New to Android, need help
WARNING: Wall o' text coming up, thank you for reading.
I currently have a Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone, and since I like to try different smartphone experiences I consider Android for my next handset.
The thing is, however, that I find Android as an OS to be "hard to see through”. What I mean by that is I see smartphones being sold today with older versions of the OS and even some new devices come to the market today with Android 4.1.x (e.g. LG Optimus G if I remember correctly?) when I have heard that 4.2 is the newest version as of this date. I want the newest and best, and I want a smartphone that isn't forgotten and left with old software a month or two after purchase. And I'm not sure how to be sure I get that with Android..?
That being said, there are key features in the user experience that I, due to the fact that I have no experience with Android, don't understand. Widgets for instance. What exactly do you use them for, do you download them separately in the Google Play Store or can any app be put on one of the many start screens as a widget? Speaking of start screens, how many can you have? And what are their purpose really? I know you have access to an app-list like it is for instance seen on iOS, but do the multiple start screens simply serve as alternative app lists where you can put what you desire or is there more to it?
My next concern is about the apps and software on my device. It has come to my attention that currently the only "clean" Android experience comes with the LG Nexus 4, all other manufacturers tend to put their own "touch" on top of the UI, with varied degrees if success, perhaps? This actually leeds back to the question of Android being hard to see through, for when LG, HTC, Samsung, Huawei and many more alter the OS, how can I know what I get? How can I be sure I won't end up with a phone with a lot of potential that none the less runs slowly and is a pain to use due to some weird UI that some geniuses somewhere thought was clever? Is it possible to disable such an UI and simply run the clean Android experience? Not that I don't believe in the potential values of such UI’s, I just once again want to be sure I buy a quality product with quality hardware and software.
Lastly, as far as I understand Android is open source (please correct me if I'm wrong) meaning you can change almost anything. To what degree do you use so-called "icon packs", separately downloaded keyboards, launchers and such things? Is it even necessary? It appears to me that the many possibilities can be a weakness in the OS as much as a strength because it can make it difficult for the consumer to find the best alternatives in the myriad of options which in worst case can result in a mediocre user experience, but once again this may very well be because of my lack of experience with Android.
Though I have been active at WPcentral, this is my first post here, so I'll let this serve as an introduction as well. I'm 19, live in Denmark and I hope to engage in interesting debates and discussions about new and interesting trends in the world of the smartphone and tablet and, of course, Android (once I get the hang on things). I don't like fanboyism as I believe in seeing things from different perspectives and in the value of options instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to things. Well, I'll have to admit that I am rather fond of the coloured and re-sizeable titles of Windows Phone, but that is for another forum I suppose. ;-)
I'll see you around. Thank you in advance for answering my questions regarding Android. :-D
Last edited by Marute; 02-25-2013 at 09:59 AM.
- 02-25-2013, 11:22 AM #3
Re: New to Android, need help
I understand where your confusion comes fromm, so I'll try to help a bit.
IMO, you should probably pay more attention to what software actually does, vs being obsessed with the latest and greatest version. There are ways to get the latest-and-greatest (if you don't feel like waiting), and while it's not hard, it's probably more than most people care about. It's called rooting and then flashing different ROMS (or versions of the operating system). I don't feel like going into it here, but people get obsessed about the latest and greatest. Yeah, it's nice, but I would take Android Gingerbread (2 or 3 versions ago) over the latest version of iOS any day, simply because it offers more of the things I care about that the latest version of iOS still doesn't do (and probably never will)
Widgets can be either standalone, or part of an app. Picture them like a small program that can display dynamic information on your homescreen. Like a clock for instance. You can add a clock widget to any screen and place it anywhere. There are many of them available...digital, analog, different looks and feels, etc. Like I mention, a widget can be standalone (like you just download the widget) or it can be part of an app. For example, a weather app might come with several widgets to display the current conditions or the forecast or alerts, and you put the widget on your screen, but tapping on it takes you into the app. Likewise there are several Facebook or Twitter apps that will display your feed rather than having to go into the app to see it. There are lots of widgets available....I personally use a Weather/forecast one, the Google Now widget (without going into specifics about Google Now, but it will give me travel times to my next meeting, traffic conditions, flight statuses, shipment tracking, etc). I also use one that displays the first few unread emails and my next few calendar appointments. It's just easier for me to glance at a screen and see all of that then clicking into 3 or 4 individual apps for it.
Yes, there are several "skins" that manufacturers throw on top of Android. All are a mix of good and bad. No skin (or "pure" or "vanilla" Android) is available on some models as well (like the Nexus line), or you can root/flash (see above) to get it. HTC phones have Sense, Motorola has Blur, and Samsung has Touchwiz. All are a customized version of Android, and as mentioned, can be a mix of good and bad. I have a Galaxy S3 (Touchwiz) and it has some nice features, such as the Smart Stay (where it uses the front camera to tell if you're looking at the screen so it won't turn off). And it has various motion things such as turning the phone over (face down) to silence it or to swipe your palm across the screen for a screenshot. But that's Touchwiz stuff and you don't get it with Vanilla Android. Likewise there's some bad things about Touchwiz.
I probably would be remiss (not to confuse you more) but there is the OS (like Touchwiz) then there is the launcher, which controls how the screens and app drawer behave. They're two separate things. Like the Touchwiz OS comes with the Touchwiz launcher. But you can use the Touchwiz OS with a different launcher (which is what I do since I don't like the Touchwiz Launcher, but like the Touchwiz OS features I mention above), so my phone looks and acts more like Vanilla Android, but behind the scenes it's still Touchwiz so I get those benefits. Think of it like a Dell Computer that comes with a Dell Keyboard....you can replace the keyboard but keep the Dell computer. Likewise you can keep Touchwiz but not keep the Touchwiz launcher.
But the point is the skins can be good or bad. Some of them are bloated, some aren't, and some people like the extra features, and some don't. Really a personal preference thing.
Most people consider this one of Android's strengths, but you seem concerned that the sheer amount of choices might be overwhelming. Well, you can always just use it stock (and not change anything), but you can also easily swap your keyboards, launchers, etc. It's a piece of cake (you just download them, and the next time you start something, it'll ask you which one you want to use, and you can choose to use it "this time" or "always" to try them out). If you want to clear/reset them back to the defaults (or switch) that's easy too. It's rare that too many choices is a bad thing (and sure there are about a hundred different keyboards, but only a few popular ones, so with a bit of research you can make a choice).
For the number of homescreens, it depends on the launcher. I use Nova and can have 9 (I only use 3). I'm not sure how many Touchwiz(5?) or other launchers provide.
Re: New to Android, need help
Thanks a lot for the thorough relpy, EvilMonkey. That is much appreciated. I have a few follow up questions.
So basically the start screen(s) is meant to give you quick acces to often used apps and widgets that will supply you with information without the user having to enter the app - pretty much like the Live Tile system on Windows Phone, right? I understand that some apps come with widgets and some widgets are standalone, but does that mean that the Google Play Store is divided in apps and widgets? And now we are at it, are keyboard, launchers etc. downloaded in the store or elsewhere?
On iOS and Windows Phone you load you phone with apps only from the marketplace, but when you have all those different pieces of software on your Android device (apps, widgets, keyboards, launchers, skins etc. etc.) don't you risk your phone will start to be slow and filled with leftovers from old software pieces here and there? I sort of imagine a scenario like a PC user who downloads all sorts of toolbars in internet explorer and who never cleans the computer from software that is no longer in use, if you can follow me. :-)
I'm glad to hear how easy it is to test out different customization options in Android. I guess it's a question of reading an appropriate ammount of reviews before purchasing a phone (like with any device) and then just start playing around with it. Should one wait for Key Lime Pie(?) or is that way long in the future?
Finally, I'd like to ask if Android has gotten to the point where it's a smooth experience, can you recommend it? I don't like lag in the UI (which is why I was a bit afraid of the skins) and I can imagine widgets taking up a lot of system resources.
- 02-28-2013, 01:36 PM #5
Re: New to Android, need help
You are correct on the start screen. On iOS (I haven't really used a Windows Phone) every app goes onto the screen. You can put them into folders or on different screens, but they still have to go on the screen. On Android, you only put the stuff you want on the screen, and everything else goes into the "app drawer" which holds everything (there are other customization options within the app drawer as well, since you can hide apps so they never show or on some launchers, like Nova, you can put folders into it or have the app drawer divided into tabs).
So for example, on my iPad I have a folder called "Unused Crap" on my last screen that things go into like iBooks and Newstand, Gamecenter, etc. But on my Android phone, I just hide stuff like that that I never use. I only use 3 homescreens, but the only things on there are stuff that I use everyday....like my email, Facebook, Pandora and a couple widgets for weather and my calendar. Everything else goes into the app drawer, because there are tons of apps I have that I might use once a week, a month, or less often, but still wnat them (just as an example, a WiFi signal analyzer. I use it once every 2 or 3 months, but I certainly don't need it on my homescreen, so it goes into my drawer into a "Tools" section I have.
As for where to get apps from, there are really only a couple places I'd recommend: Either the official Google Play Store, or the Amazon app store. There are other places, sure, but I just tend to stick with those. And no, the Play store is not broken into apps and widgets. They are all just "apps" as to lessen the confusion around them I'm sure.
As for things slowing down the phone, you shouldn't have to worry about additional keyboards and launchers slowing the phone down. Only one keyboard can be running at once as can only one launcher. It's not like they are sitting there taking up resources (other than the space the program takes up). They don't run in the background. I currently have 4 launchers installed, but am using Nova. I actually at one point had icons on my screen to switch from one launcher to another when I was trying out different things.
That being said, it is possible to have too much stuff installed that it does slow the phone down though. It's like anything else....if you have too much stuff going on in the background it's going to slow the phone down.
Android has been a smooth experience for me since Gingerbread, but I buy good phones. If you're going to buy a cheap Android phone, expect a cheap experience. Stick to the top phones.
Re: New to Android, need help
As I said earlier I want quality so you can bet I'm going for the top models. Once again thanks a lot for the reply. You have been very helpful and I feel I know a lot more about the Android experience now. It will be very interesting to follow the presentation of the Galaxy S4! :-)
- 03-11-2013, 11:31 AM #7
- 1 Posts
Re: New to Android, need help
Hey, I have a samsung galaxy chat GT - B5330 and I tried all the ways of taking a screenshot like how its taken on other samsung mobiles. But it just doesn't work. If anyone knows how am I able to take one without using an app or rooting, please let me know.
- 03-11-2013, 01:58 PM #8
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