Just about everyone would have you believe that smartphones are essential to survival today. But the truth is that a lot of people haven’t really been approaching them as the versatile, time-saving, prayer-answering devices that they can be. If it’s been awhile since you’ve got up-to-date on what these handy handhelds can do, then there’s a good chance you’re completely out of the loop with them. Paying attention to smartphones and the best ways to use them can feel like learning another language that everyone’s already speaking. So, if you want to get up-to-date and start using the tech like a native speaker, here are a few ways to get into the world of smartphones.
Where the heck should you start?
The starting point is the choice of phone itself, of course, but how do you tell which one to choose? Hardware specs, proprietary software inclusions, connections to other devices and networks can all play a hand in the decision. It’s a good idea to use sites like Your Phone Reviews to see what many of these functions and features actually mean for the user. From there, put together a list of your must-haves in a phone and start prioritizing things you would prefer to see. Those comparison sites can then help you choose the phone that meets your priorities while sticking within your price range.
The boring essentials
It’s a shame, but a lot of phone networks and manufacturers tend to have the tendency to kill any excitement when you open up a new phone. You get it turned on and what are you greeted with? Is it the chance to go wild, exploring apps and all the different functions of the phone? No, it’s an often-lengthy setup process loading your phone with extra stuff you’re not even sure you need. The truth is that you should skip most of those for now until you’re sure what you want with your phone. For Android devices, however, it’s a good idea that you at least link it up to your Google account as that’s going to help you access most of the apps and widgets you’ll actually want to add later. The other essential part of that boring setup is securing your phone. Phones are just as vulnerable to malware and hacking as laptops and computers so getting it protected as soon as possible is important.
Strip it down
Even if you skip the setup process for a lot of the apps you don’t think you need, your phone is going to come with plenty of bloatware. If you want to load it up with more apps but don’t want it sacrificing performance power, then it’s a good idea to make room for the new additions and stop that bloatware. Disable only the built-in apps when you know what they do and you’re sure you want to get rid of them. Many of these apps can’t be uninstalled without rooting the phone which means voiding any warranties, but from Android’s built-in Apps menu you can disable them, force stop them, and clear any data they’re eating on the phone. It’s almost as good as uninstalling them entirely.
Keep your stuff connected
If you haven’t heard, then it’s time to inform you that storing all your most precious digital possessions on a single piece of hardware isn’t the smartest move. If you’re prone to taking pictures and videos you would rather keep, it’s a good idea to get your phone connected to the Cloud. There are a lot of Cloud storage apps for phones, so you don’t have to immediately start using the one that your phone might try to install for you when you first boot it up.
Be a smart smartphone owner
Smartphones go missing all the time. You might leave them somewhere and forget about them, you might lose it entirely, you might even get it stolen. It’s a good idea to make use of inbuilt remote phone management systems like Android’s Device Manager. This can track your phone’s location when you’ve lost it, but it can also lock and disable the device in the event it gets stolen. Even if you can’t find it, you don’t want someone else accessing files that might be private to you, after all.
Throwing on the apps
This is where you really start seeing what the phone can do. There are a ton of great apps to choose from, but there are also hundreds and thousands of apps to have to sift through. What you want to do with your phone is up to you, but it’s a good idea to start by looking at recommended lists from sites like Alphr. A lot of these sites do lists of great apps per year so you can take your time going through the years, ensuring you’re not missing something great because you happened to look at a list with a rather limited group to select from. Time management apps, personal training apps, battery saving apps. There are all sorts that can not only help you get more use from the phone but actually improve how the phone runs.
Have a little widget
Apps, in general, are those tools that you have to open and generally take up a new ‘tab’ or page that you can flick between. Widgets, however, are little additions that you can get on your home screen. You don’t have to open them every time, rather you can just move through the home page and have access to all kinds of functions and information. They’re great for getting the local weather, for adding different news feeds without having to go digging through apps and the internet, for taking down notes quickly when you don’t have time to navigate through the whole phone. A lot of phones have widgets already installed but the chances are that even if you like them, you can find better more intuitive options.
Your portable office
The way that we use smartphones is changing majorly, as well. They have the power and the function of a portable computer. If you’re willing to spend a little more on things like a smartphone keyboard, they can be as easy to use as a computer for things like office work, as well. If you’re a blogger, for instance, you can type posts on the train without having to lug your laptop everywhere. If you’re in business and you want to stay connected to the office, then built-in apps like Google Hangouts and Drive can keep you in touch with the people and the resources you need in your working day.
Smartphones make smart homes
If you’re really updating the tech in your life, then one of the most exciting directions to start going in is by updating your home. Devices like the Amazon Echo make it possible to connect and control all sorts of aspects of the home from a single device. The TV, games consoles, lights, security, even doors, windows, fans, and such can be controlled from a single device. You can extend that control so you have access to it no matter where you are as well. Smartphones are getting connected to smart homes so you can keep in control even if you’re not within distance to chat to the Echo.
Needless to say, there’s a lot more that your smartphone can do for you and a lot more ways to customize it than the points mentioned above. But hopefully, this primer has got you started on making the phone more convenient, useful, and versatile. From here, it’s all about exploring the different apps, tools, and hardware that can only further upgrade the beast.
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