[Back to Basics] What Is Android?

Discussion in 'Android Tablet Q&A' started by Spider, Dec 30, 2013.

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  1. Spider

    Spider Administrator Staff Member

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    by Ankit Banerjee on December 30, 2013 6:00 am



    With the global market share of the Android OS already at nearly 80% and set to grow steadily, there are a lot of new users who’ve just picked up their first Android smartphone, and probably have some questions, including something like “What is Android?”

    Today, we’ll be starting a new series of videos which should help you, or someone you know who is new to this OS, get started with Android. This is Part 1 of our Back to Basics Android video series. Let’s get started!

    What is Android?[​IMG]
    Android isn’t a phone, or an application, but is an operating system based on Linux, similar to Windows 8 or Mac OS that you’d find on your PC. In very simple terms, a mobile OS is where your phone functions, and where smartphone applications live. Everything you see on the display of your device is a part of the operating system. When you get a call, text message, or email, the OS processes that information and puts it in a readable format.

    The Android OS is divided into various version numbers, implying significant jumps in features, operation, and stability, which usually have codenames. So, if you hear someone say Android Jelly Bean or KitKat, that is just the name of the version of Android you might have on your device.

    Most modern smartphones and tablets will feature Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), Android 4.1/2/3 (Jelly Bean), or the latest version, Android 4.4 (Kitkat), while older devices and some low-end ones may run on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) or Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).

    Most Android device manufacturers, such as Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Sony, and numerous others, usually have a skin on top of the OS. These UI overlays usually include additional design aspects and features that are meant to enhance the Android experience, while also helping to differentiate between devices from different OEMs. So, while you may see names like Samsung Touchwiz, HTC Sense, Motorola MotoBlur, and others, underneath, it’s all Android. Google’s original version of Android, that on which all manufacturers add their overlays, is commonly referred to as stock Android.

    Getting started

    Before we begin, it’s important to note that the steps shown in the video are done using a device running stock Android, that is, without an UI overlay. There may be a few differences between your device and what is shown in the video, but the options and settings are similar, and should be easy to follow along.

    [​IMG]

    Starting at the beginning, there are a few steps you’ll need to do to set up your Android device. When you switch on the device for the first time, you’ll be greeted with a Welcome screen, where you will have to select a language. Scroll up or down to make your selection, and then go to next step by tapping the arrow/play button.

    If you haven’t put one in yet, the next screen will ask you to insert a SIM card. Don’t worry if you don’t have one around, you can skip this step and continue with the setup, and add a SIM card to the device later.

    [​IMG]

    Up next, you will be given the option to select a Wi-Fi network. If you’re in the range of a Wi-Fi network, we recommend connecting to it, as the setup wizard may sync your Google information on the device, which takes some time, and more importantly, requires data. Once again, you can skip this step as well if you’re not around a Wi-Fi network, and sync your device later. If you can connect to one, do so by tapping on the name that shows up on the list of available networks, and enter the password.

    On the next screen, you’ll be asked whether you have an existing Google account. If you’re unsure, remember that if you use Gmail, the answer is yes. If you don’t have one, we recommend signing up. Having a Google account will make your Android experience a lot easier. Having a Google account setup on your smartphone or tablet will give you easy to access to all Google apps including Gmail, the Play Store, Calendar, Google+, and more, without needing to sign in each and every time. You can sign up for a Google account on your PC or from the phone directly.

    If you have a Google account ready, tap on “yes,” after which you’ll be prompted to enter your email address and password. On a side note, if you need to enter numbers, you can get to the numbers on the keyboard by pressing the “?123″ button, which will take you to the number layout. To return to the previous layout, press the “abc” button, which will be in the same location.

    [​IMG]

    Next, you’ll be able to set up some key Google services, which by default, are all selected. First is “Backup and Restore,” which will let you back up all your information including downloads and contacts, which will then allow you to easily restore this information on a secondary, or future Android device, easily. All the information backed up is associated with the Google account you entered in the previous step.

    The second and third options are with regards to your location. It’s entirely up to you about what options you’d like to select. Location services may be important, since some apps may require this information to work accurately, such as yellow pages, and Google Maps. This options can be accessed in the Settings menu at a later time, if you change your mind. Finally, you will be asked whether you would like to receive emails about news and offers from Google Play. Now you can add a device name, and personalize it. If you’ve added a Google account, your first and last name should already be stored.

    Finally, at the end, you’ll see a couple of slides explaining one of the latest, and very useful, features of Android, Google Now. Google Now gives you information based on your activities, allowing you to set up home and office locations to show commute info such as traffic, weather, travel info, and upcoming games and live scores of your favorite sports teams. It serves a centralized hub for all the information you’ll need, and you should definitely give it a shot.

    And we’re done!

    The homescreen

    [​IMG]From left to right: stock Android 4.4 on the Nexus 5, Moto’s UI on the Moto X, and Touchwiz Android 4.3 on the Galaxy Note 3

    Once you’ve completed the simple steps to set up your device, you will arrive at the homescreen. At the top of the screen is the notification bar, which includes icons for any pending notifications you may have, such as missed calls, messages, emails, Facebook alerts, and even game alerts, to the left, along with icons to indicate connection and strength of your mobile network, Wi-Fi network, battery level, and time, to the right. You can access the notifications by swiping down from the top. Once the notification center is open, you can swipe the notification away, or press the notification to open the corresponding app.

    [​IMG]

    In this notification bar, you can also access some quick toggles, depending on which version of Android your device runs, and also the UI overlay. For example, on some skins, such as Touchwiz, the toggles are available at the top of the notification center itself, while on stock Android or HTC Sense, you’ll need to tap the “More” button at the top right corner. You can simply press the icons to launch or turn on and off different settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, airplane mode, and more.

    At the bottom of the screen, you will see the dock, which includes several icons. These icons will be available on every homescreen window. You can choose which apps to include in the dock, and should ideally be those that you use frequently.

    Depending on your device, below the dock you might have a navigation bar, made up of a “back” button (takes you back to the previous screen), a “home” button (takes you to the homescreen), and a “last accessed apps” button (shows the apps that you have opened recently). Stock Android, some LG devices, Sony devices and some others have this navigation bar. Other devices, such as Samsung Galaxy phones and HTC phones, have physical buttons below the screen, instead of the on-screen navigation bar, that usually have the same functionality.

    [​IMG]
    The Galaxy S3 on the left has a physical button, while the Nexus 4 has an on-screen navigation bar

    To move between homescreens, just swipe from left to right. When you reach the end, the will no longer move to the next screen, unless you have infinite scroll on. You can also see dots that correspond to which screen you are located on. Pressing the home button takes you back to main screen.

    [​IMG]Left to right: Google Now screen, stock homescreen, stock app drawer

    If you’ve just picked up a Nexus 5, that runs Android 4.4 KitKat and features the Google Experience Launcher, swiping to the left from the main screen will take you into Google Now. You can swipe out of it, or press the home button to return to the main screen. There are specific ways to access Google Now on other devices, depending on the OEM, and can also be selected by you in the Settings.

    To launch an application, all you need to do is tap on the app icon. All your apps can be accessed in the app drawer (the center icon in the dock), and you may have some apps available on the homescreen by default, depending on what device you’re using. Again, to return the main screen from an app, press the home button.

    That’s all for now! As amazing and fun as Android is, first time users may take a while to figure things out and get used, and that’s why we’re here to help. Stay tuned as we continue to to guide you through the world of Android the next episode of Back to Basics Android!
     
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  2. Spider

    Spider Administrator Staff Member

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    by Ankit Banerjee on January 4, 2014 8:56 pm



    Welcome to Part two of our “What is Android? Back to Basics series, where we attempt to help you find your way around your new Android smartphone or tablet. You don’t need to be a computer scientist, but the numerous features and abilities of this OS do take some getting used to. In Part one, we talked about what Android is, getting started and setting up your Android device, and the basic features and functionality of the Homescreen. If you’ve missed Part one, you can find it here.

    Today, in the second edition of the series, we’ll go into a more detailed explanation of the user interface, and how you can set up the homescreen and UI just the way you like it. Let’s get started!

    General Navigation

    [​IMG]

    While some OEMs still add physical buttons (or just one Home button, like Samsung and LG) or capacitive buttons (HTC), modern smartphones and tablets feature touch-based interfaces, and general navigation around your Android device is done via vertical and horizontal swipes, taps, pinching, and long presses. Depending on the device you chose, you may see a different skin or launcher, that feature differing capabilities from each other. But in general, navigation across multiple Android devices is almost the same. A swipe from the top of the screen opens your notification center. Swiping left and right lets you move between homescreens, tapping an icon opens that corresponding app, and every launcher has a quick and easy way, in most cases an easily accessible icon in the dock, to launch the Application Drawer (more about the App Drawer below).

    Application Icons and the App Drawer

    [​IMG]

    Unlike some mobile operating systems, on Android, you won’t find every application icon on the homescreens of your device. Instead, you will an Application Drawer icon, generally found in the Dock Icons section, that will launch a menu that includes all your apps, in a grid view. The App Drawer can be navigated by swiping horizontally or vertically, depending on which device and launcher you’re using.

    Application Icons on the homescreen is exactly what you’d expect – an icon of a particular application, which can be launched by tapping the icon. Too add an icon to the homescreen, find the app in the app drawer, press and hold the icon, and simply “drop” it on the homescreen. Pressing and holding an app icon also gives you the option to uninstall the app, or view application info, again, depending on which device and launcher you use.

    Widgets

    [​IMG]

    One of the standout features of Android smartphones and tablets are widgets. If you’re a new Android user, the obvious question you may have is “What is a widget?” The simple explanation is that a widget is a graphical element that you can add on your homescreen, that offers data at a glance. For example, if you add a sports score widget, you can follow the scores of your favorite sports teams from the homescreen, without needing to launch the application. Similarly, you can browse through your latest emails, Google+ posts, Facebook posts, news headlines, and control your music player, right from the home screen.

    Adding a widget is a simple process. On the home screen press and hold on a blank spot. A menu will pop-up that allows you the option to add applications, shortcuts, and widgets, to your homescreen. Once again, this may vary according to your launcher, but it does work in most cases. In some devices, widgets can be accessed and added directly from the application drawer.

    The widget picker shows the size of the widget prior to plopping it down onto your home screen. Press and hold your choice to drop it on the home screen. Press and hold the widget “box” to resize it. The grid size on the Nexus 5 launcher, called the Google Experience Launcher, is 4×4. On most of the newer smartphones, the grid size in general is 4×4 as well. But, some OEM launchers as well as third party launchers allow you to manually change the grid size.

    [​IMG]

    Shortcuts

    Shortcuts are direct actions within an application. Examples of shortcuts include Direct Dial, that allows you to call a person directly from the homescreen by tapping the icon, Direct Message, a particular option in the Settings, preset or frequently used directions on Google Maps, and more. Shorcuts help in saving time by removing the few additional taps you may need.

    Shortcuts can be added the same way as widgets, that is, by long pressing on the homescreen, and choosing the “Shortcuts” option. You can then select the shortcut you want, and link it to a particular person (in case of direct dial or message) or action (in the settings). Shortcuts can save you time – but not many users use them. It’s the beauty of Android – it really is all up to you to set it up as you like.

    Folders

    [​IMG]

    Another great way to organize your applications is to create a folder. All you need to do is drag one icon on top of another, and this will create a folder with both apps in it. You can then add more apps directly from the folder menu (if available), or be dragging and dropping more apps into the folder manually. Once the folder is created, you can move the icons around in the folder itself, as well as name the folder.

    Dock Icons

    What the Dock Icons are were explained in Part one, and it’s quite simple to add and remove icons from the Dock. All you need to do is drag and drop an icon into the Dock, making it a part of the icons that you will see on every homescreen. Most launchers allow the availability of only 5 such app icons in the dock, including the Application Drawer. Some third party launchers do feature scrollable docks as well. If you’re hoping to include more than just 4 applications in the dock, you can add folders as well.

    Notification Bar

    [​IMG]

    The bar at the top of the display of your Android device can show several icons like bluetooth, Wi-fi, network signal, NFC, and other various system settings, depending on whether they are turned on, or active. The time, network signal strength, and battery life icon are always displayed.

    [​IMG]

    On the left side of the notification bar is where you will find your notifications. Notifications can be divided into two categories – Persistent and Standard. Persistent notifications stay on the bar and in the notification center the whole time, and cannot be swiped away or cleared. These notifications are generally to show and keep the active status of a particular app, such as anti-virus application. Standard notifications are what you see when you receive a new text message, email, hangout chat, missed call, amd more. Some notifications, such as Gmail notifications, can be expanded in the notification center itself, allowing for a preview of the content. Pinching the notification, or pressing and holding, and then sliding down opens up the expanded view.

    That’s all for now! As amazing and fun as Android is, first time users may take a while to figure things out and get used, and that’s why we’re here to help. Stay tuned as we continue to to guide you through the world of Android the next episode of Back to Basics Android!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 29, 2014
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  3. Spider

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