This article aims to flatten the learning curve from moving from a regular cell phone or another smartphone to an Android Powered phone. I will go over my experiences and misconceptions, hoping that it might be of use to others. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your level of knowledge. I come from Microsoft windows and Linux desktop background, and I did own a Windows mobile phone in the past.
My biggest misconception is I thought the phone would operate more like a desktop computer. Take, for example, a simple notepad program. I expected to open the program, create the document and then save it to my choosing directory. Well, two out of three were correct. You launch programs from the application drawer, which is the same as starting and then programs in windows. You then create the document but instead of saving your work, you just go back to your cell phone home screen, and the document is automatically saved. This threw me for a loop the first time. I started searching for a save option in all of the menus and could not find one. I finally hit the home key, and I saw a little text box saying “saved.” Where the document is saved is determined by the application. At least I have not run across a program yet that allowed you to choose a location where your files are kept.
So it seems a lot of normal desktop tasks are taken care of automatically with Android, which makes sense since most people do not want to be bothered with these little details. Especially on devices designed to work on the go. Still, I like to know where my files are for backing up and transferring between devices. Don’t get me wrong; I am not complaining. The phone takes a little getting bit of learning. This is to be expected when buying any new electronic device. There are ways of accomplishing these tasks and in a way that makes the most sense to you. Android phones offer great functionality and are extremely extensible. This is possible due to the ever-growing library of applications that can run on Android.
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Installing Android Applications is accomplished by going to Google’s Android Market from your phone or “side loading” them from other websites. Most Android phones have access to the Android Market, but depending on how the carrier sets up the phone, you may or may not have the ability to sideload applications. Tablet devices are more likely not to have access to the Android Market, but other sources such as websites and another marketplace called AppsLib available. While on the subject of different Android experiences, they will vary depending on the device you buy. Apart from the Android version that comes loaded on the phone, the manufacturer may modify the operating system. For example, two of the most popular Android cell phone manufacturers, HTC and Motorola, have customized versions of the user interface. The phone’s operation may differ slightly or offer additional features from a cell phone with a stock Android operating system.
The first thing I wanted my phone to do was to have the ability to save notes such as grocery and to-do lists. After looking through the factory-installed applications, I found this ability did not exist. Not to worry, as I said before, Android is extremely extendable. So I went off to the Google Android Marketplace to find a suitable application. I searched for a notepad and came up with over 1095 results!
After some research, I decided on an application called Color note. The application had features such as checklists, backup to the sd card, and it was free! So I hit the install button, and the screen pops up explaining what phone features the application will need permissions to access and modify. For Color note, it only needed to Modify and delete SD card contents. That sounded logical because it would be saving data to the SD card. I hit the OK button and got a message the application would be downloaded. In a matter of seconds, it was downloaded and installed. I jotted down a note, and it was automatically saved when I exited the program.
As I mentioned earlier, I like to know where my files are saved for back-up purposes. The information page for a Color note on the Android Marketplace explains that notepad data is saved at /data/color note on the SD card. I went to find the directory, but I could not find anything analogous to Windows Explorer. I went back to the Android Marketplace. This time I found an application called Astro File Manager. Again this application had a free version, but this time, it was ad supported. Meaning little text ads would run across the bottom of the screen while using the application. I installed the Astro File Manager and was able to browse the contents of my phone. So as I mentioned before, it is pretty easy to make your Android device have the features you desire.
Astro File Manager would require access to System tools, Network Communication and Storage. Third-party developers write android applications, and the possibility exists that a malicious application could be written. When installing a new application you should always make sure that the permissions it asks for make sense for the type of application you are installing. It would help if you also were wary of applications that ask for an extraordinary amount of different permissions. For extra security, there are multiple antivirus applications such as Lookout Mobile Security by Lookout Inc.
To wrap up, getting an Android Powered phone was somewhat different than I expected. This is true when you adopt any new technology. To me, the effort of learning how to operate the device is well worth it. I am ecstatic with the flexibility, entertainment, and amazing variety of applications. With more powerful phones coming available, some say it could even take over the personal computer.