Getting Started with Android

Just scored a new Android phone or tablet? Unfamiliar with the operating system? Here's what you need to know.

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Any new operating system can be tricky to master, and this is especially true if you're making the switch on something you use as often as a mobile phone. If you're moving over from iOS to Android it can feel unfamiliar and confusing, but it's OK. We're here to help.

Before you start

Before you power up your new Android device, there's one key bit of advice we'll offer.

Make sure you've got access to a Wi-Fi connection or at the very least have your SIM card already in the phone. Setting up a fresh Android device will all go much more smoothly if you have an Internet connection that you can rely on. Wi-Fi is better in this context because that way you can download any updates without hitting excess mobile usage charges, although obviously if you want to set up your phone for calls, having your SIM card ready is essential anyway.

As soon as you power up your new Android device you'll be walked through the initial set-up step-by-step, and it's pretty self-explanatory.

You'll be asked for language, Wi-Fi network (see, we told you) and to put in your Google account details.

If you're using anything more recent than Android 5.0 (and you really should be) then you'll have the option to transfer over account details from your old Android device, but if you're reading this, you probably don't have one.

Step One: Add security


We heartily recommend getting this done quickly. Depending on your device, you may be asked to do this during set-up and it can include biometrics in the form of fingerprint or face recognition, a password, a PIN, an unlock pattern or any combo of the above.

If you skipped this step during set-up, you can make the necessary changes by heading to Settings, then Security and go to Device Security. From there you can set-up or change any security preferences.

Step Two: Download updates


Android gets regular updates and your phone may not have the very latest version that's on offer. While it should check automatically, there's a simple way to make sure.

Go to Settings, head to System and tap System Update to check. You'll either be met with an update to download or the news that you're as up-to-date as you can be on your current handset. Bear in mind that different manufacturers offer different levels of updates for specific handsets, and these also have to go through carrier testing for telco-provided handsets.

Step Three: Create a backup

This is a great time to double-check that you've set-up a Google-based backup of all the important data on your phone. You can access this feature in Settings and System under the Backup option. Check that the backup feature is enabled and is connected to your Google account. You can also see and change what data is being backed up as well as view when your latest backup was performed.

Step Four: Connect your other accounts

Android makes it really simple to add your account details for other services. Just go to Settings, Users and Accounts and start adding accounts. You can have multiple Google accounts on a single phone, which is great for people who have a Gmail-based work email. You can add Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp or whatever other services you require.

Other important considerations about Android

There are a lot of flavours

Google regularly releases new versions of its Android operating system, naming each release after a food item such as Nougat, Oreo and Pie.

Sadly, Google isn't as good as Apple at making sure Android updates are enforced, with updates often being distributed by manufacturers or even telcos. This means you might not have the latest version, even if it's available on Google's own Pixel devices.

That's because other manufacturers put their own spin on Android in terms of look and feel and even pre-loaded apps, so they may take some time to make the jump to new versions.

It's super customisable

You can change the colours, the fonts, the wallpaper and even the keyboard in Android. If you're really keen, you can even download a custom version of what's known as a "launcher" and completely change the way you interface with your Android phone.

The Google Play Store can be a Wild West

Google makes it relatively easily to build Android apps and get them onto the Play Store, but that means you might find a few apps from developers that aren't quite at the standard you might be looking for.

Check reviews, look at ratings and explore your options before you commit. Make sure that the app you're installing isn't a clone of a better known app, and pay attention to any permissions it asks for before you install. Android is very good at making sure you know what an app is going to do, but if you blithely click through you could be sharing details or access that you really don't want to.

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