Android Smartphone FAQ

Galaxy S7 Edge
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you are completely new to using Android smartphones, or even if you are only thinking about upgrading your feature phone to something a little more powerful and up-to-date, you probably have several questions about this type of phone rattling around in your head. After years of being the unofficial Android know-it-all to my friends, family and even passing acquaintances, it strikes me that there are certain questions which get asked again and again.

This list is not an exhaustive Q and A on Android phones, but it should certainly answer some of those niggling beginner queries you may have.

1. What is Android?

The big one! The question I have been asked more times than probably any other when it comes to talking about smartphones. Android is a mobile operating system owned by Google, and used by many smartphone manufacturers as the system software on their devices. The easiest way to understand what this means is by comparing your smartphone to home PC. The PC may be manufactured by Dell or Mesh, but the operating system (Windows), made by Microsoft, is what turns it from a collection of black boxes into a useful tool by linking up what you see on screen to the hardware inside. You can read more about Android here.

2. Which Are the Best Apps?

An almost impossible question to answer, as it completely depends on what you plan to use your smartphone for.

The apps which are best for me, are probably not going to be the apps which are best for you. Sure, there may be some apps which everyone seems to use, such as Facebook and Twitter. Generally, the best way to pick apps is by either using your phone for a while and working out if there is anything missing from it that you want to do, and then looking for an app that does it, or by talking to your friends who also use Android.

If most of your friends use WhatsApp Messenger and SnapChat, it makes sense for you to also try them out.

3. Do All Smartphones Have Touchscreens?

Technically, no. However, the vast majority do have a capacitive touchscreen these days. A touchscreen is often considered to be a key feature in what makes a smartphone a smartphone. ​​BlackBerry, Nokia and several other manufacturers produce phones which would fall in the smartphone class (with advanced features such as email, browser, etc.,) but do not feature a touchscreen, or at least have a physical keyboard as an alternative input method to a capacitive screen.

4. Do I Really Need a Google Account?

You will need to enter details of an existing Google account, or need to create a new account, during the set-up process of almost all Android phones. If you have a Gmail, YouTube or Picasa account, or an account for any of the other popular Google products, you already have the login details you need. Google migrated all of its separate product accounts into a single unified account several years ago. Without a Google account, you will not be able to take full advantage of all the useful apps which are pre-installed on all Android phones, and as it takes just a few minutes to set up an account, it seems silly to make this a problem.

5. Are Widgets Like Apps?

Not really. Although some widgets do seem to have stand-alone functions (such as the clock or alarm widget) they are always connected to a full app or a system setting, letting you view updates or notifications from the app without actually having to open it fully. The stock Android email widget, for example, can be set up to show either the most recent message or the titles of the last five messages. This allows you to quickly see if you have important messages without having to open the email app. Think of widgets as interactive home screen shortcuts.

6. Which is the Best Android Phone?

Again, it is difficult to recommend a specific handset to someone without knowing what they plan to be using it for.

If you want something which will play the all your media with ease, go for something with a large screen and good processor like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One. If your main concern is a good camera, opt for one of the Nokia Lumia range or the Galaxy Zoom. As with apps, your best bet is to ask your friends why they love their phones and see if your needs match.