How to get the most out of your Android phone or tablet

Q Awesome Sauce, Geekery, Tech Opinion Leave a Comment

Isn’t he cute?

I was going to make this post about smartphones in general, but decided to focus on Android to give me something more specific to work with.  That being said, a fair amount of the advice that follows applies to ANY smartphone.

The first thing you need is to know what you’re working with.  What operating system does your phone use?  If it’s a Samsung Galaxy device, you’re sporting Android.  If it’s an iPhone, you’re running iOS.  If it’s a Nokia Lumia, you’ve got Windows Phone.

Which operating system you have is an important thing to know, and it should be listed somewhere on the box, in your manual, or in the “About phone” (or something similar) section of your phone settings.

OK, once you’ve got your OS (Operating System) figured out, read on for some smartphone/tablet advice . . .

  1. Remember your phone/tablet is there
    My mom was trying to explain to me where her refigerator was leaking the other day.  I told her to snap a picture with her phone and send it to me via email.  She responded with, “Oh, I keep forgetting I can do that.”  
    This is pretty common.  Your smartphone (or tablet) is your friend, and it can do all sorts of helpful things.For example, say you’re having trouble remembering how many cups are in a quart.  Ask Google!  You literally have Google in your pocket.  Don’t forget it.  On Android, you can use voice search or Google Now to verbally ask, “Google, how many cups in a quart?”  Not only will it give you the answer on an easy-to-read card, but it’ll also speak it to you.
  2. Trust the cloud
    This one is a bit of a leap of faith.  With Android, you always want to keep your contacts tied to your Google account.  Some phones offer to let you simply put them on the phone–don’t do it (unless you really need to keep some contacts a secret).   If you keep ’em on your Google account, when you get a new phone, your contacts are already there (once you sign in to Google).Use Google Drive too.  With it, you can store (and edit) documents, stash information and files, and more.  It’s easy to keep organized, and you don’t have to worry about losing your data.  If you run out of room in your Drive, there are other options out there (I use Box too) or you can buy more.I wouldn’t keep top secret information in the cloud, but I do use it for a lot of stuff.  My novel is stored there so that I can open and edit it on my phone, tablet, computer, work computer, etc.  It’s damn handy.
  3. Fear not the technology in your pocket
    It’s just a phone.  It’s not scary, it’s not as complicated as you think, and it’s unlikely you’ll mess it up beyond repair.  Don’t know what an icon is?  Tap it and find out.  Not sure how to do something?  Try until you get it.The lesson here is not to be afraid to poke that screen.  When you mess up, you learn from it and can move forward.When (and if) you get extremely frustrated, put your device down, walk away, and cool off a bit.  When you’re ready, try again.  I promise, these things are not as difficult as they first appear.Oh, and if you absolutely can’t figure it out, remember, your phone has access to the all-mighty Google.  Look up the problem you’re having, and chances are someone else has had it too.  You’ll find an answer online.
  4. If you don’t like it, change it
    This tip is very Android-centric.  If you’re using an Android device, you’ve got a very customizale gadget in your hands.  If you really like the way your buddy’s Windows Phone works, download a Windows Phone launcher, and try it for yourself.  Like iOS?  We can do that too.  How ’bout BlackBerry?You don’t like your keyboard?  You can change that too.  How about a new lock screen?  I think you get the idea.  Oh, and all of the stuff above is easy to do.  These all install and work just like any other app you’d install from the store.Feeling more adventurous?  You can also root your phone and put new software on it.  Some people are working on full desktop operating systems for their Android devices.  If you’re careful, and follow instructions, rooting is even fairly safe.  There are lots of automated tools to help you do it, and rooting gives you even more freedom in customizing your phone.I’ve had a rooted Android device ever since my first Motorola Droid.  I put Jelly Bean (4.1) on my Samsung Epic 4G even though it didn’t go past Gingerbread (2.3) officially, and got more features and a greater life-span out of that phone as a result.  This was all possible through rooting.If you do decide to root, I strongly recommend very carefully following all of the instructions.  I also recommend using a trusted site like XDA Developers to get those instructions.  Read the documentation (usually first few forum posts) about any ROMs, mod, or toolsets you install.  Read all of it.  It’s not a bad idea to read through the entire thread either.  That way, you’ll get a good idea on how well the ROM/mod is working for other people.
  5. Find ways to integrate your phone into your daily life
    This one sounds a little creepy, but hear me out.  It should be possible for you to find a way to make your phone into a useful part of your daily life–a part that makes your life easier.I’ll give you an example.  I use Google Keep to keep track of the tasks I have to do for work, story ideas I have, and miscellaneous to-do type items.  I use Google Drive to take and store notes at work and I do the same thing with my writing.  Both services work on phones, computers, and tablets.  I don’t even need to be running Android to get to my docs.With these two cloud-based services, I’m able to pull up notes, writing, and stuff I have to do on just about any device.  It doesn’t matter where I am, as long as I have internet access.  It’s like having a grocery list you can’t lose, or an idea you can’t forget.  All you have to do is remember to sign in and type it out.

That’s all for now, but, as always, there’s more to follow!

QHow to get the most out of your Android phone or tablet

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