Apr 11th, 2014


Whether you’re new to this whole Android thing or whether this is your third or fourth device running Google’s mobile OS, there are certain steps you can take immediately to get the most our of your new smartphone. From syncing your Google account to finding the perfect apps and games, the below list aims to get you up and running as quickly as possible so you can start enjoying your Android phone.

Note: Many of the below items require making adjustments under the Settings menu. Quickly access Settings by swiping down from the top of the screen, revealing the notifications shade, and tapping the gear icon.

Set up your Google account


Your Google account is the heartbeat of your Android device, and syncing the two is central to accessing services like Google Play, Gmail, Google Now, and more. You most likely will have taken care of this during initial setup of your device, but in case you skipped this step you can add your Google account (and a number of others) via the Settings menu.

Simply navigate to Settings > Add Account (located under the Accounts heading) then click Google from the list of options. If you do not have a Google account you can create one at this time by tapping New when prompted. Otherwise, tap Existing and enter the credentials of the Google account you wish to sync with your Android phone.

Once you have signed into your account you will be asked to choose which items to sync with your phone. At a bare minimum we recommend checking the boxes next to ContactsCalendar, and Gmail, which will keep your address book, Google calendars, and email synced across devices using the same Google account.

Add your contacts


The quickest way to add contacts to your phone is by syncing with your Google account. Contacts stored in Gmail will automatically populate your device’s address book. If you need to add a bulk address book, a single contact or edit an existing entry, do so using the People application.

If you do not have your address book synced to your Google account but wish to add contacts in bulk, do so by importing a vCard (.vcf) file. You can create a vCard file using applications like Outlook or (for Mac users) Apple’s Contacts app. This card can then be transferred to your phone’s SD card storage (this will not be available for all Android phones). Alternatively, if transferring a SIM from an old device, your address book might be stored on the card.

In the People app, tap the Menu button (three vertical dots), then tap Import/export and choose either Import from storage or Import from SIM card.

To add a single contact, tap the Add contact button (represented by a cartoon head and shoulders with a ‘+’ on top). Fill in information for the contact’s name, phone number, email, address, and other info then tap Save.

If transitioning from an iPhone, there may be a few more steps. See our guide for transferring contacts from iPhone to Android for full instructions.

Create a passcode


If you want to keep the data on your phone safe from prying eyes, avoid butt-dials, and maintain peace of mind that sensitive information is safe in case your phone is lost or stolen, it’s always a good idea to create a passcode for your Android device. Users have a few options here: a 4-digit PIN, an unlock pattern, a password, or Face Unlock. You can edit passcode settings by navigating to Settings > Security under the Personal subheading.

From the Security menu, tap Screen lock to access lockscreen passcode settings. From the next screen, choose the passcode method you wish to use. The two recommended methods are Pattern and PIN, as they tend to be easily remembered, quickly entered, and reliable. Face Unlock is a fun way to access your device, but it can be a bit clumsy. 

Tap the passcode method of your choice and follow the instructions on the next screen to create a new unlock PIN, pattern, or password.

Customize your homescreen


You Android device’s numerous homescreens can be customized with applications, widgets, and folders, personalizing the look and feel of the operating system while making it easy to access the services you use most.

To arrange items on a homescreen (or move them to a different homescreen), simply long-press the icon or widget and drag it to its new location. Drag icons on top of each other to create folders, a great way to organize apps and services.

Removing a homescreen item is easy. Simple long-press the icon or widget and dragging it toward the top of the screen. Drop the item on Remove to delete it from the homescreen. 

To add an item to your homescreen, open the Applications menu and long-press the app shortcut you wish to add. Drag it our of the app drawer and on to the desire homescreen. The same can be done for widgets.

Certain widgets are resizable. After long-pressing the widget, release it. Resizing handles will now be highlighted. Drag the edges of the widget to bring it to its new desired size.

Change your background


To change the background of your Android phone, simply long-press a blank area of your homescreen. The Choose wallpaper from dialog will appear. Choose a new wallpaper from your Gallery or from Google’s collection of standard wallpapers. Animated wallpapers are available from the Live Wallpapers gallery. When you have settled on the perfect background, tap Set wallpaper.

Alternatively, you can change your background by navigating to Settings > Display > Wallpaper. You will be presented with the same options as listed above.

Personalize sounds and ringtones


To edit device sound settings, navigate to Settings > Sound under the Device subheading. From the Sound menu you can adjust volume levels for ringtones, notifications, and other system sounds as well as edit vibration settings and more.

Choose a ringtone by tapping Phone ringtone. You can choose from the default options presented by Google or from your personal audio library stored on the device’s internal memory. Likewise, you can choose a notification sound by tapping Default notification.

From the Sound menu you can also choose other system sound and vibration settings, such as haptic feedback, screen lock sound, and dial pad touch tones.

Enable Google Now


Google Now is a newer addition to Android, but it has already become one of the operating system’s biggest assets. If you have an Android device and don’t have the predictive information service and personal voice assistant activated, you are missing out. You can enable Google Now through the Google Search app. Note that you will need to have your Google account synced to your device before doing so.

Open the Google Search app by tapping the search bar at the top of any homescreen. Tap the Menu (three vertical dots) button in the lower righthand corner (the keyboard may initially obscure this portion of the screen — close it), then tap Settings. Toggle Google Now to the On position.

Google Now’s cards offer a variety of information gathered from your Google account, including shipment tracking notifications, sports scores, calendar events, local attractions, and much more. Google Now will also respond to voice input, answering search queries (try asking “How old is the President of the United States?”) with the help of Google’s Knowledge Graph and speaking the results back to you. Just tap the microphone icon to initiate voice input.

Get apps and games


That shiny new Android phone might as well be a dumbphone without the apps and games that go along with it. When you quickly grow tired of your phone’s pre-installed software, visit Google Play to find more.

You can access Google Play via the Play Store app. You can browse apps and games by category, get recommendations and suggestions from Google’s Play Store curators, and view the top paid and free apps. While there is no perfect answer to the question of which apps to get first, the Home tab is a good place to start to find the newest and most popular items from Google’s applications catalog.

The Play Store app is also when you will manage the applications already installed on your device and update previously purchased and downloaded software. Tap the Menu button then My apps to manage apps and games.

A note on cloud storage…

While not absolutely necessary, setting up cloud storage for your device will provide some extra space to store files and enable backups of your photos and other important information. It will also make it possible to access your data across devices synced to the same cloud services.

Google Drive is easy enough to set up if you already have a Google account. You will want to make sure Google Drive sync is checked under the account options located by navigating to Settings > Google under the Accounts subheading. To get full use of the service, you may need to download the Drive app from the Play Store.

Other recommended options include Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.


The above is merely scratching the surface of what your Android phone can do, but we won’t spoil all of the fun of exploring your shiny new toy. Discovered any tips or tricks for other new Android users? Share them in the comments below!

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