We can talk and argue all day about which is better: iOS or Android? Each has their strengths and weaknesses, but I chose Android years ago due to the complete customization features and open-endedness of the OS that Apple refuses to give customers. The downside to this is that it can be daunting and most new or inexperienced users will get lost and intimidated on how to customize their Android phone and get it running in tip-top shape. I will run down how to get your phone optimized and looking unique as if you just turned it on for the first time.
Initial Setup Tips
Some people are irritated with initial setups. They get their shiny new phone and just want to download and play with apps right away. They irritatingly skip the setup and then wonder why nothing is working right. The first tip to getting a new phone is patience. I understand they are getting more complicated and the setup processes are taking as long as hours for certain manufacturers. Setting up your phone right the first time can alleviate and speed up a lot of later processes.
- Read everything carefully — Don’t skip any steps without reading them first. Make sure you sign into your Google account as so much precious data is saved on it such as contact info, emails, and Play Store data. Carry this one Google account with you for as long as you can for the best experience
- Allow diagnostics and statistics — Take off the tin foil hat, please. Okay, want to know a secret? No one is stealing your data or info. The Edward Snowden thing doesn’t apply to the average common denominator. Trust me, the FBI and CIA don’t want to know about your Vaguebook and Snapchat posts about your cat and lunch. With that out of the way this helps Google and manufacturers read crash logs and what apps you’re using to help with maybe even creating their next great phone. Helping is caring!
- If you still have your old phone do a transfer — Newer Samsung phones, for example, allow you to transfer your stuff over directly via Wifi or USB cable. Do this if you haven’t backed anything up on an SD card or your computer. It takes a while but is so worth it. If you are a cloud user, like me, then you probably have no worries.
- Log in to your manufacturers’ store — Samsung Galaxy Store is a perfect example. There are many great features in their stores and some system apps need to use it.
Let your phone breathe for a second! After the initial setup everything will boot up and load into the memory so hang on!
I absolutely hate bloatware; almost more than ads. I understand the concept of them: Manufacturers and brands make deals with carriers to carry their app pre-installed on the hottest new phone. The issue is that most people don’t know how to remove this bloatware and it bogs down your phone and can be frustrating. Verizon and Sprint are the worst offenders of this with T-Mobile having little to no bloatware on their devices.
For most newer Android phones (KitKat and newer) go into your Applications under settings and look for any app that you don’t want or use and delete it or disable it. Doing this before installing any apps prevents everything from auto updating in the Play Store, so we want to catch these apps before they run amok. After you do this find your menu icon in Applications/Apps and go to system apps. Uninstall anything that you don’t want, but don’t touch it if you don’t know what it is. Most system apps can’t be disabled or uninstalled, but all the com apps and various others that are drivers or run pieces of your phone are in here. Don’t be afraid to Google it! Knowledge is power people.
Install Favorite Apps
This is where if you are a previous Android user you can go through you download history and install all your favorite apps right away. Do this first before customizing as it keeps you from having to constantly go into the store and download things one by one. With the latest Play Store update, you can long press in your download list and just select everything you want all the way to the bottom and press install. Accept all the permissions and wait it out. Try to avoid downloading games as they aren’t needed immediately.
While you’re waiting for your apps to install it’s a good idea to take some time and adjust your phone settings. I know the list is growing and growing every year, but tweaking your phone to your exact liking results in a much more enjoyable experience. Start with the top and work your way down. I suggest setting up a fingerprint lock screen if you have it, and an iris scans if you have a Note7. Adjust your screen settings to your liking as well as connections, various device specific features, S-Pen on Note phones for example, and any cloud accounts you have. Leave notifications for last as this is a customization feature. For Samsung phones that are the Note5 or newer, I highly suggest going to the Theme store and downloading a theme to your liking while you wait. Samsung’s Theme store is just fantastic and I have bought many great themes from here.
Once you have your security settings and what not setup, let’s start with something simple and that’s the home screen. Many people aren’t aware of what the home screen really does as it’s one of Android’s greatest weapons. Most phone manufacturers have their own version such as Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC’s Sense, LG UX, Huawei Emotion UI. Sony Xperia UI etc. I personally don’t care for these launchers as they are restrictive, rarely updated, and are rather basic. I highly suggest downloading Nova Launcher (paying from the Prime version is worth it too) and using this as the default home launcher.
Once you have Nova Launcher installed you should start by messing with the settings. Start with the app drawer and move out from there. I personally have grouped tabs in the drawer with categories set such as Entertainment, Finance, Social etc. I used to use folders on the home screen but I prefer a minimalistic approach to customizing my launcher. Once you get the app drawer sorted start with folders and sorting apps how you like before you touch anything else. Once that is done, go to various settings such as animation speeds, light and dark themes, and custom pictures.
After this, go to the Play Store and download an icon theme. Just search “icons” and you will get hundreds of packs. Try something for free before buying anything of course. Once you set your icon back it’s time for a wallpaper. I personally love Live Wallpapers as this is a unique feature for Android phones. Search the Play Store for “live wallpaper” and something will pop up. There are many themes and variations. If you don’t want a live wallpaper just use your favorite photo.
Wallpaper Tip: Try using a picture that’s larger or the same size as your phone’s screen resolution for the best image. Crop the image in your favorite photo editor to 2560×1440, for example, for the best results. You will notice your wallpapers pop and are bright and crisp rather than being pixelated. This goes for lock screen wallpapers as well.
Once this is all done it’s time to setup widgets. Widgets are another weapon in Android’s arsenal and are one of the main selling points. Long press on the screen and tap widgets and see which of your apps support them. Don’t be afraid to experiment! I personally like having my news apps on one page along with my Gmail inbox and that’s it.
It’s a pain in the ass so do it all now! Log in to all of your most used apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, bank apps, shopping apps, etc. Do it all now so you don’t get frustrated every time you open an app and have to log in. It takes around 30 minutes if you have a lot of apps, but it’s so worth it at the end. This goes for games as well that have cloud support or need to download extra data. Spend the hour or two to get this all down right now.
Save this for last as it can be really distracting. There’s only one home for ringtones and that’s the Zedge app. This app has been around since the inception of Android and has grown over the years. This is where you can download ringtones and notification ringtones. You can literally spend hours looking around for the best ringtone for each contact. Remember, you can set a notification ringtone for each contact and a call ringtone. You can also set a ringtone for Gmail by going into the settings of the app.
Music is something people take for granted on smartphones. Get a good app with a good equalizer and easy to use features. Rocket Player is my favorite as it has various themes, has Material Design, a great equalizer, and a lot of features for music buffs. Adjust the audio settings for headphones in your phone’s system settings too. A great sound experience can not be taken for granted as it’s not just good headphones that allow for a good experience. It’s about the hardware and the software too.
- Don’t use anti-virus apps — Don’t do it! They aren’t needed as they slow down your phone and are usually scams. Phones don’t really get viruses unless you intentionally download something you’re not supposed to. If you use your phone as you should then you have nothing to worry about.
- Don’t use phone cleaning software — At least on Lollipop and above. Most manufacturers have their own built-in device manager apps in the system settings. Use this rather than third party apps as they can crash your phone and actually cause more slowdown. Lollipop and above, and recent phones manage apps well with the large amount of RAM they have. There’s no need to constantly close apps and empty the RAM.
- Use an SD card — Seriously, use one. Most Android phones allow the use of them and are great for storing photos and backing up apps and files. Don’t just buy the cheapest SD card either. Get something that has a fast write speed (advertised on the front of packages is read speed). Do your research online as to how to find out if a card is fast or slow.
- Stay organized — Keep your apps sorted and uninstall something if you never use it. Don’t leave things hanging around as it fills up space and is one more app running in the background.
- Keep your phone clean — People take it for granted, but wiping your phone down, front and back, with a microfiber cloth and screen cleaner, does wonders. It keeps your keys from building up gunk and your screen looking nice and shiny. Dirt and grime rubbing against the phone all the time cause micro scratches over time.
- Don’t use third party chargers and batteries — Don’t cheapen out. Use the manufacturer branded stuff or third party stuff that’s well recommended and has been thoroughly tested by users. Stay way from Chinese knock-offs on eBay especially.
Here are some tips to get an extra boost out of your phone or troubleshoot common issues!
- Developer Options — While this is mainly for advanced users, there are a few settings that can speed up your phone. Go to settings and about device. Tap Build Number until developer options turn on. Head to these new options and under Drawing you can turn animation transitions off if you experience any slowdown. Under Hardware Accelerated Redering you can turn on Force GPU Rendered and Turn on 4x MSAA. This forces 2D applications to use the GPU to speed up usage and games can use 4X MSAA anti-aliasing to look sharger and clearer.
- Slow keyboard typing? — Long press on a blank typing area and select Clipboard. From here you can delete everything. This is for Samsung keyboards, but there’s something similar for them all. Over time most keyboard apps store everything you’ve copied and usually has to load every time you bring up the keyboard.
- 1080p 60FPS is better than 4K — Don’t let the whole 4K thing wow you so much. Unless you have a 4K TV or monitor you won’t notice a difference. There aren’t even 4K phones out right now. All it does is take up more space and you’re not even viewing it in 4K. 1080p at 60 frames per second will look much better on everything you own.
- Turn off download boosters — Honestly, all they do is rack up data as your phone will more than likely favor your 4G network over wifi.