Switching to Android: A Quick Start Guide

It’s no secret that Android is an increasingly popular platform. In fact, over 700,000 new Android devices are activated daily! Many of these are from people who are switching to Android from Blackberry, iOS, or webOS. If you’re on of them, then this “Quick Start Guide” is for you. It is designed to give you a quick overview of the Android platform, and then point you in the right direction for learning more! So, what are you waiting for? Read on to get started… 

Intro to Android

Android is unique in that it can look surprisingly different depending on the brand of phone or tablet you have. This is because Google builds the basic operating system, and the various manufacturers are free to customize it as they see fit. They all run Android at their core, but HTC has Sense, Motorola has Blur (though they seem to be phasing that name out), and Samsung has Touchwiz, to name the main ones.

Despite various customizations, however, there are certain Android features that are consistent across brands. Nearly every Android phone has four main navigation buttons: Back, Menu, Home, and Search. Back brings you back one step in an app, or back a page in a browser. Menu brings up additional options for an app or your Android home screens.  Home takes you to the main home screen. And Search brings up the search bar, either within an app or globally.

Another basic Android feature is Widgets. Widgets are essentially “mini-apps” that provide at-a-glance details. Popular widgets include clocks, weather forecasts, speed dial contacts, calendars, and more. You can arrange widgets across multiple home screens on your Android device, designing a layout that fits your style.

Finally, every Android device has a notification bar at the top of the screen. Swipe down from the top and you’ll be presented with a list of all current notifications. A single tap will take you to an email, text message, calendar event, etc. This menu is accessible from any app and is the fastest way to see what you missed while you were away.

Must Have Apps

In today’s digital world, most smartphones are only as good as the apps you put on them. On Android, Google has built in the Android Market to facilitate this. There, you’ll find thousands of great apps that you can install on your phone or tablet – some free, some paid. Finding the best ones, however, can be a bit overwhelming.

To that end, Google has created convenient ways to search and browse the most popular apps. Additionally, there are countless blogs and sites dedicated to the latest and greatest Android apps.

To get you started, however, we’ve included a list of our “must-have” apps below. Click the links to check them out in the Android Market.

Dropbox (free) – A simple, yet powerful app for storing files in the cloud. Add a file from you computer, have it on your Android in an instant. And every account comes with 2GB of storage for free!

Evernote (free) – Evernote is a universal note taking app. Keep notes from your Android, your computer, and even your browser all synced up. It’s fast, free, and easy to use.

DejaOffice (free) – Transform your Android into a powerful business device! DejaOffice adds business class contacts, calendars, tasks, and memos to Android phones and tablets. Purchase the optional sync component on your computer and you can sync with Outlook, ACT!, Salesforce, and more.

ReadItLater (free/$4.99) – Don’t have time to read that interesting article right now? Save it to ReadItLater, then enjoy reading it on your phone when you have a little downtime. Never miss a great article again.

Kik Messenger (free) – One of the best ways to chat with friends, family, and peers without using text messages. Kik Messenger is similar to BlackBerry Messenger, and it’s available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and even BlackBerry. So skip the text message plan – use Kik!

Next Steps

We’ve only touched the beginning of what Android has to offer. There’s a wealth of information out there and much more to discover. The above information should be enough to get you up to speed on what Android is all about. For those who want to keep learning, we recommend the great resources below:

Android.com – Google’s own website for the Android OS
Android Central – A great source for Android news, reviews, & more (be sure to check out their “Android 101” series)
Phandroid – Another great source for Android new & reviews
Droid Life – One more of our favorite Android blogs
The Android Dictionary – A glossary of Android terms from Android Central
The Android Forums – The place to go with your Android questions
Getting Started with Android – A seriously thorough guide to getting started with Android (it’s a bit older, but still quite relevant)
Understanding Android Contacts – This infographic helps clarify just how Android’s contact system works

That’s all for now. We hope you enjoy your new Android phone! And if you found this post helpful, let us know in the comments below.

Switching to Android: A Quick Start Guide was last updated December 22nd, 2011 by David

4 thoughts on “Switching to Android: A Quick Start Guide

  1. I’m about as “smartphone stupid” as they come but I’ve pulled the trigger on a Bionic and want to know if there is an app that gives me all the functionality of my MS Outlook on my laptop/PC. Can I use the e-mail function of Outlook or am I relegated to transferring everything to my new gmail account? Also, can I sync updated contacts/calendar info back and forth between the Bionic and my laptop??

    • Bruce,

      CompanionLink doesn’t do email (but you should be able to set that up just fine in the built-in email app on the Bionic). We do, however, sync contacts, calendars, tasks, notes, and categories between Outlook and the Bionic. And you can sync in a variety of ways – from direct USB to WiFi and more. Learn more at http://www.companionlink.com/android and let me know if you have any other questions!

    • CompanionLink does not currently have a Mac compatible version. We’re working on that, though. Sign up at http://www.companionlink.com/mac/ to receive updates on our progress. 

      And on a related note, we are able to sync with the Galaxy Note on the PC for those interested.