Android for beginners: Setting up your phone
So far we've covered installing useful apps and getting to know your Android smartphone a bit better.
However, your Android smartphone is capable of much greater deeds. To unlock them you need to get a bit technical with your device and perform a process called Rooting.
Rooting is a term used in the Android world to denote getting full permissions for your device. In its out-of-the-box state, your droid doesn't give you access to system files, file permissions and core settings and low-level access to the smartphone's hardware. A rooted phone changes that and gives its and all user-installed apps access to run privileged commands.
The process of rooting is different for each and every device. There are many tools out there created by Android devs, but they are rarely two of the same kind. Some tools are so easy to use, that in fact, all you need to do is click a single button to get the job done.
The question is should you go the way of the rooting or it's not really worth the sacrifice.
For starters, you'll be able to control every single aspect of your phone's hardware. This means can install various mods, such as ones to control your LED status light and make it glow in more colors for various notifications. You can also overclock the CPU and squeeze more performance out of it.
You'll be able to perform full backups of your device, including files, apps, their settings and the whole ROM. In case things go south, you'll be able to perform a full restore of your device as if nothing ever happened.
Speaking of ROMS, you'll be able to install newer versions of Android and try out some of the community-developed custom ROMs which are chock-full with features and extras, that would otherwise be unavailable to you.
Some carriers restrict the tethering abilities of your smartphone or demand additional fees for it. With a rooted device, a third-party tethering app can bypass this protection and allow you to use your droid as a portable router.
Adjusting the color balance, modding your battery icon (without changing your stock ROM) are also possible on some devices.
As we mentioned the process of rooting a phone isn't the same for every device. It's also risky at times, meaning you can "brick" your phone, requiring you to return it for maintenance.
Also, rooting voids the manufacturer's warranty. There are ways to un-root your device if it needs to be sent for maintenance unrelated to the rooting (eg. Hardware problem). Still, that's a risk you'd be willing to take, in case you decide to root it.
Finally, less popular smartphones don't have a particularly large base of devs working for them, so there are less mods to apply after your root.
If you decide to go the dark ways of the rooting, we suggest you start from the section dedicated to your smartphone in the XDA-developers forum.
Stolen or Lost phone
We've all had something stolen or lost in our lives and the feeling isn't particularly great. Hopefully, you wouldn't have to ever face this kind of situation with your shiny new Android phone, but this hope shouldn't keep you from getting yourself insured.
Here are some top-notch apps to help you find your lost or stolen Android smartphone.
Cerberus is one of our favorite apps in this category. The name of the app alone should give you a hint that it's not messing around and is taking the job of protecting your phone against theft very seriously.
Before going further, we should make it clear that the app is paid and asks for €2.99. In exchange, you get to install Cerberus on 5 different devices with one account. Naturally, Cerberus comes with a 7-day free trial to convince you it's worth the money.
Once you've registered online for an account you get into your control panel where all your devices with Cerberus installed are listed. Picking a device from the dropdown menu unveils a set of options. You can start tracking the device, remotely wipe it or even take a photo using the front facing camera to see who's using your phone and report it to the authorities.
In case your phone is rooted, Cerberus features a complete uninstall protection. This means that the app is irremovable and can be deleted only by flashing another ROM.
The Prey Project has been in development for quite some time now and as a result supports desktop platforms like Windows, Mac OS and Linux in addition to Android and iOS. After you've installed the app it generates and sends reports to your email address containing the status of the device, list of running programs, screenshot of the desktop detailed network report and, of course, a picture taken with the front-facing camera.
The app is open source and absolutely free for up to three devices; however there are paid options available if you have more devices to protect, starting at $5/month, which is a bit pricey in our opinion.
Get Prey (Free)
Taking a simpler approach to protecting your device, GotYa relies on the Pattern security feature of your Android phone. If the Pattern is entered incorrectly, the app kicks in and silently takes a photo using the front-facing camera of your device to see who's trying to break in.
After the picture is taken, the app acquires the location of the smartphone and puts it on a Google Maps page. All of the information is then sent to you via email.
GotYa costs $1.99 and has received positive feedback with many success stories behind its back, so its definitely worth checking out.
Get GotYa ($1.99)
What a journey it has been! And we've barely scratched the surface. Android has grown rapidly in the last couple of years to offer a vast range of apps, services and opportunities.
The apps we've highlighted will hopefully get you started with the ecosystem, but also encourage you to explore even deeper and discover all the exciting things your Android smartphone is capable of.
The Play Store is a wonderful place to be once you learn to sift through the inevitable drivel. There are absolute must-haves and little gemstones of an app. Of course, Android is pretty powerful right out of the box, but there's more than enough ways to make it yours and make it count.