks like a stack of books.  That icon when you when pressed will send you back to the notifications screen.  On the notifications screen if your running (4.2) you will see an icon that looks like the quick settings screen.  If you press that, it will send you Quick Settings.

The App Drawer:

App Drawer - So that icon of the white circle with the six dots is your App Drawer.  Android handles things a bit differently than iOS with respect to app management. iOS puts everything front and center and gives you the option to create folders to try to keep your apps in some semblance of order while it obscures that beautiful picture of your pet in the background; It looks something like this.  Android takes the approach of giving you the option to customize your Homescreen as you wish, so it moves all those icons into a separate area this is your App drawer it looks like this.

app drawer

I know what you’re thinking, “What the hell just happened, Wha? Why!”. It’s ok, calm down.  If you feel overwhelmed just hit that Back or Home button to go back to your uncluttered Homescreen; just understand if you want to access all your apps you will find them here.  But lets continue on like you didn’t just freak out ok? Welcome to iOS, your App Drawer is essentially iOS in a nutshell. It’s a 5x5 grid of icons that upon a simple tap will take you into the applicable app so you can get your business done, or is it?  Well, you remember that Homescreen? In order to add app icons to the Homescreen you will have to drag them by long pressing on the icon and then dragging from the App Drawer to the applicable Homescreen. But before we get to that point; lets talk navigation.  This time we will start at the top of the screen moving from left to right.

Apps - This is simply a title that signals where you are in the App Drawer.  If you swipe from right to left you will navigate from one page of Apps to the other and yes they are in alphabetical order so don’t worry.  Sooner or later you will get a page that looks like this.

jbwidgets

Widgets - This is your widgets page and one of the biggest differences between iOS and Android.  As you can see under the Widgets label you have a pretty blue line to signify what page you’re on. Widgets are not apps, widgets are designed to give you information from apps so that you don’t have to log into the app itself to get the information that’s relevant to you.  This is especially helpful with Weather, RSS, Banking, Email, Text, Twitter.  Hell it’s helpful with ALL apps ok, there I said it.  Widgets are friggin genius and why iOS doesn’t have them boggles my mind. In order to place a widget on a Homescreen it’s the same application as the apps.  Simply long press on the widget and don’t let go until you get to the Homescreen and location you want to set it to.  Remember, Widgets come in many shapes and sizes so they may or may not fit on the Homescreens depending on what’s already there. Android will do it’s best to accommodate you by shifting your app icons and other widgets about to give you a fit but if it can’t it won’t let you place the widget.  

Resizable Widgets - Some widgets are resizable, you will know they are resizable because once you place them you will see a blue square with arrows surround the widget.  When you contract or expand the corners you will see the widget change shape and size.  Many popular apps have resizable widgets and they are great for themeing your devices to suit your needs.

Play Store - So if you’ve been paying attention or are particularly observant you may have noticed that shopping bag icon on the far right staring at you.  If you tap that icon you will be transported to the Google Play Store which is where you can buy or download Books, Movies, Magazines and Apps. Navigation in the Play Store is pretty simple so I will leave that little adventure to you.   

Customizing Your Homescreen:

So we are back to that Homescreen again and it’s time to bring it all together. By using the techniques outlined above like dragging and dropping from the App Drawer to the Homescreen you may end up with something like this.

jb homescreen

If you want something  fancy you can do something like this.
One Cold Night

Favorite Apps:

As an iOS user I had apps that I used everyday and in when I moved I thought I may lose these apps and the functionality the provided. Well, I was wrong.  Android more than made up the difference. So look at those iOS Apps and their Android counterparts.

iTunes - This was replaced with Google Music.  When you get your shiny Android you can transfer your music from iTunes to Google through the cloud and Google makes this very easy. First things first. Go to Google Music Manager and download this application to your computer. Once you open it follow the instructions it provides to move your music over to Google cloud. Don’t worry your music will still stay in your iTunes as well. The beauty of the music manager is once it’s done uploading your music your Google Play Music app will immediately update with all the music your sent, yes it’s magic.

Movies - No you cannot transfer any of the movies you downloaded from the Play Store to Google. Its a said case of DRM and yes I hate it as much as you do but that’s the breaks. You can still enjoy your movies on your computer through iTunes though so theres that.

Reddit - Ok you may not be as much of a Reddit user as I am but but Alien Blue for iOS was a killer app for me. When I moved to Android I had a hard time finding a Reddit app that I would love as much. But never fear I actually found three Reddit apps that provide an experience superior to Alien Blue.

Reddit Sync - Beautiful, Minimal and Functional.

Reddit is Fun - Worst name ever, but this is truly a full featured reddit app with the traditional layout you have come to love.

Reddit News - Features, Features and more Features. This app is also awesome to look at and did I mention features?

iWork Suite - If you were an iWorker like I was. You will love Google Docs. It’s simple easy to navigate and it syncs to all your devices. The other added bonus is you can access it from any computer out there because it’s through Google.

Find My iPhone - Android has this as well it’s the called Android Device Manager not as catchy is it? But when we talk about function accessibility and ease of use it’s excellent. Make sure you enable the function to remote wipe your device through the Google Settings App. Once in the Google Settings App go to Android Device Manager and check Remote Locate this device and Allow remote lock and factory reset functions. Now your all set with your security.

File Manager - File management was something I didn’t have to worry about on iOS and honestly it’s something you really don’t have to worry about on Android unless your someone like me who themes their device everyday. But if you want a file manager you can’t go wrong with any of these two. ES File Explorer or Solid Explorer

File Clean-Up - Now of course you can get rid of apps and files on your phone by long pressing them and dragging them to the trash can. But what about freeing up RAM and just basic maintenance? Well, for me I swear by Clean Master. This app will keep your phone running smoothly and it’s so easy to manage clutter with one click.

Automation - So I didn’t have this option on iOS but it’s here on Android. Want your phone to automatically send text messages when you get to work? Or turn on the bluetooth when you start driving? Well try Tasker or if that’s too difficult try Mini Tasker.

Wallpaper - If your looking for Wallpapers you can try Wallbase or if that’s not enough there is a Google+ community as well as subreddit for wallpapers.

News - The same newsreaders that are on iOS are here on Android. Feedly, Flipboard, Reader. They are all here so nothing to worry about there.

I could go on and on but there are literally tons of apps that are phenomenal on Android. I’m sure once you start looking you won’t miss the Apple App Store one bit.

If your looking for more great tips like this you can check out this article from Techradar as well.

Conclusion:

So we have covered basic android navigation, App Replacement, Notifications and some tips without really going into many of the other things Android offers. This is intentional because based of the “Flavor” of Android your running things may operate a bit differently from phone to phone.  Settings menus for example are different from one phone to the other which is why I did not go into this too heavily. As I said in the beginning, Android is a blank slate; it can be as simple or difficult as you want it to be.  I hope that some of the instructions in this guide help you find your way around a bit.  If you are not using a pure stock build many of the concepts described in this guide apply to the OEM skins from Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC and others. They may be a little different but it’s very similar wherever you go.

As always if you have any questions feel to drop me a line here at Svartling Network or at Google+ at +Jamaar DeBoise. Thanks for reading!