I often have to remind myself that although I have been using Android phones and tablets for over 6 years, many readers of this blog are complete ‘newbies’ and need help with the basics. Some users of Android devices may have come from an Apple product such as an iPhone or iPad too and there are significant differences in using products from various manufacturers.
Lets start at the beginning – how do you turn your phone or tablet on and off – and do you need to?
The power button on your device really has four functions. They are to turn it on from off (obvious really) – put it into Sleep mode – wake it up from Sleep mode and finally, turn it off completely. While this may sound obvious to seasoned users, it can cause confusion to new users who may be used to say, a Windows computer.
Android devices are designed to run most of the time and don’t need to be shut down completely – unless you don’t plan to use it for a day or two. To put it to sleep or wake it up again, a quick tap of the power button is all you need to do. To turn it on from off or shut it down completely, press and hold the power button. If turning it off you will get a confirmation menu, just tap the shutdown (or a restart option is available on some devices if you want to do this). If turning it on, after the long press you will see the start up screen, which varies with the version of Android it runs.
As well as the power button, every Android device has a volume control – this will either be a long bar that you tap and hold either end to turn up or down the volume of either the ringer volume on a phone or the volume of media playback – music or the like. Which it controls depends what is onscreen at the time. On a phone it will control the ringer volume if you are on any of the home screens but if you are in a media application it will control the playback volume instead.
There will also be at least three other buttons that may be ‘real’ ones or on screen ones and they are called Home, Back and Menu. For more information on what the various buttons do, read my tutorial on home screens and buttons here. This post describes how to navigate around your device by swiping or tapping too.
If you have an Android smartphone an obvious use is making calls. Let’s look at how this is done.
On every home screen of your phone there should be an icon with a phone handset (usually green) down at the bottom of the screen in the ‘tray’ area. Tap this to bring up the phone dialler app. Then, either enter the number you want to call and tap the phone receiver icon at the bottom of the screen or swipe the recent call list up or down to see your call history to recall one of the numbers stored there. Note that if you begin entering a phone number (or type their name using the letters associated with each of the phone numbers) you will be shown a list of contacts that match the number or name you have started to enter – this is a quick way to call someone that you know is in your contacts.
If you want to call a contact stored on your phone, just tap the contacts icon in the tray area – this looks like a persons head and is usually orange. Depending on your phone, you can store contacts in groups like family, business etc and this makes it simpler to locate who you want to call, but there is always a ‘search’ button. Just begin entering the persons name and matches will appear for you to choose the correct one. Tap their name to call them.
Note that if you have a missed call, their number (unless they have set their phone to not provide it) and the name of the person if they are in your contacts will be in the dialler app history screen. Just tap the number to return the call.
Finally, answering a call is a little different from some other phones. When your phone rings, you will see a screen that usually displays the calling number (and name if you have this person stored in your phone) with two icons underneath. To answer the call, touch and slide the green phone receiver icon to the right side of the screen. Note that if you tap the speaker icon the call will be placed in speakerphone mode.
Alternatively, to ignore or decline the call, touch and drag the red phone icon to the left side of the screen and the call will go to voicemail.
If you need to enter numbers from the phone keypad during a call, tap the keypad icon to bring up the keypad and enter the numbers required. Note that many phones will blank the screen during a call to prevent accidentally tapping a button and ending the call. If you take the phone away from your ear, the screen should return again!
In the next tutorial I’ll discuss managing your contacts and sending and receiving text messages.