Android is the most widely used platform on the planet. That means it is being used by a variety of skill levels. If you exist on the newbie end of the scale (or if you have to support a group of newbies running Android), know that there are some common mistakes made with this Google-centric platform. Some mistakes come from the adjustments you have to make when migrating from another platform. But others are a bit more grievous and could even cause some form of data loss. All these mistakes can be easily avoided with just a bit of knowledge. So that's what I'm going to give to you — in the form of 10 preventable newbie mistakes.
1: Don't expect it to act like an iPhone
Many users who migrate from the iOS platform expect Android to behave the same way. Sure, fundamentally it does. It will make and receive phone calls, check email, and view web pages. But once you get beyond the basic functionality, the Android and iOS platforms have little in common. If you assume that Android and iPhone smartphones are the same, you are in for a frustrating experience. Each platform approaches tasks differently, and if you assume your Android device is similar to an iPhone, you'll miss out on a lot of features.
2: Secure it now
You have plenty of data on that smartphone... data you do not want getting into to the hands of other users. To that end, you must secure your smartphone with a password, or a pattern, a fingerprint, or whatever your device offers. No matter how you approach it, don't leave your data open for all to see. In the case of your Google account, consider two-step authentication. You want your device as secure as possible.
3: Avoid that POP
The single most common question I get is, "Why are emails disappearing from my phone or desktop?" It's because you set up your email as a POP account and didn't configure your phone or desktop to retain messages on the server. The best way around this is to avoid configuring your email account as a POP account. With Android you can set up many types of accounts... but just avoid POP as much as you can.
4: Don't drown yourself in widgets
I've seen Android homescreens so dense with launchers and widgets, it looked like the app drawer vomited up breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Unfortunately, the more widgets you have on your homescreen (especially those that display data from online accounts) the more battery you will use. If you really want a few widgets on your homescreen, choose wisely and don't overdo it.
5: Don't overlook Gmail
Android and Gmail are like peanut butter and chocolate — they work perfectly together. If you get an Android device and don't have a Gmail account, create one. Why? You're missing out on a LOT of features (the Google Play Store, backups, and more). Make sure you create your Gmail account before you set up your phone. It'll make things far easier in the long run.
6: Be smart about permissions
When you install an app, you'll be warned about what permissions that app requires for use. Do not ignore those permissions, as they can give you insight into the app's nature. If you're installing an app that will serve as a mirror and it requires permission to use your location and your email, don't install it! There are certain permissions that should be given only to certain apps. Do not ignore the permissions warning. Period. Learn what it means and how it works. Know when to stop installing an app based on the permissions it requires.
7: Red-light that Bluetooth
If you don't use Bluetooth for anything, why leave it on? It's only going to drain your battery (and Android does that well enough by itself). Shut off Bluetooth from within the Settings app and you won't have to worry about added battery drain. The same can be said of shutting off Wi-Fi when it is not in use.
8: Stop hoarding those apps
Open up your app drawer. Do you see a veritable cornucopia of unused apps? If so, uninstall them. Your Android device is not a dumping ground for cutesy apps of the day. If you know you're done flapping angry birds get rid of the app. Those unused apps take up precious space, and in some cases, they could be helping to drain your battery (even if they're unused). It's not that those apps are going to suck your battery dry. But why take the chance that they are even draining it in the slightest? If you don't use it, lose it.
9: Tap into all that power
One of the biggest differences between Android and iOS is the degree of flexibility and control. You have much more control over what your phone can do on Android — so much so, that many new users are overwhelmed or intimidated by all the bells and whistles. Don't be. If you turn your back on all the possibilities, you miss out on a lot of features that could make your mobile life far easier. Of course, that doesn't mean you should just start randomly tapping buttons. Use that power with intelligence and understanding.
10: Don't neglect updates
There are reasons why you get warnings about updates: because they are often necessary for device security or efficiency. Apple pushes out only major updates and does so as a whole package. But there are instances when Android pieces can be updated. Many times these updates will occur without your assistance. However, you should still go into the Application Manager to find out whether there are updates for certain apps or elements of Android (the Play Store is a good example). Make sure you are updating on a regular basis. And be sure to install (and use) Secure Update Scanner so you don't fall victim to the pileup flaw.
Reap the benefits, avoid the pitfalls
Android is a powerhouse of a platform and has eclipsed all other mobile platforms in global usage. That means there are a lot of first-time users. Don't fall prey to any of these beginner mistakes and you'll enjoy a long and productive life with Android.
Have you made some newbie mistakes on Android? Do you think there are just as many mistakes to be made by iOS novices? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.