It’s the time of the year for gifts, and a new Android phone might be exactly what Santa ordered for someone on your list.
But good elves do more than just put a box under the tree. If your giftee is new to Android, or you want to save them some of the pain from setup, then proceed on to our guide.
Welcome to Android: Most Android devices have a smooth setup screen that walks you through the process of getting started.
GET READY TO GO GOOGLE
The heartbeat of every Android device is a Google account. But that means you’ll need the user’s password if you’re going to sign them in and sync over all their apps and other content. If it’s a child or spouse, that’s probably not too big of a hurdle. However, if they’ve set up two-step authentication, you’ll need a current phone or access to the Google Authenticator app.
Along with bringing over all the Gmail and syncing your Google Drive contents, a Google account is necessary in order to buy apps, games, and other content through the Play Store. So if you’re not going to sign on yet, then this portion of the device setup will need to wait.
Android setup: Move over any apps from your previous device by signing in to a Google account.
PREPARE TO GET PRODUCTIVE
One of the reasons I enjoy Android so much is that it’s much smarter for productivity. The deep tie-in to Google services and the customization choices make it great for getting things done. (We covered that in depth here.)
Google’s pretty much got you covered with a lot of great tools: Drive, Maps, Keep, Gmail, Docs, and of course Chrome. Yes, Google has most of its apps and services on iOS, but you’ll always find deeper integration with the OS and little tweaks specifically on Android.
Also, launch the Google app and turn on Google Now from the settings. This is a great service that serves up cards with the latest weather report, sports scores, and organizes travel details found in your Gmail.
Another Googly suggestion: unless you’ve bought a Nexus or Motorola device, grab the Google Now Launcher. On Android, you can install a custom launcher to give the device a unique look, with the ability to customize the lock screen and other UI elements. With the Google Now Launcher, you get quick access to Google search and your Now cards just one swipe from the home screen. There are plenty of other custom launchers, however, if the goal is to tinker as much as possible. (We cover that more in-depth here.)
But it doesn’t have to be all Google, all the time. Microsoft has a ton of good apps now, including the entire Office suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and OneDrive are all here. (Here's our how-to on integrating Microsoft apps on an Android device.)
But the productivity doesn’t have to rest with just those two companies. Cross-platform services like Evernote, Any.do, Todoist, and others are great choices to throw down on the home screen. Since they have strong cloud services, all the new phone owner needs to do is just sign in and all their stuff is ready to go. If the new owner is still undecided as to which productivity services work for them, point them toward our comparison of productivity tools on Android.
MAKE ROOM FOR FUN
Let's be honest: Few people are going to receive a smartphone and trill, "At last! A device which I will use solely for work-related matters!" Although some gaming titles still go first or exclusively to the App Store, the vast majority also make their way to Android. There’s a dedicated games section in the Play Store if you want to browse.
If you’re looking for a few to get started with however, consider what types of games the person you bought the phone for likes to play. But here are a few selections you may want to consider in order to give a well-rounded package of some of the best titles:
- Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft: grab this for the geeky ones in your life. It’s a challenging card game that pays homage to the World of Warcraft universe, complete with lots of in-app purchases if you want to elevate your game.
- NBA 2K16: If you’re looking for one of the better sports titles, go wit this one. It’s a bit on the expensive side as far as mobile games go at $7.99, but it’s a great selection for any sports fan. The only caveat is that it might run into hiccups if you’re installing it on a budget device.
- Leo’s Fortune: If there’s a game that nails how to use controls on a mobile device, it’s this one. Control a fuzzy creature on a physics-led adventure through various mysterious worlds.
- Two Dots: A classic game that’s fun and challenges your brain, then Two Dots is a great choice. The predecessor Dots is also pretty fun and will serve as a good way to avoid boring family conversations.
Once you've stocked the Android device with the basics, give your gift recipient a bonus present: an hour of your time to walk them through the basics of customizing their user experience and getting the most out of their new phone. May we suggest the following how-tos for Android users?
Taming the notifications and unruly apps on your phone -- This is Troubleshooting 101 for when apps freeze or notifications swamp the screen.
Changing up your phone's home screen with a customized launcher -- This is for the gift recipient who is very, very picky about how their phone looks or how apps ought to be grouped.
Gazing at your phone at night without falling prey to blue-light insomnia -- The problem is real; developers have solutions for it.