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Android 101: Using multiple Android devices

'Tis the season for getting cool electronic gifts, and there's a good chance that some of us will be getting another Android device for a holiday present.  While for many it will be a new smartphone to replace their existing Android phone, for others it might just be a new Android tablet or Google TV, and will be used in addition to your beloved Android phone.  Some of us are old pros at handling multiple devices, but for the first timer it can be a bit confusing, not knowing how things like Google applications and other apps with an account will work while on more than one device.  That's where we come in.  There's two ways to handle it all, and we're going to cover them both after the break.

Big thanks to Android Central member whitenack for the idea!

The easy way -- use the same account

As long as you're not opposed to getting mail and messages from your main account on both devices, this is the way to go.  When you set up your new Android device, use the same Google login credentials as you did on your first phone or tablet, and you'll have access to all of the same content -- including your Android Market purchases (minus any in-app purchases -- those don't transfer).  Everything syncs well, so when you check Gmail on your phone and delete or archive chainmail spam from your mom about Bill Gates and Disneyland, it will disappear on both devices, and Google Talk messages will appear on both, chat history included.  All Google services work on more than one device, although some have limits.  Google Music can only accept logins from eight different places -- try to add a ninth and you'll be told you've maxed out and need to delete one from the Google Music website settings.  A strange one is Google Talk.  I've noticed, and I've talked to a friendly Panda who has the same issue, that if you try to have an active connection from more than six different devices it just stops working.  That's probably not going to affect anyone who isn't a bit crazy, or an Android blogger (as if there were a difference!).  If you're dealing with just two or three different Android powered devices, you'll be just fine.

Third-party apps like Twitter clients or anything else that can be location-based is device-specific while you're using it.  If I check in to Foursquare from my favorite fishing hole on my phone, it grabs that location even if my tablet is up and running on my dresser, or one of the kids is playing Riptide GP with it.  Switch it around, and one of the kids can check in from my house while I'm out not catching a few smallmouth bass.  Which is a good lead in to the other method ...

Make a new Google account, and add your main account where needed

Doing things this way is a bit trickier, but well worth it if you have a device you're sharing with others.  When setting up your new Android device, create a new Google account (sorry, ACtestmonkey is taken).  Go through the motions, and when you're up and running add your main Google account in Settings>Accounts and sync.  This way you'll have access to it from other Google apps, but it's not the main device account.  The newest versions of the various Google applications all have a spot in the settings where you can choose a second account to use, even the Android Market.  Crack the settings open and try it. 

For things like GMail and Talk, you can either use your "real" account and use the built in app, or just use the HTML web apps Google has written.  Setting up the applications is basically the same, look in the settings and choose the account you would like to use.  To use the web client versions, just log in to the Google homepage and tap "more" to find them all.

Whether you want the ease of using the same login on more than one device, or you would rather your kids didn't muck around in your GMail so you use different accounts, it's simple to set up and use more than one Android device and still have access to everything Google.  Here's hoping everyone gets a great Android tablet for the holidays!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Wow Phil i didn't know you still had a Hero laying around there. The only thing missing from that mountain of phones and tablets is the Grand Father of all the G1.
  • Jerry posted this article -- if you were to ask him He'd say that the Hero is his all-time favorite Android device :P
  • I really wish they'd release a modern device with physical buttons, call and end buttons, and a trackball. There are so many tasks I do on my Hero that, while not impossible without those features, would certainly take more effort. (And yes, I'm still using my Hero so that I can avoid paying Sprint an extra $10/month).
  • Sprint did not offer 4G in my home area but still wanted $10 more for my existing everything data plan which I used on my 3G Plam Pre. They were willing to lose 7 year customer with three phones that paid his bill promptly and used probably less than 1/2 aGB in data monthly so,..... goodbye Sprint...hello TMobile with 4G and a great Samsung phone. I don't get it...these ell phone carriers give existing customers no incentive to stay and some companies give new business better dels to sign up. THIS IS A HORRIBLE BUSINESS MODEL.
  • Unfortunately I have some friends, and the Hero is the reason the left Android to go buy iPhones :(
  • That's because the Hero runs Sense, which is an intensive UI considering the minimal specs the Hero has. It's a shame, but the Hero was a solid device (hardware) at the time of its release -- still is for many and even better with CM or AOSP ROMs.
  • Easy way for me. Helps when i go back and forth between my EVO 3D and Epic Touch. I also use it on my GTab 7 as well.
  • If you go with the "Easy" method, and turn on location services on both devices, Google Latitude will get confused as your devices "argue" over where you are (if they're in different places). There's currently no way to say "I want to use Location Services, but never update Google Latitude from this device".
  • Yes you can? In Latitude, go to settings, "Location Reporting", then click "Location Reporting", then click "Do not update your location". This is all theory, because I don't have multiple devices...yet.
  • Good write up Jerry , It will come in-handy soon
  • Thanks for posting this! I am waiting for my Transformer Prime and had been asking this question. I did get it answered on the forums, but it is still nice to see.
  • Yeah! Thanks guys! I was wondering about Latitude and things like that.
  • The biggest issue with multiple devices, and not touched on at all in the article, is how there is no real way to keep app data synced between devices. Sure apps that completely rely on cloud storage for all data will be in sync, but how do you keep game saves synced between multiple devices in an easy/seemless way? As it stands, a person often has to choose to start a new game on the larger, more enjoyable tablet that likely stays at home, or play it on the smaller phone that goes everywhere. Sure would be nice to be able to play a game on the phone when out and about, then switch over to the larger tablet when home, and have the two hand-off without (or at least minimal) operator intervention. -Suntan
  • You can root both devices and send game data back and forth using something like Dropbox or just email... But it's a clumsy solution at best. Games are really the only scenario where this has come up for me, and it's the only reason I'm confiding rooting my Transformer... My EVO 3D's already rooted and tweaked ten ways ' til sunday. I wish there was some kind of system in place for games to store data in the cloud, kinda like many PC Games already do.
  • I got a question for the community : why can I only leave app reviews on my phone, and not on my tab? When I download a tablet app, and want to leave a review... I can't.... There is no review option in the market. What's up with that? And is there a way around it?
  • I wondered about that too. I assumed it was because the tablet market app was somehow different?
  • There is a way around that. Use the online marketplace to leave a review. If you don't know, the address is
  • If I have wiped a device, how do I bypass the carrier specific activation call so that I can start using the device. I have a Bionic as my main phone and a Droid X that I would like to use only on wifi around the house (for the kids mainly). How do I bypass the activation call?
  • So does using multiple accounts make it so you need to enter a password when entering gmail? I wish it were possible to have entire user accounts like windows because so often tablets are multiperson/family devices and it would sure be nice to have separate settings, browser/search histories, email, homescreens, etc..
  • It would be awesome to be able to "switch users' on tablets.
  • Indeed it would. It would be even better to be able to have a "restricted" profile or mode that could be used to lock-down your tablet for use in business, or when you want to loan it to a friend, let your kid use it, or something like that- prevent installing or removing apps, allow only certain apps to run, lock down most settings and location of icons.
  • I multitask between;
    1. Stock I777
    2. CM7 I897
    3. CM7 HTC Aria
    4. Stock Galaxy Tab 10.1
    5. Overclocked HP Touchpad
    6. Cruz Tablet T301 in the mail
  • I didn't use the easy way but nothing is ever easy with me. Sometimes I wish I did have all my devices linked to the same gmail account but then I realize that I would flip seeing the same notifications 3 times :p
  • He didn't mention how paid apps were synced, if at all, across devices. Can anyone comment on this? I personally don't like playing games on my phone but, with the 10 cent deals in the market right now, I want to purchase some games to play on a tablet/Google TV hopefully in the near future.
  • He did mention it. If you buy apps on Google Market or Amazon Appstore, those apps are tied to your account. So if you use the account on another device, you can then install the purchased apps on that other device. This apparently does NOT work with in-app purchases, however. So buyer BEWARE!
  • But this will work with Amazon App store as well correct?
  • That's correct.
  • A little off topic I know but since we're talking about the App store, does anyone know how to completely uninstall an amazon app? I can uninstall it on the phone but it still shows up in my list of apps in the App store. Like some of those FAotD apps that you get and hate and never want see again on your phone...
  • Awesome, I have about three Android devices now and am getting by pretty good. I pretty much only like to use aggregators and apps with account and subsciption options so I can have the same data on any device and will update the data on whatever device I am on. I love Google News and use Greader pro for this purpose. I have been very fond of Media-Fly OnAir for my Podcast subscriptions. Unfortunately Media-Fly has chosen to discontinue the service. Huge mistake in my opinion as this is the future and they should be building onto it instead of cancelling it. In any event does nayone know of any solution for Podcasting that uses your account for sync'n the data? Google listen works for the audio podcast but not the Video. I think this would be a good opportunity for Google to also lock this one up and start supporting video? Thanks,
  • Thanks for the writeup. The issue I'm dealing with at the moment is Google's propensity to reinstall apps following a data reset. I just upgraded my HT Touchpad (running CM 10.2 - Jellybean - Woot!) and Google is happily installing all of the apps that I have on my Droid RAZR Maxx. :( Will the second alternative (Creating another Google account and linking to it) solve this while letting me still do things as if on my "real" account on the second device? This is moot for now on the Touchpad unless I decide to wipe data again. However I have just ordered SWMBO her own tablet and she will be facing the same issue as she uses an Android phone as well.