[GUIDE] Getting Started with Android 2014, Part II
Installing and Uninstalling Apps
Ok, so now you have your Homescreens set up and your Settings tweaked to your heart's content. Time to start installing apps! There are 3 basic ways to install an app:
- From the Google Play Store, originally known as the Android Market. This is the biggest, safest, and most reliable place for apps. It comes preinstalled on most Android devices from major manufacturers, but some devices don't have it (primarily the ones from no-name or little-known companies), since devices have to be certified by Google to be compatible with the Play Store. On top of that, the Play Store still isn't fully accessible in some corners of the world--here's the , which is growing all the time.
- From alternative 3rd party app stores, most notably the Amazon Appstore. Others include GetJar and SlideME. Amazon Appstore is very reliable, but as you get to more obscure app stores, the risk of malware goes up.
- As a directly downloaded .APK installer file (also known as "sideloading"). This is the riskiest and potentially shadiest method, since an installer file is usually downloaded from a file sharing site that has no vetting for security, and therefore could be chock full of malware. In addition to that, if the installer file is for an app that is supposed to be paid for but was downloaded for free, that is piracy and plain ol' d-baggery.
Let's go over these three options in more detail.
Google Play Store
There are two ways to install an app from the Google Play Store--from the Play Store app on your device, or from the Play Store website on your computer.
- Installing from the Play Store app is straightforward--just select an app, read the Description to make sure it's what you're looking for, read through some of the Reviews to make sure it isn't terrible or glitchy or potentially unsafe, and then tap the Install button. Let me say again that the Reviews can be quite helpful in alerting you to an app that might come with annoying ads or other sneaky unwanted behaviors.
- You will then be presented with a list of Permissions that the app will request--these are various functions and accessibilities that the app will have once it is installed. Most apps that connect to the web and provide personalized information for you will require a large number of permissions, which can seem suspicious sometimes, but for the most part, apps that are from well-established companies, have been installed tens of thousands of times, and have many 4-5 star reviews will be legitimate and safe. If you're interested in installing an app that doesn't have as much of a track record, then it's worth looking at the requested permissions more closely, and asking yourself if they make sense for what the app does. A good developer will often explain in the Description why certain permissions are necessary. Although a thorough discussion of all Android permissions is beyond the scope of this beginner's guide, here is a good article about some of the scarier sounding permissions.
- If you accept the requested permissions, then the app will install automatically. There is no need to find a downloaded file or to delete an installer file afterwards.
- If the app isn't free and you need to purchase it, you will need a credit card registered with your account or a Google Play Gift Card. For extra security, I recommend going to the Play Store's settings, and checking "Password--Use password to restrict purchases" under User Controls. This will prevent other people (like your kids) from going on an app shopping spree.
Another plug to consider purchasing the full paid version of free apps that you enjoy. You'll get more functionality, and you'll help support developers, encouraging them to improve their current apps and write more. If there is no premium version, I often use the "donate" option if available. It's usually just $1-2, which is less than the latte you get every day!
- Also make note of the other options seen in the screen above:
- Auto-update apps does what it says--you can select whether or not to auto-update at all, to do so on Wi-Fi only, or even when on mobile data. If you're concerned about mobile data usage, select Wi-Fi only or turn off Auto-update completely.
- Auto-add widgets is a misnomer, since it will automatically add an app shortcut to your homescreen upon installing a new app, not a widget (see Part I of this Guide for a discussion on widgets). If you don't want to clutter up your homescreen, turn this off.
- If you want to install an app from the Google Play Store website (play.google.com) on your computer browser, you can select which of your devices should be the target. Click on Install, then click on the dropdown "Choose a Device" menu.
- Once you select a device, the next time that device is connected to the web, the app will install automatically.
If you have ever installed a given app, it will display as "Installed" on the Play Store website, even if you subsequently uninstall it. Clicking on the "Installed" button will still give you the option to install the app on any of your compatible devices. This behavior does not occur on the Play Store app on your mobile device.
- Keep in mind that not all apps are compatible with all devices. Compatibility can depend on factors like screen resolution, internal hardware specs, etc. If the app in question isn't compatible with your device, it simply won't show up if you search for it on the Play Store app on your mobile device. On the website, you'll be able to find the app, but it will tell you that it isn't compatible with some or all of your devices--you can find out which ones by clicking that dropdown menu.
- Also remember that some apps are widgets only or live wallpapers only. Therefore, when you install them, you won't find them in the App Drawer under apps. If it's a widget only, then you'll find it in the Widgets list, and if it's a live wallpaper, you'll only find it in the Live Wallpaper selection list.
For 3rd party app stores, I'll concentrate on the Amazon Appstore, since it's the most popular one (in the US, at least).
- Assuming you don't have a Kindle (which should already have it preinstalled), you will need to allow your device to install apps from Unknown Sources in order to install the Appstore. Go to Settings>Security, and check on "Unknown Sources" under Device Administration.
- Next, on your device's browser, go to amazon.com/amazonappstoreapp, and follow the instructions. You will need to locate the downloaded .APK installer file in your Downloads. To do so, you can either swipe your Notification Shade down and tap the download notification, or you can open your App Drawer and select Downloads.
- Once it is installed, you will need to log into the Appstore using your Amazon account. No Amazon account, no entry.
- On the main page, the Free App of the Day is prominently displayed. This is one of the nice things about the Amazon Appstore--every day, there is a different paid app that is offered for free, no strings attached. Sometimes it's lame, but other times it can be very good (e.g., a premium app that normally costs $15).
- To install an app, simply select one and tap the box that shows the price.
If you use a screen-dimming app like Twilight or Screen Filter, you might find that the Install button is inaccessible (greyed out). Deactivate your screen-dimming app, and the Install button should become accessible again. I know, weird, right?
As mentioned above, sideloading is the process of installing an app manually by downloading its .APK installer file directly to your device, or downloading it to your computer and then transferring it to your device to install. Just as with installing the Amazon Appstore, you have to make sure "Unknown Sources" is checked on, and the installation process is the same (see above). There certainly are legitimate sites where you can download legitimate .APK files for apps that the developer intended to distribute in this way. But still, as mentioned above, you run a higher risk of malware, and are you really sure that's how the developer intended the app to be distributed?
- The Play Store will let you know in the "My Apps" section when updates are available for apps you installed. App updates can sometimes come with new permission requests, so it's worthwhile to select the app and review the "What's New" section before accepting the update. If there are new permission requests, you will be asked to accept them, but make sure you review them, too.
- As you can see in the Play Store settings screen earlier in this section, there is a Notifications checkbox. If it's checked, you'll receive notifications of available updates in your Notification Bar.
- With certain updates (typically major ones), you may notice that the app shortcut disappears from your homescreen. Just add it back again from the App Drawer.
- In the Amazon Appstore, go to the "Updates" section of "My Apps." You may have to tap the refresh button at the upper right, and be aware that on some devices, the refresh process can take a few minutes. Unfortunately, there is no "What's New" section, so it can be difficult to determine what's in the update. You will still have a chance to review any new permissions.
- Amazon can also notify you of app updates. Tap the menu button at the upper left, then scroll down to Settings, then Notifications.
You can uninstall apps that you installed a couple of ways--either directly from the Settings>Apps menu, or via the app store from which they were installed.
- In the Settings>Apps menu, find the app in the Downloaded list, tap it, and then tap Uninstall.
- In the Play Store app, swipe in from the left (or tap the 3 line menu button at the upper left), then tap "My apps." You should see a list all of your Installed apps. Select one, then tap Uninstall. You can also see a list of all apps you've ever installed from the Play Store under "All."
- Remember that for preinstalled apps that have been updated, you will only be able to Uninstall All Updates, which will revert the app back to its factory version. You can't completely remove most preinstalled apps unless you're rooted (although you can always Disable them).
- In the Amazon Appstore, tap the 3 line menu button at the upper left, then tap "My Apps." You will see 3 categories: "Cloud," which contains all apps you've ever installed from Amazon (and can subsequently reinstall); "Device," which shows all apps from Amazon currently installed; and "Updates," which shows apps that have updates available. To uninstall an app, go to the Device list, long-press on the app, and agree to the uninstall.
Remember, you can always reinstall an app easily after uninstalling it. If you already paid for it, you don't have to pay again.
- Apps installed through the Amazon Appstore often get updated more slowly and infrequently than the exact same apps installed through the Google Play Store.
- The Play Store and the Amazon Appstore will usually only list apps that you installed from the respective app store; however, sometimes one store will show an app in its Installed list that was actually installed from the other app store. This can be confusing--for example, I installed the paid ad-free version of Angry Birds from Amazon, but then Angry Birds showed up in the Installed list in the Google Play Store as well, but not as the ad-free version. Since Play Store apps usually get updated more quickly than Amazon apps, I might get a notification for an update through the Play Store. But if I accept that update, then what installs is the free Play Store version with ads, not the ad-free version from Amazon. So it can be useful to keep track of which apps were installed from where.
- Update alerts don't always show up for preinstalled Google apps, unless you've updated them at least once already. For example, if your device came preinstalled with Google Keyboard, and it has never been updated, then go to the Play Store, and search for Google Keyboard. You will probably see an Update button on the app page. Once it has been updated, the Play Store will start notifying you of further updates down the road.
Last edited by B. Diddy; 01-28-2014 at 05:37 PM.
Re: [GUIDE] Getting Started with Android 2014, Part II [WIP]
Managing Media -- Photos & Videos
Mobile devices have become one of the main driving forces in multimedia creation and consumption, be it photos, music, movies/videos, or traditional print media. Your Android device is, of course, no exception, offering a myriad of ways to create, share, purchase, or rent media. I won't be able to discuss all of the various 3rd party media sources and apps in this guide; instead, I will concentrate on the apps that come preinstalled on most every Android device. Let's start with Photos and Videos.
There are two main gallery apps that come preinstalled on most current Android devices--the stock Gallery app (below left) and the Google+-based Photos app (below right).
- The stock Gallery app is one of the basic AOSP (Android Open Source Project) apps that has been present on devices since the time of the dinosaurs, and it hasn't changed a whole lot either (which is not necessarily a bad thing). It displays all images, photos, and videos stored locally, as well as photos and videos from your Google+/Picasa albums in the cloud. (I got the following image from the web--yes, I know, the person spelled Sydney wrong. All you Aussies out there, please don't hate me!)
- The Gallery's database gets periodically updated by the Media Scanner (a system app), most notably whenever you power on your device from an off state, or when you insert an external SD card. The Media Scanner will scan all folders looking for various media files (photos, music, videos), and populate the appropriate databases.
Sometimes, the Media Scanner can get hung up on a corrupt file, typically on an external SD card. This can cause it to run constantly, and use up battery. If you notice Media Scanner using an excessive amount of battery, consider unmounting and removing your external SD card, and checking the integrity of the card or its files.
The Media Scanner will skip folders that contain a file titled ".nomedia". So if you notice that your Gallery is showing a number of unwanted images related to an app (e.g., icons used as onscreen buttons, etc.), you can find that folder and add a blank ".nomedia" file using any file manager app.
- If you have photos or videos stored in Google+ Photos on the web (formerly Picasa), you will also see them in the Gallery, assuming you're connected to the web, and you have the sync function on.
- After Google acquired Picasa, they gradually integrated it into Google+ so that now if you try to go to picasaweb.com, you are automatically redirected to Google+. The main remnants of Picasa are the photo editor/organizer software for your computer, and the Picasa logo on the cloud albums displayed in the stock Gallery app.
- To sync your Google+/Picasa cloud photos and videos with your Gallery, go to Settings/Accounts-Google, select your Google account, then make sure Google Photos is checked (on older devices, it might actually be listed as Picasa).
As if things weren't confusing enough, there's a difference between syncing Google Photos and Google+ Photos. The former is for the Gallery app, and the latter is for the Google+-based Photos app.
- The Gallery app has some decent basic photo editing features. Just select a photo, tap the Menu button, then Edit. There are options for Filters, Frames, Crop, and Contrast. The Menu button will also give you options for rotation and setting the photo as a wallpaper or contact photo. (By the way, that's Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, with no special effects, taken with my Nexus 5. The rays of "light" are actually multicolored ribbons hanging from the ceiling.)
- To delete a photo, simply long press it in the album view, and tap the garbage can icon at the top of the screen.
- Note that there is no Download option for cloud photos when using Gallery--that function is available for the Photos app (see below).
- The Google+-based Photos app is actually part of the Google+ app, so although you'll find it in your App Drawer, you actually won't find it as a discrete app in the Settings>Apps menu. It performs essentially the same functions as Gallery, with a few added features, as well as the ability to fully integrate with Google+.
- Above left is the screen that greets you when you open Photos--the Camera Roll, which includes all of the photos and videos you've taken with your device's camera. "Folders" includes the Screenshots folder, and is listed under Camera, because screenshots (like photos) are images captured by the device.
- Tapping the upper left 3-line menu button or swiping in from the left will give you the selection menu seen above right (the white block was added to obscure the name and email address).
- Google+ will open the Google+ app.
- Photos will bring you to the original page as seen above left.
- Albums will show you all of your Google+ albums (cloud only, not local).
- Auto Awesome shows you special videos, photo combinations, and other enhancements of your photos that Google+ automatically performs when it detects photos that meet certain criteria. See for more details. You can turn it on or off by tapping Menu>Settings>[your Google account]>Auto Awesome.
- Videos shows your videos only (both local and from Google+).
- Photos of you shows photos where you've been tagged.
- Trash contains recently deleted photos or videos--Google waits for "a short period of time" (according to their support page) before permanently deleting them.
- The Highlights tab shows you automatically selected highlights from your Google+ Albums, based on criteria like the presence of smiling faces, how many people are present in a photo, or if the photo is a scenic vista. You can see the whole album by tapping the last frame of the album highlights, which has a big ">" sign in it.
- Auto Backup will automatically upload any photo or video you take to your Google+ Photos in the cloud, into an album called "Auto Backup." You can turn the function on or off on the Photos screen (see above left), or you can go to Google Settings (in your App Drawer)>Google+>Auto Backup for more options, including being able to specify uploading only when wi-fi is available.
- As mentioned above, the Photos app allows you to download a photo or video from the Google+ cloud. Select what you want to download, tap Menu, and then Download.
- Just as with the stock Gallery, there are some basic photo editing functions available--just select a photo, tap the Menu button, then Edit. The editing functions are the same as with the stock Gallery, except that there is no contrast adjustment. Deleting a photo is also accomplished the same way as with the Gallery--long press a photo, and tap the garbage can icon at the top of the screen.
Remember that these photo editing functions are very basic. If you want more extensive editing options, there are plenty of free and paid apps to try out!
A common question on these forums is how to arrange photos in a folder structure similar to a PC or Mac. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to do this using the Gallery or Photos apps, but it can be done. You need to have a good file manager app installed (if your device doesn't come with one, a couple of suggestions would be and ).
- First, use the file manager to create a new folder for your photos. It can be anywhere, but a good place to create it would be in the standard Pictures directory (/storage/emulated/0/Pictures).
- Next, go to the Camera folder (/storage/emulated/0/DCIM/Camera), where the photos you took are located. You can then copy or move a photo to the folder you just created.
- When you go back to the Gallery or Photos app, you should see the new folder containing that photo.
- If you want to move photos to a different folder, you will need to do so using the file manager app, not the Gallery or Photos app.
Last edited by B. Diddy; 01-28-2014 at 05:40 PM.
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