Geeks to Peeps Technology

Geeks To Peeps: Setting Up My Android Phone, Part One

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve purchased an Android smartphone. I’ve been interesting in Android for some time, especially now that I have clients which use various Android handsets. With Virgin Mobile offering the LG Optimus V phone for just $150 out the door, I made a foolish purchase and now have two cell phones in my possession: My iPhone 4 and the Optimus V.

The iPhone is still my cell phone and, for all intents and purposes, the only phone I use thanks to Google Voice. I don’t intend to start using the Optimus V in place of my iPhone…yet. My first goal is to learn Android inside and out, starting with the built-in apps which come with Android and the Optimus V. It is entirely possible, however, that, through Google Voice and Skype, I could set this phone up to make AND receive calls on, and that leads to my second goal: To completely remove the iPhone from my life and see if the Optimus V can fill the void. First things first, however…

I’ve played with the Optimus V for the past few days, installing apps, changing settings, and just fooling around with the phone. Now that I’m ready to dig deep into the Android world, I’ve reset the phone to its factory default. Eventually, once there’s a ROM for the phone with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, I’ll root the phone and update it. As far as I know, that will be the last update I can do as 3.0 on up will require a dual core processor, which this phone does not have.

The first step will be to get this phone online. Since I’m not purchasing a data plan, the only way to do this is by wi-fi. Fortunately, that step is easy. Just unlock the phone and, from the home screen, push the Options button on the bottom left of the front. Touch the Settings button on the screen and that takes you to the phone’s basic setup options. Wireless & Networks is at the top of the list.

In Wireless & Networks, the second option on the screen turns wi-fi on and off, while the third option allows you to enter the settings for whatever network you’re connecting to. Those settings stay in memory, so you will reconnect to any networks you’ve previously set up. You also have the option to connect to other devices via Bluetooth, but I’ll cover that in a later post. Farther down the list at the bottom, there is also an option for mobile networks. Since the phone is not activated and I won’t be using a data plan, I’m turning off any options in this section to help conserve battery power.

The next setting I will look at is under Location & Security, fifth option down on the main Settings screen. Ironically, the first option, Use Wireless Networks, is probably the least important, although it may come in handy if you use location-based services such as Foursquare and have problems picking up a GPS signal. The real meat and potatoes here is the option to set up a screen lock. Unlike the iPhone, which has two options, a basic slide of the finger across the screen or a four digit PIN, Android also offers us the option to draw a pattern on the screen to unlock it.  Fortunately, since I can’t take screen shots (yet), you won’t find out what pattern I used.

Right underneath Location & Security is Applications. This setting area is important because, unlike the iPhone, Android supports TRUE multitasking. What this also means is that, for the most part, when you start an app on an Android phone, it stays running. This will drain your battery like nobody’s business. Within the Applications settings, you can manage your apps, determining where they are installed (on board or SD card), managing their settings, and, if you want, shutting them down. There’s even a section for developers which will let you turn off the phone’s screen lock and enter mock locations for app testing. I’m no developer, so I’m leaving those settings alone. One final option, at the top of the list, is to allow app installations from sources outside of the Android Marketplace. This isn’t as insecure as it sounds as the Android Marketplace isn’t vetted like the iOS App Store, so there isn’t much danger in going outside of the “approved” app source.

Accounts & Sync is where you truly begin to make your phone your own, especially if you are a Google/Gmail user. Just enter your Google credentials or, if you are a Microsoft Exchange user, your work Exchange credentials. Once you’ve added your account, the phone will begin syncing with any services related to that account, including email, calendar, contacts and, from Gmail, services like Picasa. You don’t have to worry about syncing with a PC and, if you switch to another Android phone, all of your data follows you. The cloud is definitely your friend.

While there are other settings available to change and fool around with, the settings listed above are plenty to get you started on making your Android phone your own. My next post in this series will look at setting up the built-in apps which come with Android. Between these two articles, you’ll be able to use your Android phone for all your everyday needs. Of course, with a smartphone, everyday needs are just the beginning, and we’ll be getting into some of the best apps which you can install on your phone to make it an integral part of your geek life.