5 tips for new Android users

Class is in session. Image: Engadget
Before I turned into a very vocal advocate of the Android operating system, I was a long-time iOS user. At the time, my reasoning was that iOS was just so simple to use, while Android was too complicated. I didn't want to make the effort to learn how to use Android. Now that I have, I still think iOS is easier to use than Android, but that doesn't mean Android's too difficult to use. All you need is some guidance and Android will be a breeze. That's ultimately why I started this blog in the first place - not to report on mobile tech or spread rumours and such, but to provide the average consumer (who won't usually visit sites like Android Police or Pocketnow) with basic knowledge on how to make the most of their Android device. I already wrote a beginner's guide to smartphones, as well as highlighted a few of my favourite apps, and now I will give 5 tips that I think every new (or less-informed) Android user should know.

Don't overload your home screen(s) with widgets
What was the first thing I did when I got my first Android device? Load as many widgets as I could onto as many home screens as my phone allowed. How is my phone setup today? One home screen, with just a widget for the date and time. I do have three other widgets, not on a home screen but in Action Launcher's Quickpage. So technically, 4 widgets on two home screens is all I have. I know it can be tempting, to have all the widgets for your most used apps on your home screens, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. While widgets are a great utility that provide information to the user without needing to launch any app (cough iOS cough) having too many active at the same time can be both battery draining and performance hindering. Limit your widgets to what you truly need.
Too many widgets can be detrimental to your (battery) health. Image: Gigaom
Study your battery usage
One of the most useful tools in Android is the battery usage statistics. Not only does it display a graph of your battery drain, it also shows you when and how long your connectivity options like GPS, Wifi and mobile data were on, and which apps have used the most battery. With this kind of information, you can see exactly where all your battery life goes, and adjust your usage accordingly if you want to improve your device's battery life. It can also identify rogue apps that use more battery than they should.
Study the data to see how your battery life is being used. Image: Google+
Don't use a task killer or an anti-virus
Some people seem to think that since your smartphone/tablet is basically a small computer, you need things like a task killer or an anti-virus to "protect" it. You don't. Android manages your tasks (apps) on it's own. If there are too many tasks running, older ones will be terminated automatically. If you insist on "killing" apps on your own, just open the recent apps list, and clear your apps there. You don't need a task killer app to do that for you. And Android also has it's own built-in security measures which negates the need for a separate anti-virus app. I've explained this in more detail in a previous post.

Get a file manager
One of the biggest differences between Android and iOS is that Android supports file managers. You can connect your device to a desktop and organise the files like it's an external storage device like a thumbdrive. No iTunes needed. But what about on the device itself? On iOS you have no way of seeing where files are stored, which also means you can't do anything with the files other than what iOS and the apps permit. On Android however, you can access your device's storage and see what files are where, move files from one location to another and organise your files the way you want, just like you can on Windows. Needless to say, this is an extremely powerful and useful tool, one that you should take advantage of.
ES File Explorer is a popular file manager 
Explore the Play Store for alternative system apps
On iOS (yes, another comparison), you are stuck with the system apps Apple give you. On Android, you are not. Don't like the keyboard? Download an alternative like SwiftKey. Don't like how your home screen or app drawer works? Download a custom launcher like Nova. Don't like the built-in ringtones and notification alerts? Download an app with thousands of others like Zedge. Bored of the same icons? Download any of the hundreds of icon packs in the Play Store (instead of waiting years for a iOS system update). Get a new clock and weather widget to replace the stock widget you got with your device. Get an alternate calendar app, an alternate music player, or an alternate camera app. Basically, just realise that you are not restricted to the apps your manufacturer gave you. Android is a relatively open operating system. Don't use it like it's iOS.

Android is definitely more complex than iOS. But with that complexity comes an enormous amount of flexibility, power and control. You can control how your device works, change what you don't like and add what you don't have. I was trapped in Apple's reality distortion field for years before realising just how powerful Android is. If you use an Android device the same way an iOS user uses their iDevice, you are seriously, seriously doing it wrong. Follows these tips, and unlock the potential of your Android device.

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