Newbie Day One Guide - How to Start with your Android Tablet

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Staff member
Sep 24, 2010
  1. I am hoping this post will at least cover enough to get most users from their first power on to first post easily.

    So you have bought your Android Tablet or received it as a gift, or stolen it from the back of the delivery truck, or however you acquired your little toy. Now what? I am not going to go into the history of Android, or talk about specific OS versions, but I will hopefully provide a primer that will get you going in the right direction.

    Day One – Unboxing

    Let’s assume that you are like the majority of people and you are NOT going to read the documentation. Don’t worry, a lot of tablets don’t even come with anything, and a lot of those that do the docs are not particularly good. Here are the basics of what you need (I hope).


    1. Plug it in to the wall to charge it up. Assume that it was at least partially charged at the factory, but you really do want to let it charge up all the way. At the time of writing this almost every single Android Tablet has a small LED on the front that will glow red while charging, and change to green when it is full. Be sure to charge it all the way the first time.

    There is also a lot of debate and discussion about battery use and life, etc., so if you want more info then do a search in the forum or Google. Either way, my experience is you will get the best long-term use if you let it run all the way down and charge it full for several cycles when you are starting to use the tablet.

    2. Power up your tablet. Let it boot completely up, since this may or may not be the first time it has ever been started it can take several minutes to boot all the way up. Many of the manufacturers are now customizing the Home Page, so this can look different depending on your tablet, but again I have found that almost always if you look at the pictures on the box there is at least one that looks like your Home Page.
  • ­Notes on OS Versions: As of this update there are 3 main versions of the OS, 2,x, 3.x and 4.x – These are also known by their “code” names of Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). The first tablets delivered did have 1.x versions of Android. IF YOUR TABLET has this you will NOT be able to do much with the device unless it can be upgraded. Most tablets right now have either a version of 2.x or 3.x. ICS is the newest and these tablet ROMs will be coming available during late-Dec 2011/early-Jan 2012

3. Now, Depending on your OS version your tablet will have either a button on it that says “Menu” or an Icon that is 3 or 4 horizontal dashes if it is a 2.x variant, or three icons in the lower left that look like a Back Arrow, a House and Stacked Windows along with a Checkerboard, Apps and a Plus button in the upper right if you have a Honeycomb or ICS version. Start by doing the following:

a. Touch the menu button or the Apps button
b. This will either pop up a submenu or open your App Drawer, there is an option there that says “Settings, ” select that option
c. You will now have a whole list of options to choose from. Scroll to the bottom of this list to “About Tablet” or “About Device” or “About Phone” depending on the version of Android you are running.
d. Note what version of the OS you are using, as well as any other information you can gather. If you need to post a question, this along with the Make and Model of your tablet will go a long way to getting an answer


4. Finding and Installing Applications - All your installed applications can be found in the App Drawer, and you can add shortcuts to the desktop (what you see when you turn the device on). Applications on the Tablet are in the format of APK files, these are equivalent to the EXE files on a PC or a APP file on Macintosh. Depending on your tablet again you may or may not have access to the Android Market, but almost all tablets that don’t have official market access have some other kind of application market from the manufacturer.

Sideloading is a term you will see a lot of, this is where you find an APK file (try Google and see what you get) and you copy it to your device either via a download, USB drive or a SD/MicroSD card from your pc. Once you have it on your device, it should install itself properly. After you install an APK, you can make a copy of that file and save it if you ever have to reinstall the file.

I am not going to into a deep discussion on the Market alternatives, just know that there are many different ones available if you look. I will recommend that you check out the Amazon App Market (this is different than the Amazon Market or Store, this is specifically for Android Apps). They have a daily feature where they offer at least one free app that is usually a paid app for visitors. There are others out there as well which can be found via other threads here or Google


5. Rooting and Flashing. This is the last thing for new users to think about, and again there is a ton of information available for people out there to read on this forum and on others. The basics are this, the core of the Android system is a Linux variant, and gaining “Root” access means you have full control of all files and directories on your tablet. Manufacturers may or may not have this setup, and getting root may void your warranty, so be careful. In short, it allows you to customize and change your tablets beyond what is out of the box. This almost never is REQUIRED on a device to make it work, but think of it this way, a non-rooted device is a bike with training wheels.

We do have an excellent discussion of Rooting and the Pros and Cons of it here

Flashing means replacing your Operating System (called a ROM) with a different version. Android is a little different from other OS types out there like Windows or Mac in that it has very specific instruction sets in what is called a Kernel, along with supporting files. This means that OS builds or versions are not interchangeable. DO NOT install a ROM that is not intended for your device, if you do you will have issues. When you see references to things like ROM Manager or Clockwork, these are applications that have been developed in order to manage these customizations, and are what allow you to easily change ROMs, perform backups and administer your device.

I really hope this helps people get through day one of their devices. Read the forums, especially the ones specific to your tablet. Search for your questions on Google. Most of the answers are already there somewhere and have fun!
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