Thursday , August 17 2017

Welcome to Android: The basics

101

So you got your first Android Phone for Christmas and you’re not really sure where to start. It’s not that scary and we’ll aim to clear up some of the potential confusion for you with some basics. If you’ve come over from the dark side (otherwise known as iOS) you’ll find that there are enough similarities to address the unease of the new look, feel and behaviour of Android vs iOS.

Navigating the Play Store

Since the first version of the Android Market was published the platform has come a very long way. It was never un-friendly to users but now it is far more intuitive than ever before. Regardless of whether you’re using the web interface or the app on your Android device, you will be able to find the apps and entertainment you’re looking for by simply using the search functions available. NB. Both the phone based app and the web interface have the exact same app availability as each other, so it really doesn’t matter which you use.

Paid apps Vs free

One of the regular questions I get from new users to Android is “why pay for an app you can pick up, or one that does the same thing for free?”. While the purpose of this article is not to specifically sell any apps on behalf of developers, the reality is that there are advantages to buying apps vs just grabbing the free versions.

    1. There are no adverts
    2. Extra functionality not available in free versions
    3. You’re supporting developers

 

If you’re checking an app out to figure out how much you’re going to use it, then jumping onto the paid version straight away might not be the best idea. Once you’ve evaluated and decided that this is the app for you, then would be the time to decide if there is a need to pay for it; initially asking yourself how much you’re likely to use the app.

If the main, or potentially only drawback of a “free” version of an app is that there are adverts and you are happy to deal with them popping up on your screen and (when on mobile data vs wifi) using your monthly data allowance then more power to you; I’m not a fan of adverts and i’m pretty happy to pay the few dollars to get rid of them on any app I’m using regularly.

Extra functionality is another bonus that developers use to encourage users to purchase the premium version of apps; everything from disabled yet critical functionality, to notifications being unavailable and even “demo only” versions of apps can be free, then users will see the full capabilities of an application once they’ve given the developer a few of their hard earned dollars.

Finally and frankly the more important of the points here is that you are supporting developers to do their job. Being an app developer can be quite a thankless task at times (having spoken to many of them) and like any business they need to make money. Even the little one man shows who make apps in their spare time away from paid employment need to make money, otherwise they will lose interest very quickly. Personally i’m a big advocate for paying developers for their work, even just to remove ads from an app I use a few times a week – I know if I was putting apps out there I would want to be rewarded for my efforts, wouldn’t you?

By talking about apps we have already touched on it but a mobile phone is not just a phone these days, it’s a working tool to keep your productivity high, it’s an entertainment device and it’s a way to connect to people both by traditional private methods (messaging and calls) but also through the seemingly endless range of apps available. Once you’ve got a basic handle on the Play Store you can start checking out some of these, but here’s a few to get you started.

Basic Apps

To make your Android device more than a phone, you’ll want to get some basic apps installed to make sure that you can.

Social Networking

The metric rise of social media and the increased numbers of smart phones in the market are not a coincidence. The biggest platforms are easily named:

Facebook: The worlds biggest platform, if you’re not on it you’ve undoubtedly heard of it. The app will be the way for you to interface with the social world you know and love, but make sure you take the time to work through the privacy settings (particularly for chat as they broadcast your location by default) and be sure you’re comfortable with the settings.

Facebook
Facebook
Developer: Facebook
Price: Free

Twitter: You’re either into Twitter or you’re not, there really doesn’t seem to be much by way of middle ground. There are a huge number of apps available to connect to Twitter. The official Twitter app; which is free – will give you everything you need from your interactions, but there are some out there that are hugely popular for their interface and functionality differences over the official app.

Twitter
Twitter
Developer: Twitter, Inc.
Price: Free

My personal weapon of choice currently as I really like the interface and the way it behaves. I like the customisable notifications, the interactions page and the ease of operating multiple accounts from a single device.

Falcon Pro 3
Falcon Pro 3
Price: Free+

Plume is a beautiful and completely customizable Twitter app that will revolutionize the way you use Twitter! Brought to you by the authors of the popular Beautiful Widgets, Plume is one of the best Twitter clients for Android!

Plume for Twitter
Plume for Twitter
Developer: UberMedia Inc.
Price: Free

Instagram: Instagram is a simple way to capture and share the world’s moments. Transform your everyday photos and videos into works of art and share them with your family and friends. See the world through somebody else’s eyes by following not only the people you know, but inspirational Instagrammers, photographers, athletes, celebrities and fashion icons.

Instagram
Instagram
Developer: Instagram
Price: Free

Google+ (if you’re into a more technical platform): Get way into what you love on Google+.

• Explore your interests
• Group posts by topic with Collections
• Join communities of people around any topic
• Connect with people who share your interests

Google+
Google+
Developer: Google Inc.
Price: Free

Entertainment

Aside from Social interactions, entertainment is another regular use for mobile phones. Music, Podcasts, Videos and games are all included in this list. Depending on your capability to stop and view versus listening only, your preferred entertainment will differ from the next person but here’s some very popular options to look at.

Podcasts: When it comes to podcasting there’s shows out there for pretty much any subject you can think of. Computers in general, gaming, Android (make sure you subscribe the the Ausdroid Podcast), Mac, Sports of all sorts even sex. All it will take is a quick search inside our favourite podcast application from Shifty Jelly; Pocketcasts.

Pocket Casts
Pocket Casts
Developer: Shifty Jelly
Price: $3.99

Music is pretty high on everyones list of entertainment these day. There is a stack of options available for music streaming, some of them are more versatile than others. A favourite of the Ausdroid team is the Google option, Play Music. Much like the leader of the pack when it comes to streaming music; Spotify – there are free options for both but if you’re going to look at premium streaming options it’s worth the time to take a trial of both and decide for yourself on your preference. The newest player with a big name behind it is without a doubt, Apple Music which (with the Apple name behind it) has already made an impact in the market and they’ll undoubtedly make more in the not too distant future while they have the ability to secure exclusive content.

Google Play Music
Google Play Music
Developer: Google Inc.
Price: Free
Spotify Music
Spotify Music
Developer: Spotify Ltd.
Price: Free+
Apple Music
Apple Music
Developer: Apple Inc.
Price: Free

As bandwidth availability (real bandwidth) increases across Australia, the demand for video services has increased dramatically. You just need to look at ISP data usage since Netflix arrived in Australia to know that people are using streaming services heavily. There’s a few mainstream options out there, but by far the biggest name is Netflix, with a huge range of content to choose from at only a few dollars per month it is quite a good investment for most users. There are also way to gain access to the US based content which gives you access to roughly 10 times the content for the same price.

The other big player in the streaming video content game is Play Movies/TV. With a more traditional user pays for specific content vs the Netflix monthly fee for access to all content, the Play Movies/TV system is great if you have a specific TV show you want to purchase, or a movie you would like to rent. Often offering some really good prices on individual movies or TV series as well so keep your eyes on the Play Store for specials that may interest you.

Google Play Movies & TV
Google Play Movies & TV
Developer: Google Inc.
Price: Free
Netflix
Netflix
Developer: Netflix, Inc.
Price: Free+

Web, News and Productivity

An integral part of a smart phone is the capability to stay productive, connected and informed. It really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that in a Google based platform the recommended web browser is Chrome it integrates well (since its pre-installed) through the Android eco-system and offers the cross platform

Google Chrome: Fast & Secure
Google Chrome: Fast & Secure
Developer: Google Inc.
Price: Free

A busy life often means that people overlook or outright forget things, I know I’m certainly guilty of that (ask my wife!) so initially due to the Ausdroid team using it for task sharing and control, but stayed with it due to the way it worked well within my digital life I have been using Todoist which is a fantastic; truly cross platform task management application.

Todoist: To-Do List, Task List
Todoist: To-Do List, Task List
Developer: Doist
Price: Free+

When you’re carrying this amazing piece of hardware capable of anything you may need day to day, it seems silly to take a notepad and pen with you to take notes, particularly when there are some really good options to save your notes directly to the cloud giving you access to them from any internet connected device. On the Android platform there are two main competitors when it comes to note taking, one is free and one is Freemium: Free options with paid upgrades.

Evernote is the modern workspace that syncs between all of your devices. Work everywhere and stay productive:
• Write notes, checklists, and research
• Organize web articles, docs, and photos
• Discuss your work with others, right within the app

Evernote - stay organized.
Evernote - stay organized.

Quickly capture what’s on your mind and get a reminder later at the right place or time. Speak a voice memo on the go and have it automatically transcribed. Grab a photo of a poster, receipt or document and easily organize or find it later in search. Google Keep makes it easy to capture a thought or list for yourself, and share it with friends and family.

Google Keep
Google Keep
Developer: Google Inc.
Price: Free

The list of apps and options in this article are intended to help you get started but in reality barely scratch the surface; there are many more apps, games and entertainment options available on the Android Platform which you can explore for yourself. There is a lot you can do and achieve with your new smartphone, there are wonderful communities and sites (check in to http://www.ausdroid.net regularly) dedicated to the platform and informing users of developments. Enjoy your new smartphone.

 

Phil Tann   Journalist

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