Inside Android

Hey everybody!  This week we're gonna go back to basics and show our support to those who switched over to Android by picking up the HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon.  Now I know a lot of this is common knowledge to you salty Android vetrans, but think back to the first time you put your mitts on a G1 or the Motorola Droid.  Hopefully, there was someone around to help you get acclimated and into the swing of all things Android.  If not, then you know exactly why we do what we do here at Android Central.

So welcome newcomers, kick back and have a look to see just what you got yourself into, and I'll bet you feel even better about your choice when we're finished.

The Droid Incredible was one of the most anticipated handset launches in recent memory.  (Or at least in the six months since the Moto Droid launched.) It seems like no matter where you looked on the intertubes for the past month or so you could see and feel the Incredible calling out to you.... Buy me...You'll love me... Trust me...  To top it all off you get to sit and drool over walk throughs, software showcases, reviews and the like until the lust finally strikes home.  If the chatter at fansites for other phones and manufacturers is right, a good portion of you came on board from another platform.  Nice to meet y'all.  I'm Jerry.  I goof around with Android phones, write about them, and hang out
on the forum to talk about them.  Yes, life is hard ;) .

What is Android?

Android robot figurines

Android is an operating system for mobile devices.  But what makes it different? To start, Android is a project from the people at Google.  Yes, that Google.  Like all things Google, it's feature-rich and cutting-edge, but still pretty darn friendly once you get into using it.  Google also tries to follow a simple rule - "Don't be evil".  They don't mean evil like Lex Luthor or Apple, they mean the sneaky kind of evil.  Evil like hiding personal information in songs you buy and download.  Or evil like imposing crazy restrictions on application developers that seem to only maximize their profit margins.  As far as we know, they've done a pretty good job at it, and we have no reason to think they will ever change their ways.

Since they are Google, they have a huge pool of talent at their disposal.  They like to use this talent to improve Android, as well as the user experience with Google overall.  Some of their ideas are awesome, some not so much, but I doubt anyone will ever complain about too much development and enrichment, so for this we all thank them. If I were qualified to give Google a report card (trust me, I'm not!) I'd have to give them an A.  Even the ideas they come up with that I'll never find a use for are awfully darn cool.  Don't think we won't call them to the carpet when they screw it up though.  We love them, but not that much :)

So these guys at Google got together and started working with a group of developers who were pretty much like they were - smart guys who like to make things easy and waaaay cool for everyone else to use and enjoy.  Eventually the Android project was absorbed like a good many other things into the mother ship we call Google. Lots of times that wouldn't be such a good thing, but in this case they didn't make any sweeping demands for change -- they even left the entire operating system open source.  This means that not only do you have the geniuses in their Google cubes coding away at it, but you have a huge untapped resource that helps make Android better.  People like Steve Kondik, Paul O'Brien, Koushik Dutta and other awesome independent developers help make Android what it is today, and will help shape it's future.  Google see's the benefit of this, and is happy to work with these guys and incorporate their changes into future releases.  Android will never become obsolete as long as the code stays open and dedicated individuals keep pecking away at their keyboards to work on it. Think of it as the Amiga of the mobile industry.  Even the core of the OS is open source and anyone is allowed to modify it.  And they do.

Sense UI on your new HTC Incredible

The nerdy guys who live to code aren't the only ones who jump in and modify things, the big dogs do it too.  HTC found that its Sense overlay of the operating system worked well with Windows Mobile, but it fits Android like a glove.  Sense is the eye candy you're seeing on your new Incredible.  Some people don't care for it, some do.  Personally, I love it, and I'm gonna talk about why :P

Sense is effectively a replacement for the vanilla stock Android OS.  You can make a phone running stock Android look like a phone running Sense (and vice versa), but there are also changes deep in the core of the OS.  We've talked about that before, but I wanted to mention it here for the benefit of those new to Android.  Phil has done a beautiful walk through of Sense 2.1, let's re-post it here so you don't have to leave the page.

The biggest differences are what we're gonna have a look at.  Lets start with the home screens themselves.

HTC SenseUI Home HTC Sense - Leap

On all Android devices, you swipe left and right to scroll over to a new home screen.  Phones like the Incredible that run HTC Sense will have seven home screens, ready to fill with widgets and shortcuts.  Stock Android comes with three.  Don't feel bad for those that run stock, whether by choice or otherwise, as they can download any number of home replacements from the Market and run them over their stock setup with minimal overhead, and they can be made quite beautiful and very functional.  HTC does give a little extra with Sense that you don't realize just how much you love it until it's gone -- a dedicated phone button at the bottom of every home screen.

Next up would be the widgets.  HTC has done a great job creating a gorgeous set of widgets that both enhance the look of your phone, and give some extra functionality. 

HTC Sense - news widget HTC Sense - stocks

HTC Sense - Bookmarks

Once again, folks using stock Android can visit the market and grab some home screen widgets that look just as nice and offer the added functionality that Sense provides.  HTC has just packaged up a nice set of default widgets and included them in their custom flavor of Android.  Most stock Android widgets will run on Sense, but Sense widgets will not run on stock Android.  This is because of those changes deep in the system we talked about earlier.

HTC has also changed some of the core components of Android. They have replaced the Android keyboard with their own version.

HTC Sense keyboard

Some love it, some hate it.  I'm in the first camp.  For a look at some of the differences check out the Keyboard Roundup

Next up is the calendar.  HTC has revamped the Android calendar application and its associated widgets.

HTC Sense calendar HTC Sense calendar widget

The changes are minor (other than the appearance) and you'll find that it's very functional.  In general Android still needs to work on the calendar application as a whole, but for an operating system that's still in it's infancy it's pretty darn nice.  Changes will come, but that's another rant for another day...let's keep this one upbeat :)

HTC has also added their own touch to the multimedia aspects of the phone.  The Music player, image and video albums, and online picture services are different.  They work well, and once again are still a work in progress.

HTC Sense - music player HTC Sense - albums

HTC Sense - Flikr

The biggest change (even though you don't see all of it) is the complete integration of the contacts.  Contacts are tied into the Dialer, HTC's messaging and mail applications, HTC's own Facebook client, and Flikr.  This is why I love Sense.  If you have a big contact list, the ability to see messages, mail, Facebook updates, or online image albums separated by each contact is great.  Combined with the people widgets, this equals productivity I've not seen matched by anyone yet.

HTC Sense - people widget

Setting up your new Incredible

If you went out and fought the traffic and crowds to buy your new Incredible from a brick and mortar store, this was probably done for you.  It's still nice to see it done, because I promise you'll mess with the phone constantly and at least once will have to start all over and set it up again :p

Phil has a video for us all that walks you through this.  Let's have a look at it.

As you can see, it's not hard at all.  No programming or anything like that, basically just re-signing in to all your online services.  There's much more you can do to customize your new phone, more than we could ever cover.  Some of the best ways to start (especially if your used to another platform) are outlined below.

Now that it's all set up, lets check out some apps!!

Applications

Android Market

The Android Market just hit 50,000 applications.  The last few months have been booming for Android and the Market.  With the Motorola Droid, Android became a major player in the mobile market.  Awesome superphones like the Incredible, the LG Ally, the EVO 4G and the Desire are going to fuel the fire even more. We're even seeing vendors debut and specialize applications for Android.  Companies like Sobees and The Weather Channel are showing the kind of love that has only been given to Apple in the past.  It's a great time to be an Android user :)

Of course all these applications aren't going to be winners.  That's just the nature of the beast.  Again, Android Central has your back.  Every week we have a showcase of our editors favorite applications, we try to spotlight new and popular apps with their own post on the front page, and there's a great little tutorial about smart filtering of the Market using AppBrain.  That's just the tip of the iceberg though.  Jeremy, Cory and Roy do an awesome job of managing and promoting the best way to find out about apps - word of mouth via online forums.  For news about apps, media, and customization do yourself a favor and check it out.  I do it daily, and you should too.

Some of the apps in the market are premium and must be paid for.  Again, Android gets high marks for user friendly practices here.  When you sign into your Android phone, your market account uses your Google credentials. The apps you pay for are ALWAYS tied to that Google account, so you only ever buy them once. Google Checkout is used to pay for apps, and some carriers are working on getting full carrier billing set up as well.  Word on the street is that PayPal has their usual magic in the works, and you'll soon be able to use your PayPal account to buy applications. It's all pretty standard, and is still evolving, but we haven't
talked about the best part -- there's a 24 hour no-questions-asked trial for anything you buy through the market.  If you find that the game or app you bought isn't something that you're really interested in, uninstall it for a full refund!

We can't talk about apps without mentioning the "P" word.  Yeah, that one -- Porn.  Regardless of what you may have heard, the Android Market isn't full of pornography.  Some of the apps may be lacking in the good taste department, but they are far from the usual definition of porn.  That's not to say you can't find porn.  Android is open, and gives users the choice to download application through other venues.  One of these venues offers pornography.  I'm getting old, and my body parts are immune to porn, but I love the fact that Android allows the user (You and I) to make their own choice.  This is the way adults deserve to be treated.

The swag

Last, but not least, are the accessories you'll want for your new phone.  Here at Android Central we try to get our grubby paws on all the latest gear and share our opinions of it with you guys.  I find that a nice little hands on review with a product helps me make my decision when buying.  Things like Bluetooth headsets, cases and covers  and multimedia stations often make their way into our hands and on the front page.  Of course, the Android Central store always has you covered.  There's a growing line of products that work great with your new Android handset,  and the users reviews and ratings can help you decide which ones are the best for you.

I know we went on a bit this week.  I just couldn't help myself, there's so much coolness surrounding the Incredible and the future Android phones and devices, and I want you to get as much enjoyment out of them as I do.  Of course we can't cover everything (even with huge wall of text blog posts :P ) so mull this over, and when you think of something we didn't cover, hit the forums, listen and participate in the live Podcasts, and most of all, enjoy your new phone!


Until next time,
Jerry
 


 

 

Reader comments

Getting started with your Android phone (Welcome Droid Incredible owners!)

36 Comments
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wow....great read and info.
i thank you for this.
while still a verizon customer, this is my first smart phone (opted over the BB) and i have been more then happy with the forums and such articles like this to get me going in the right direction.

again, thanks. ryujin.

I left my Storm and never looked back. The Incredible is just a much more powerfully device. I tought I was going to miss Blackberry Messager, but I don't. Everything can be done through SMS or email messages.

Very timely article for me. I just ordered my Incredible to replace my Storm 1. I look forward to gleaning wisdom and help from AC as I had from Crackberry for my Storm. I have already noticed many ex-Crackheads here on AC. Thanks.

Very nicely written and super informative.

Just a comment about integrating a pop account with your Gmail account.
If one doesn't mind replies always coming from the Gmail account, then a much easier way to handle things is to go into your pop account (in my case this was Verizon Webmail - FIOS) and set it to forward all emails to the Gmail account. You have a choice of leaving a copy at the pop account or not. This takes about 20 seconds to do.

Thanks & Droid On ....

I can't find it either and I've been searching all night for any type of information. Have you had any luck?

For the life of me, I can't find the HTC news widget.

Great article, I did have time to play with android and got to know it when I had it loaded on my TouchPro 2. Now I have the Incredible, it's even better....

I picked up my Incredible (finally got rid of the Storm I) on Thursday and haven't looked back. Everyone else around me has a droid device so I couldn't wait to get one. Been waiting 5 months for this phone and it hasn't disappointed me. The integration for contacts and ways of handling how you communicate with each person is ingenious. I love the Sense UI.

WHATS THE DEAL WITH THE BATTERY IN THE iNCREDIBLE ??? 4-5 hours and its dead ??? 1350 mah was not even close to being enough power ? I see Seidio is already offering a 1750 mah battery ?? has anyone bought this ?? they say it fits under the stock cover ?? this battery also fits the Eris ?? can this be true ?? If so I have to buy it because what it came with is laughable . www.seidio.com

My battery life seemed poor the first day or two but since then it's been great, at least for a smartphone. I've been using it heavily...playing around with customizations, browsing the App Market, streaming music, playing NESoid, and *gasp* even talking on the phone...and the battery hasn't drained too much today.

I had the same problem with the battery on my Eris when I first got it. After about three deep discharge/recharge cycles, the life got much better...but you need to run them ALL the way down to condition them. I imagine it is the same on the Incredible.

It's true, you'll notice an even more significant battery improvement if you do that for about 3 weeks! (:

You have to condition the battery, this usually takes about 3 weeks of use, let it drain completely then charge completely every charge for best battery life!

So glad for this article. Incredible arrives tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to dumping my Storm 1 for a real smartphone. Articles like this and the forums are loads of help.
Thanks.

Great article, I just purchased the Incredible and deactivated my Tour (sorry RIM, but your falling behind). I have spent the past two days exploring all of the great new features this phone has. Thanks to the guys over at Crackberry for directing me here where I will now spend all of my spare time! This is a great site by the way.

Thanks for the article. It cleared up some misconceptions I had about the developers. I had also heard that the Driod markets were chocked with porn. My thoughts were that the internet in general could be used for the same purpose, so any phone with a browser has access to it.

Exactly. Apple prides themselves on the fact that they (according to them) have the best browser on a mobile device. Anything with a decent web browser can access porn, so it's foolish to say that the iPhone has none. And obviously if you're open source and ANYTHING can be put on the device then porn will eventually show up...but as far as I know it's not in the official market. If you really wanted it, there's a way to put it on there, but it can very easily be avoided.

Before Steve Jobs made the comment about using Android for porn, I recall a separate in-app store called MaKandi that's dedicated to just porn on Android. Why isn't porn available in the regular Marketplace? Is Google blocking it like they allegedly did with Skype on the G1? I think more people than not agree with Apple banning such apps. Google's stance on openness on the platform will bite them and their users in the future. Apple is, AGAIN, ahead of the curve.

Hell yeah. Next let's ban any app about Islam! That will keep us ahead of the curve!!!

Or is it only good when you agree?

And BTW - Google blocks nothing from the market. Carriers and local government regulations can. Facts. Look for them.

Apple and it's propaganda machine at work. I suppose the oldest porn outfit on the planet - Playboy - doesn't fit the description because they're in iTunes.

But anyway.

Here's what every developer has to agree to when they post an app (this directly from the Android Market Content Policy for Developers):

Developers should not upload or otherwise make available applications or any other materials that display (via text, images, video or other media) or link to:

* illegal content.
* invasions of personal privacy or violations of the right of publicity.
* content that interferes with the functioning of any services of other parties.
* promotions of hate or incitement of violence.
* violations of intellectual property rights, including patent, copyright (see Google's DMCA Policy), trademark, trade secret, or other proprietary right of any party.
* any material not suitable for persons under 18.
* pornography, obscenity, nudity or sexual activity.

Thank you so much.... I don't own this phone yet and I have been reading up on it before I get it.... This helped me so much

I appreciate everyone's comments.

This is exactly why we try hard to post info like this. I'm glad it helps, and thanks for the comments :)

May I ask where did you get that News widget that is in one of your pictures? Should that be built-in to the phone or did you download it somewhere?

I don't seem to have it on mine. Any response would be very appreciated, I can't seem to find any info on that anywhere!

Thanks!

Whoops lol.

That's a feature from the GSM version of Sense 2.1 . It's on the Legend and Desire, but not Incredible, or the Hero/Eris leaks.

Give the developers a bit, it's only a few files and I'm sure it can be ported over just like the news/weather widget was for Sense 1.5. I should have used a different widget as an example. (not lucky enough to have gotten an Incredible yet and had to fake it on my N1 lol) Hindsight 20/20 and all that :)

Thanks for posting this. May 1st I ordered an Incredible from a Verizon store. I should hopefully have it by the 7th. Once I get it charging I'll read this article in even more depth to make sure my introduction to Android goes smoothly.

Excellent article

However a couple comments

I think Apples developer restrictions are a good thing. Flash is garbage and has no place on a mobile device. it is slow, bloated, a resource pig and insecure. You can expect alot of breakage between versions of Flash and updates to the Android OS.

The entire Google OS is not open source. Not even close. Much if not most of the major functionality is closed to developers. In fact Android is probably the most tightly controlled open source project that has ever existed. Read this;
http://www.visionmobile.com/blog/2010/04/is-android-evil/

"You thought Android was open? The Android governance model consists of an elaborate set of control points that allows Google to bundle its own services and control the exact software and hardware make-up on every handset. All this while touting the openness rhetoric that is founded on the Apache permissive license used in the Android SDK."

"Incomplete software. The public SDK source code is by no means sufficient to build a handset. Key building blocks missing are radio integration, international language packs, operator packs – and of course Google’s closed source apps like Market, Gmail and GTalk. There are a few custom ROM builders with a full Android stack like the Cyanogen distribution, but these use binaries that are not licensed for distribution in commercial handsets."

edit.

Not worth arguing, all your doing is traffic fishing anyway. I'll just downrank you and move on to more important things.

"There are a few custom ROM builders with a full Android stack like the Cyanogen distribution, but these use binaries that are not licensed for distribution in commercial handsets"

- Wrong. What's available to Cyanogen and "a few custom ROM builders" is available to everyone. If you know what you're doing, you can make your own custom rom. If you'd like to play with it yourself, here's the link to get it: http://source.android.com/download

"The Android governance model consists of an elaborate set of control points that allows Google to bundle its own services and control the exact software and hardware make-up on every handset"

- Perhaps you don't know this but there are different licensing models for Android. That's why you'll notice some devices say "with Google" on the back cover and some don't. That's because a manufacturer can *choose* to include Google apps or not. That's why Samsung recently said it was going to put Yahoo services on their future Android devices.

"All this while touting the openness rhetoric that is founded on the Apache permissive license used in the Android SDK"

- The Android Framework is built on Linux; it is NOT Linux. For an *accurate* understanding of how this works, go to YouTube and search for *Androidology*. You'll see the article you reference apparently didn't watch these videos.

As far as openness and the SDK goes, exactly what things do you cite as not being open? For that matter, how many lines of Android code have you written before supporting claims like this? And before you ask, I currently have 2 apps on the Android Market. One has over 5000 downloads with 4 stars; the other 2000 downloads with 4.5 stars. So when it comes to the SDK charges, either you or the guy who wrote this article isn't a developer and/or doesn't know what you're talking about.

Traffic fishing? No. Only complete adulation of Android devoid of the facts is allowed here? No disagreement with generalized and incorrect comments allowed? Interesting. I suppose it's not enough that I have an Incredible. I have to be some sort of Google/Android disciple as well? Sounds like what people accuse Apple of. interesting that you are so insecure about your chosen platform though.

Strawman #1
I am aware there are different licensing models. So is the author of the article I cited. Never said there weren't.

Strawman #2
I am very familiar with the Apache licensing model btw. Did not say anything about Linux and did not compare it to Linux.

The elements of the SDK that are not open are already stated. The ability to make a call to that component does not make it open source.

You should hesitate to assume you know something others don't because you wrote an Android app or two lest you make a fool of yourself. It's amusing that you assume such a thing. That statement tells me you have a limited development background.

There are plenty of good things about Android without having blinders on about it or Googles motives or making generalized incorrect statements

If the "insecure" reference was directed at me, you're off the mark. I just realized that there is a whole internet to fight about how great product x is when compared to product y, and that a blog post with an upbeat spirit and that was written to give new users a friendly welcome is not the place to do it.

10 yrs to the month Microsoft development (might want to rethink who's the fool making assumptions).

You didn't address point No1.

"Insecure" about the platform I've chosen....??? Hmmmm? Perhaps :-) I call it defensive. But if you believe the things you quoted, why did you purchase an Android device?

10 whole years...wow....

Insecure was in reference to the other poster.

"But if you believe the things you quoted, why did you purchase an Android device?"

That is really an odd thing to say. So you should only purchase a device if you have blinders on about it? Hmm. Well I like Honda's but not everything about them...maybe I shouldn't buy Honda's? If I only bought things that I thought were perfect then I would not buy much.

What didn't I adress about #1? You said I said something that I didn't say. I should address your strawman?

"I just realized that there is a whole internet to fight about how great product x is when compared to product y, and that a blog post with an upbeat spirit and that was written to give new users a friendly welcome is not the place to do it."

Pot meet kettle. You made many generalized incorrect statments about x vs y yourself and I am responding to that. If you don't want that in an "upbeat" post then you should have written it to be actually upbeat instead of snarky and ill informed about other products and Android. But you went out of your way in the opposite direction. What do you expect?

Thanks for the article, but I have a question...
In your HTC sense keyboard image, you have a smiley icon in the lower left. How do I configure that on my incredible? Thanks!