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 whove just picked up their first Android smartphone, and probably have some questions, including something like What is Android? Today, well 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. Lets get started! What is Android? Android isnt a phone, or an application, but is an operating system based on Linux, similar to Windows 8 or Mac OS that youd 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, its all Android. Googles original version of Android, that on which all manufacturers add their overlays, is commonly referred to as stock Android. Getting started Before we begin, its 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. Starting at the beginning, there are a few steps youll need to do to set up your Android device. When you switch on the device for the first time, youll 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 havent put one in yet, the next screen will ask you to insert a SIM card. Dont worry if you dont have one around, you can skip this step and continue with the setup, and add a SIM card to the device later. Up next, you will be given the option to select a Wi-Fi network. If youre 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 youre 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, youll be asked whether you have an existing Google account. If youre unsure, remember that if you use Gmail, the answer is yes. If you dont 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 youll 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. Next, youll 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. Its entirely up to you about what options youd 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 youve added a Google account, your first and last name should already be stored. Finally, at the end, youll 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 youll need, and you should definitely give it a shot. And were done! The homescreen From left to right: stock Android 4.4 on the Nexus 5, Motos UI on the Moto X, and Touchwiz Android 4.3 on the Galaxy Note 3 Once youve 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. 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, youll 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. 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. Left to right: Google Now screen, stock homescreen, stock app drawer If youve 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 youre using. Again, to return the main screen from an app, press the home button. Thats 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 thats why were 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!