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BlackBerry User's Guide to Android
Sample BlackBerry Theme on Android
Click to enlarge↓If you are new to Android Central, Welcome! You might already be a member of our sister site, CrackBerry. Android Central will help make your switch to Android fun.
A decade ago, BlackBerry emerged as a top PDA for business users. The small screen was great for emails, messages, and calendar reminders. But today, a smartphone is also a web browser, movie player, GPS, eReader, iPod, document editor, video chat, and sometimes a phone. In 2009, 21% of all smartphones were BlackBerry's. BlackBerry has since lost 1% world-wide marketshare a quarter until it is now at 11%. Skype, Seesmic, Intuit, Gmail, Nook, and others are reducing or dropping BlackBerry support. Google Voice, Words with Friends, Angry Birds, Fring, Bump, Mint, Netflix, Fruit Ninja, Epicurious, WebMD, Amazon, IMDb, Photoshop Express, and other top apps didn't make it to BlackBerry.
With Android's 350,000 apps, there's an Android App For That. Fans argue over what smartphone is best but most can get the job done. Switching to Android is like driving a new car: everything is there but laid out a little differently. You can change settings and customize your new Android almost any way you want.
Android phones come in every size and style from 2.5" to 5.3" but they tend to be thin and light. Overall the 4.65" Galaxy Nexus at 4.98 in is smaller and weighs less than a 3.7" Torch (5.2 in). In the end, phones are like shoes. Get what fits you.
Here are some basic features, apps, and settings to consider in a move from BlackBerry to Android.
Choosing a Phone
See the Phone Comparison for specs on many of the top new phones. Over two years you might spend $2,000 or more for cell service so get the one you want. Androids are evolving so quickly that no phone stays on top long. Let's start with some basic features.
4G - Speed Thrills
Fast dual core processors and 1GB of RAM are important but also make sure you get 4G (or LTE). Monthly rates are often just as much for slow phones as fast ones. You may have this phone a long time. Don't get one that is already slow. To turn 4G on:
• Tap Home > Menu > Settings > Wireless > 4G.
• To add a 4G icon to a home screen: Long-press an empty spot on a home screen then tap Shortcuts > Settings > 4G.
Get the right size for you
What is the Right Size Phone? Only you can answer that question. Android phone comes in sizes from 2.5" to 5.3". A survey of 5,000 phone owners found that Only 9% Want a Screen Under 4". See what feels right for you. Don't let anyone tell you the one size phone you are to buy. See the Sizing Chart: What is the Right Size Phone?
The Notification LED is for incoming or missed calls, emails, texts, Facebook or calendar events, etc. The Flashlight Alerts app can also turn the camera LED into a notification LED (tutorial).
Flagship Android phones typically have 1 or 2MP front cameras for HD video chat. That coupled with 4G gives you an amazing opportunity for Video Calls. Android Qik, Skype and ooVoo give you free unlimited video calls over WiFi, 3G and 4G.
HDMI and DLNA Video Out
You can watch HD movies or make presentations right from your Android. DLNA allows you to see whatever is on your phone on your compatible TV, Blu-ray player, PS3, or Xbox. HDMI uses a cable to connect to your HDTV.
Full Facebook Sync
Most Androids automatically update with Facebook friends' photos, status, messages, phones, events, birthdays, emails, and notifications. Incoming calls pop-up with updated Facebook profile photos. The free Friendcaster app does even more.
Much of the web including this site rely on Adobe Flash for multimedia but BB 7. Unfortunately the HTML5 standard intended to replace Flash is still not finalized. Android does have Flash and HTML5 support built in.
Near Field Communication (NFC) is for instant payments, keycard, and ID, etc. Android NFC can share a contact, photo, song, application, and video or pair Bluetooth or WiFi devices. See the Google NFC Demo.
Set your Android to Vibrate (Haptic Feedback) if your phone must be quiet. To set your Android to vibrate, tap Home > Menu > Settings > Sound > Silent Mode ON and Vibrate ON. Apps like Executive Assistant lets you customize repeating LED, sounds, and vibration reminders for missed call, emails, texts, calendar, tasks, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Note: The iPhone lacks haptic feedback.
Physical or On-screen Keyboards
On-screen ("virtual") keyboards on phones under 4" can be a challenge especially if you do not have small hands. Many Androids have physical keyboards but a good predictive on-screen keyboard on a larger display may be a good option. Try out as many physical and on-screen keyboards as you can to see what works for you. Especially try their landscape modes (sideways). Also note that with voice recognition apps like Voice Actions and Vlingo, you can often speak instead of type.
A microSD card is about $50 for 32GB. 16GB microSD costs $20 or less. Get a "Class 10" microSD for fast 10 MB/s speeds. The 64GB microSDXC cards are under $200 and are supported by microSDXC compatible phones such as the Galaxy S II and Droid Bionic. The App 2 SD app frees up space on your phone by moving apps to your SD card.
Setup Your Phone
Once you have chosen your phone, let's get started having some fun with it. We will find your old features and try out some new ones. You can click the Getting Started button at the top of any page for more help.
Android Multitasking is automatic. Say you are writing an email and want to paste in a text. Before Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), you would long-press Home, tap Messaging, and copy the text. Long-press Home again, tap Email, and paste the text right where you left off. With ICS, tap Recent Apps and switch to Messaging. Copy the text, tap Recent Apps again to switch back to Email and paste the text. Swipe up or down to move through the Recent Apps or swipe a card left or right to close it.
Gmail is at the heart of Android's Cloud Sync so you need a Gmail account (http://mail.google.com/). You will get notifications when Gmail is pushed to your phone, full Priority Inbox capabilities, and can push multiple email accounts to Gmail for automatic email notifications. See the Gmail Tips. Exchange users: check out Exchange Touchdown Trial (Full $20, $10 Amazon) or RoadSync Trial (Full $10).
Your Contacts and Calendars
Sync your Blackberry contacts and calendar to Gmail if you don't already (details):
1. Point your BlackBerry browser to: http://m.google.com/sync and tap the Download Google Sync link and download.
2. After installation, tap the Google Sync icon on your home screen and log in.3. Click the Sync Now button at the bottom of the Welcome screen.
Be patient; let the synchronization run in the background as you perform other tasks on your BlackBerry.
Sync to the Cloud
Android syncs to the cloud to back up your contacts and calendars. On your phone tap Menu > Settings > Accounts & Sync > Add account > Google > Contacts, Gmail, Calendar, etc. Then add Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other account syncs as well. Most Androids can sync to all of these accounts automatically. When someone changes a phone number on Facebook, your phone will be updated as well.
Your Photos and Videos
1. Backup all the music, videos, and photos you can from your BlackBerry to your PC.
2. Copy photos and videos from your PC to your Android:
- - Connect your Android to your PC with the USB cable.
- - On your computer, create folders on your phone called Pictures and Videos if it is not already there.
- - Sill using your computer, drag the photos and videos to your phone's folder then disconnect your phone.
3. Reboot the phone: Press Power for 10 seconds > Power Off > Wait 20 seconds > Press Power for 10 seconds.
If you are using iTunes, the file names are encoded making them hard to find. The good news is that you no longer have to use iTunes! (You still can if you like.) Use the steps above to backup your music to your PC and set up a Music folder on your Android if you don't already have one and drag your music files and folders (copies) from your computer to your phone. Here are some of our favorite Music Players: PowerAMP (Full:$5), Google, Winamp, Meridian (Full:$4), and TuneWiki. Google Music and Amazon Music are not DRM copy protected so they can be moved to a new phone without issue.
Android phones are fire-breathing dragons with a big displays, powerful 4G, and a half-dozen other radios. BlackBerry has amazing battery life, but if you know the Power Management Tricks, you can get good battery life on an Android too.
Before texting there was BlackBerry Messenger but today most smartphones are Androids. Many Android owners use the stock Messenger texting app or upgrade to the free HandCent SMS or ChompSMS texting apps. Others love WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Google Talk.
Toggles are simple widgets that lets you change settings without going through menus. But you don't have to break anything with an Android. This Stay Awake Widget can keep your display on whenever your phone is charging. To put your Power Control Widgets on a home screen, long-press an empty spot, then tap Widgets > Power Settings. Popular free Toggles include the Curvefish Brightness Level, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS widgets but there are many others.
Widgets show live information on-screen without opening the app such as weather, email, calendars, and almost anything else. Here are some favorites:
• Tajm - The amazing clock widget in words instead of numbers.
Battery Left Widget - Estimates battery time left.
Today Widget - Day and date in a 1x1 widget. ($1 Pro with color options)
The Android Market has endless apps but that is just the beginning. Google allows you to access competing markets plus MyAppSharer lets you "share" your actual app files with a friend.
Free App of the Day
Here is another app you will never see on a BlackBerry. The Amazon Appstore offers thousands of apps at discount prices including the "Free App of the Day".
Paid Apps for free
Here is another great market to try. Getjar has a constantly changing assortment of normally paid apps for free including mature content.
Get the Rest of the Apps
Android has apps you won't find on a BlackBerry. Battery Status puts the real battery percentage in the Notification Bar. The Weather Channel has the temperature. You can now also have Google Goggles, Google Voice, Words with Friends, Angry Birds, Fring, Bump, Mint, Netflix, Fruit Ninja, Epicurious, WebMD, Amazon, IMDb, Photoshop Express, and other top apps.
Executive Assistant offers so much more control over repeating notifications, ringtones, vibrations, etc. Take a look. See the Notification Tips for more.
Don't just backup, share
The point of a document is to share it. Dropbox (referral link for 2.25GB for free) lets you backup files for instant use on almost any smartphone or computer. But more importantly, you can share your documents with others.
Let's Work Together
Google Docs let anyone you chose edit files on almost any PC or smartphones including Androids, BlackBerry's, iPad's, and Macs.
Try before you buy
The Android Market gives you 15 minutes to try out an app on your phone to see if the options and features are right for you. If not, uninstall it for a full refund.
Theming is easy with apps like ADWLauncher. Here is a simple way to change icons and wallpaper.
Android folders make organizing all those apps easy. The free Android Folder Organizer app takes folders to a whole new level. You can have more than 12 apps in a folder and sort the apps as you like. You can change folder icons and customize shortcut icons and names. The screenshot at the top shows Settings, Newsstand, and Game Center folders. See: Folder Organizer Tutorial.
Voice Search and Voice Actions add many great options to Android. Vlingo can turn on and operate totally from your voice. How to use Vlingo is below.
Most flagship Android phones come with Visual Voicemail that lets you see the caller's photo when you play their message (Oh, that's who that is!). In addition, many Androids will show you their updated Facebook photo and Status when you look at their voicemail. See Visual Voicemail for details. Tap here to see a sample.
No music store limits
You can buy music from Google or any number of competitors. Amazon MP3 for instance offers almost every song available. The best part is that Amazon Music is not DRM copy protected so songs can be moved to a new phone without issue!
Music for free
MP3 Music Download has nearly every song as well...for free.
You take for granted that your phone will also be a great GPS. With Android Google Maps, turn-by-turn navigation is included for free. Maps will also show you real time traffic conditions and suggest alternate routes as needed.
Live Wallpaper is animated. The Earth rotates, thunder storms, fish swim, snow swirls, raindrops slide down your screen, and robots fly. It's fun to see how the Live Wallpaper responds to your touch or movements. See the Live Wallpaper Tips.
More than a Newsstand
With Android, you can have a Newsstand folder for all of your media content. With so many free media apps in Android, you may not see a reason to pay for subscriptions. (How to create folders)
That icon is for the Swype keyboard holder of multiple World Texting Speed Records. See the Keyboard Tips.
With your computer, you take for granted that you can see your files. Apps like ASTRO File Manager and AndExplorer let you cut, copy, and paste files as you need.
Your Game Center
Almost ever major game is available on Android. With Android you can have a Games folder for all of your games from Android Market, Amazon, Getjar, etc.
You can have a real predictive keyboard now. Keyboards like SwiftKey can be even faster for many users than Swype. SwiftKey users can easily break the world record because SwiftKey learns what you have typed once and then predicts your words.
Android is mostly Open Source. If a developer doesn't like a stock Android keyboard or other app, they can change it and re-release it back into the Android Market. Google uses licensing to reduce fragmentation so Android is not fully Open Source.
Bluetooth Mouse and Keyboards
← See that mouse pointer? The Galaxy S II lets you to connect a Bluetooth wireless mouse or keyboard. This along with HDMI mirroring allows easy control while on an monitor or HDTV. See this video showing USB Host, Bluetooth, and HDMI out from xda-developers.
Try Out Some Apps
Here are a few more of the many Applications you may want to try. Here are links to more tips and some key apps.
Google Search and Google Voice Search must be installed for searches to work properly.
• Flashlight: Turn your camera LED into a flashlight with an app like Tiny Flashlight.
• Brightness Level lets you tap a preset brightness or set any brightness you like.
• Email Tips + K-9 Mail add many features. Corporate users: check out Touchdown (Full $20) or RoadSync (Full $10).
• Messaging Tips + Consider HandCent SMS or • ChompSMS to replace the messaging app
• Browser Tips + Consider great options like Dolphin or • Opera
• Lock screen: No Lock - Disables lock screen, phone opens fast. • Widget Locker ($2) lets you customize it.
• Simple Theming + ADW.Launcher (Tutorial, $3 full), LauncherPro ($3 full), GO Launcher EX ($0): change Icons, layout, and theme without rooting.
• Facebook: Friendcaster (free, $5: no ads) expands options for Facebook notifications, events, contact & profile sync, photos, etc.
• Backup Tips: MyBackup Pro ($5) - Automatically backup messages, contacts, bookmarks, home screens, alarms, dictionary, etc. Trial.
• Folder Tips: Folder Organizer (free) - Sets up folders, change icons, and increase from 4x4 icons to 4x6 or even 5x6. See: Folders
USB Host lets you plug in a memory thumb drive, PS3 Game Controller, mouse, or keyboard into a micro USB Host adapter as shown in these videos at xda-developers. Play a game on your phone with a real controller
So much more...
This is just the beginning. The Getting Started has help with a number of topics including, Settings, Email, Backups, Keyboards, Folders, Favorite Apps, Extending Battery Life, and much more.
Have fun and don't be afraid to ask any questions. - Milo
• Apple User's Guide to Android • BlackBerry • Palm webOS
• Jumping from BlackBerry to Android? Here's what you need to know!
• Phone Comparison
• Sizing Chart: What is the Right Size Phone?
• Using Folder Organizer to "Theme" Home Screen Icons For Free
• Switching from Blackberry to Android or iPhone - 7 Real-Life Pros & Cons