General Android phone FAQ (updated 9th October 2012)


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  1. D-U-R-X

    D-U-R-X turbo drinker Moderator

    *** Important Note ***
    If you've read this guide and cannot find the answer to your question, please start a new thread.

    Thanks to all members of AF who have contributed the information used in this guide - if you feel that there are any threads that should be linked in to this FAQ's thread, please contact a member of staff, either by PM or in Private Chat with Staff (with the url of the thread you think should be included) and we will be happy to take a look at it :)

    One or more of these FAQ items may not apply to your device. Please see the Device specific FAQ located in your device's forum.

    1. Battery Life
    1.1 How do Li-Ion batteries work?
    1.2 Do I need to replace my battery, and if so how often?
    1.3 Should I always fully charge and discharge my battery?
    1.4 My phone doesn't charge to 100% if I leave it overnight. Is something wrong with it?
    1.5 My Droid's battery life is terrible. How can I improve it?
    1.6 Should I use a Task Killer?

    2. Accessories
    2.1 Should I buy a case/screen protector, and if so what type?
    2.2 Can I get a spare battery, and if so which should I get?
    2.3 Can I get a desktop charging cradle?
    2.4 What Micro SD card should I buy?

    3. Customisation
    3.1 What is ‘Rooting’, and is it for me?
    3.2 Am I stuck with the standard launcher/look and feel of my phone?
    3.3 Can I change the icons for apps and folders?
    3.4 Are there any apps to secure my phone if it’s lost or stolen?
    3.5 How do I set up Email for various providers?
    3.6 How do I remove pre-installed apps?
    3.7 Should I use antivirus on my phone?

    4. Known Problems
    4.1 There is a physical defect on my phone. What options do I have?
    4.2 My screen doesn't turn back on properly after a call. Is this a hardware problem?
    4.3 I added high resolution contact pictures, but they are now blurry. What happened?

    5. GPS, WiFi, and Mobile Data connections
    5.1 What are GPS and aGPS?
    5.2 Is GPS free?
    5.3 Are there any alternatives to Google Maps?
    5.4 Does GPS use a lot of battery power?
    5.5 I use GPS a lot in my car – Is it a good idea to get a car charger?
    5.6 My phone gets hot when using GPS with a car charger – Is this normal?


    Section 1 – Battery Life

    1.1 How do Li-Ion batteries work?
    As an example, a 1400 mAh Lithium Ion battery, would have enough power available to supply 1.4 amps of current at the battery voltage (3.7 volts) for an hour, 0.7 amps for 2 hours, 0.35 amps for 4 hours etc. Hence your battery life will depend on how much current the phone draws for whatever you're doing on it, and how long you continue that activity for.
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    1.2 Do I need to replace my battery, and if so how often?
    Lithium ion batteries have a lifespan of somewhere around 400 cycles before they start to become less effective. Basically what that means is that after a year or so, you might want to look at replacing the battery, as it will start to hold less charge.
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    1.3 Should I always fully charge and discharge my battery?
    Lithium Ion cells do NOT suffer from the memory effect. You do not need to fully charge and discharge your battery all the time, you can charge it whenever you want by however much you want, although most people find it convenient just to plug it in overnight and let it charge up. It is, however, recommended to fully discharge then fully charge the battery about once every month. This is because the 'smart' circuit inside the battery that measures the voltage and reports how much charge you have left can drift over time, and doing this helps to reset it to give you a more accurate reading of the battery capacity.

    If your phone battery gets so low the phone shuts itself down, DO NOT switch it back on again. Lithium Ion batteries don't like being fully discharged, and it will lower the life span of the unit. If the phone switches itself off due to a low battery, just wait till you can plug it in. The chances are even if you do turn it on it'll shut itself off again before fully starting up.
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    1.4 My phone doesn't charge to 100% if I leave it overnight. Is something wrong with it?
    Nope. The phone does in fact charge to 100%, but you cannot trickle charge a Li-Ion battery, so when the battery is at 100% the battery stops charging. The battery will then drain as the phone uses power until it gets to a predetermined level (set by the manufacturer), which is usually approx. 90-96%, when the charger will kick in again and top it back up to 100%. The easiest way to overcome this is to switch off your 3G/4G, WiFi, and other power intensive systems overnight (See 1.5 for details), which will leave your battery with a good 98-100% charge by the morning. Alternatively, if you switch the charger off and on again, it will charge it back to 100%.
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    1.5 My device's battery life is terrible. How can I improve it?
    Lots of people can easily get two days of moderate use out of the phone, or one day of very heavy use. If you can't, then here are some tips for improving the battery life.

    Some common ones are frequent updates for things like email clients, flikr, and weather apps. Try changing the update intervals to gather data either manually or less frequently.

    The problem can be less obvious, for example an app that blinks the LED light (on phones which have an LED) on the phone as a notification will sometimes stop the phone from sleeping. If you aren't sure what the cause is, start a thread in your device's sub-forum. Someone has inevitably been there before, and will be happy to help.

    Take control. It's all very well expecting the phone to do everything for you, it will if you like. But with some very fast, simple steps you can vastly improve your battery life. First and foremost, choose to manually update apps that use the internet, such as email and news feeds. Periodically updating these services eats power, and by choosing to do it yourself you can do wonders for your battery life. It only takes an extra 5 seconds. If you really don't want to do it yourself, set it to less frequent intervals, for example every hour or so.

    Possibly the best way of improving battery life is to take control of your connections through homepage widgets. Downloading an app such as SwitchPro Widget or Extended Controls which are the most elegant solution, but most are paid apps from the app store Google Play. A long press on the home screen, tap Widgets, and scroll down the list until you find Settings. Tap on it, and a list of toggles comes up. The most important ones are the WiFi and Mobile Network ones, so add them both. If you frequently use GPS or Bluetooth, add them too.

    Doing this gives you some small icons on your home screen. When you tap them, they toggle the appropriate service on and off. Take note that turning Mobile Network off shuts down internet access, but still allows you to receive calls and texts perfectly. The best use of these toggles is switching off both WiFi and Mobile data when you don't want to use the internet. Then when you want to update a news feed or browse around Google, you just tap either the WiFi or Data toggle, and within about 5 seconds you're hooked up and ready to go. When you're finished, just tap the toggles again.

    Try JuiceDefender. click here Some people say it extends their battery life, some say it makes it worse. It seems to depend on your usage pattern. Either way, it's free, so download it and give it a try and see if it suits you!
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    1.6 Should I use a Task Killer?
    In short, No - do not use a Task Killer!

    If you take nothing else from this thread and just heed the above, then this has been worth it.

    Seriously, to a certain extent, they weren't needed on Eclair (2.1) and they were definitely not needed in Froyo (2.2). Android is designed to be its own task killer, just let it do its job, it is pretty good at it. Just because you see an app held in RAM, that doesn't mean it's taking up battery. I hear things like "I use it to free RAM to make my phone faster/make XXX run better". If Android needs more RAM, it'll free it of its own accord as and when required. If you notice your phone acting sluggish, reboot. If it's consistent, check what's taking up CPU usage and if it's an
    app you've installed, uninstall. If it's one of the stock apps, post in your phone's sub-forum, I'm sure someone will be able to help.

    If you want more info on why Task killers are not required, you can look here. If you want a more technical overview of how Android manages tasks, take a look at what google have to say about the matter, here.
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    Section 2 – Accessories

    2.1 Should I buy a case/screen protector, and if so what type?
    Opinion is divided on this... some people are strong advocates of cases, some say they aren’t really needed.

    Before getting in to the different case/protection options, the common sense stuff: Never put your expensive new phone in a pocket with anything else. Keys, coins, and other electrical items, such as iPods, are particularly bad ideas, but most things have a surprising ability to damage phones when jiggled around in a pocket with them. Also, keep the phone out of reach of children and your significant other. You may think the latter is a joke, but you’d be amazed how often it happens.

    Pouches. Pouches provide good protection for your phone while in a pocket without adding much bulk, and allow you to use the phone without any added size as you take it out of the pouch to use it. If you are interested in a pouch, I’d suggest a quick search for a reputable eBay seller, Amazon, or Play, to get a good price and assured service.

    Plastic/Silicone cases. These offer always-on protection for your phone, and come in a huge range of designs. They are best used in conjunction with a screen protector as described below. The ‘Casemate Tough’ is to be highly regarded if you are looking for one of these cases. If you want a quick and cheap option, eBay will spoil you for choice.

    Screen Protectors. These are thin bits of plastic that adhere to your screen and protect it from getting scratched. If you’re throwing the phone in your pocket without a pouch they’re recommended, though opinion is divided. Any screen protector you find will have both good and bad reviews, but a reasonably safe bet are the official screen protectors for your device.
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    2.2 Can I get a spare battery, and if so which should I get?
    You certainly can (if the device has a removeable battery), however take note that most people aren’t overly comfortable swapping them out very often.

    Opinion on ‘extended’ batteries is divided. Some find them to work well, but others find that they are not much better than stock batteries available from the manufacturer - it is quite likely that this will have been discussed in your sub-forum. If you do want to get an extended battery, pay attention to the capacity - going from 1800 mAh to 1900 mAh likely won't make much of a difference but going from 1800 mAh to 3600 mAh should.

    There are also external chargers available for most devices, something definitely worth looking it up on Amazon if you want lots of extra power.
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    2.3 Can I get a desktop charging cradle?
    It is your own choice if you choose to use a non-OEM charger/cradle. There are plenty available if you browse around, but there are a couple of things you should watch out for.

    Firstly, some have a slot which allows you to charge a spare battery, which will be handy if you have one.

    Secondly, look for ones that are custom made for your device and look like they offer plenty of support. You don’t really want the phone propped up on nothing more than the micro USB connector, as that could damage it over time.

    It is worth noting that not all non-OEM chargers, cradles, USB cables are as good as original OEM versions (it is always advisable to keep hold of the originals, in case you run in to problems in the future)
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    2.4 What Micro SD card should I buy?
    First and foremost, never buy a memory card from anyone but a trusted seller. Play, Amazon, and very highly rated sellers on eBay are a safe bet. And even buying from those sources, always try to buy branded cards such as Sandisk and Kingston, with a good long warranty period. There are a huge amount of fake memory cards for sale. If the price seems too good to be true, it is. It's as simple as that.

    As for the cards themselves, it depends what you're looking for. If you're just looking for storage of a few images, then the card that came with the phone will be fine. If, however, you're looking to store larger amounts of music, images, videos, etc. you'll want a new one.

    There are two important things to consider - Capacity and Speed:

    Capacity wise, anything smaller than a 16 gigabyte card isn't much of an upgrade from the card that came with the phone and 32 gigabyte cards are now much more affordable.

    Speed wise, class 2 is fine for photos, small apps and that kind of thing, but for high resolution video and large apps (such as games), you'll want a class 6 card for the extra speed, which will make sure your video or application runs smoothly. It's probably best to go class 6 whatever your current needs are to make sure anything you choose to do in the future is supported.

    Things like memory cards are normally worth a bit of extra investment.
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    Section 3 – Customisation

    3.1 What is ‘Rooting’, and is it for me?
    This is a pretty complex topic, but basically it allows you to fiddle around with your phone a bit more and opens up a few extra options. If you don’t know what it is, it probably isn’t something you want to try as it involves messing around with the phones software, however if you’re still curious, then you could check out this thread - http://androidforums.com/faqs/443432-what-root-being-rooted-mean.html.

    If you decide that this is something you would like to do, you should head to the dedicated All Things Root section of your device's sub forum.
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    3.2 Am I stuck with the standard launcher/look and feel of my phone?
    The answer is a simple "No". There are alternative homescreens available, and you don’t have to root your phone to get them. There are several options, some free and some paid versions - here is a big list of launchers.

    A launcher allows you to have multiple homescreens, have extra customization options and a slightly different interface.

    If you decide that you want to go back to your stock launcher, you can revert by using a Home Screen manager type of app (for example Home Manager).

    It is worth noting that, should you use a 3rd party launcher, the widgets that come with your stock launcher may not work
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    3.3 Can I change the icons for apps and folders?
    Yes, but you have to download an app or two to do it. This process is somewhat complicated and varies a bit depending on how you want to do things, so it’ll be easier if you start a thread asking for advice on the topic. That way if you have any trouble along the way you can ask for help.
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    3.4 Are there any apps to secure my phone if it’s lost or stolen?
    There are now several apps available that are for protecting you:

    Wavesecureis the definitive security solution for android. It isn’t free, but if your phone is stolen and someone changes the SIM card, the app automatically sends a text to your friend, locks the phone, and activates the phones GPS allowing you to track its location online. It also allows you to remotely wipe your data both on the phone and the SD card.

    Another app is Avast! Mobile Security - this app offers full-featured Anti-Theft, Antivirus security for your Android Phone (it also offers further options for rooted users) - this is a free app.

    Alternatively, there is Lookout Mobile, which offers similar protection to Avast and is also a free app
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    3.5 How do I set up Email for various providers?
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    3.6 How do I remove pre-installed apps?
    If you want to remove pre-installed carrier bloatware / apps that came with the phone which were installed by the carrier, such as game demos, sound hound and the like, then you would need to root your phone. Please bear in mind that rooting your phone voids your warrantee, however there are also positives to doing so (like the removal of pre-installed apps). More info on rooting can be found in the “All Things Root” section of your device’s sub-forum, should you want to go for it.

    Once you have rooted, it is then possible to install “root only” apps, such as Titanium Backup. TB allows you to remove any apps (including pre-installed carrier apps). It is worth noting that some apps, even if you don’t use/want them, could be used by your system, so it is important not to just start removing apps. Please also note that if it is safe to remove apps for one device, it doesn't necessarily mean that the app is safe to remove for ALL devices. It really depends on the services provided by the app as specified by the particular rom/build. More importantly, system apps are not easily restorable like simply installing an .apk file. And once deleted, even a factory reset will not recover them. You will have to locate and flash a stock rom image to get them back.

    One option in TB allows you to freeze apps – I would suggest that you do this initially, as you can always unfreeze the app if you notice that you are experiencing any issues. If, once apps are frozen, your phone is behaving normally, then you can look to removing them. It would be a good idea to freeze apps individually, so that you will notice if each one affects your phone adversely.
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    3.7 Should I use antivirus on my phone?
    Should I use antivirus on my phone?
    Because of the way that Android works, you will not suffer from a virus (in the same way a windows machine can), it is possible to still be infected by malwear. By being careful when installing apps, you can avoid problems - see this thread for more info Android permissions explained, security tips, and avoiding malware
    There are several possible antivirus apps that you might like to try Lookout Mobile and Avast, for example. These scan your device for any existing threats and also scan each app you download before installing and can give warnings. They both also have security features in case you were to lose your device or it is stolen. Avast actually has more features than Lookout and has extra anti-theft functionality for root users, which make it quite useful. Both Apps can be scheduled to run to check the device for malware and other threats.
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    Section 4 – Known Problems

    4.1 There is a physical defect on my phone. What options do I have?
    At a glance around these forums, you might think that most devices have some form of fault. However you have to remember that most people only come onto forums such as these when they want help with an issue, so inevitably lots of posts are about problems. Most devices are well constructed physically, so if yours isn’t, it’s worth taking action. Some common physical faults are:

    Dust under the screen. This occurs when dust enters the device before the screen is sealed in the factory. You can try taking it back to the shop where you got it and seeing if they’ll replace it, but if not contact the manufacturer, and they will take it in, clean the dust out, reseal the phone, then send it back to you. But doing it this way you could be without a phone for a week or two.

    The buttons/trackpad are not aligned correctly. Bear in mind the hole for the trackpad is not in the centre of the phone by design. This refers to when the buttons or trackpad do not fit in the holes correctly. This can be evidenced by uneven gaps around the buttons, or backlight spilling out around the edges. It’s worth gently trying to move the buttons yourself, but if they won’t budge with a small amount of force, take it back to the shop where you got it and ask for an exchange under warranty. If they won’t accept an exchange, you’ll have to send it to manufacturer for repair.

    There is a rattle near the top of my phone if I shake it near my ear. The simple solution is not to shake it. The rattle is the autofocus mechanism for the camera moving, and is perfectly normal.
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    4.2 My screen doesn’t turn back on properly after a call. Is this a hardware problem?
    Possibly, but it isn’t likely. During a call, a small proximity sensor on the phone turns the screen off to stop you pressing buttons on the phone with your cheek or ear. Once you have finished with a call, move the phone away from your face until the screen comes back on. It will probably take about a second. Then you can hang up and continue using the phone. It can cause problems if you try to use the screen before it has fully reactivated.

    If this still doesn’t work, it’s possible that something is blocking the proximity sensor. As mentioned earlier, make sure your case isn’t covering it, and if you are using a screen protector make sure it has a hole in that region or it could interfere with the sensor.

    If you still have problems after this it could be a hardware problem, or a software issue of some kind. Post on the forum, and explain the problem in as much detail as you can.
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    4.3 I added high resolution contact pictures, but they are now blurry. What happened?
    You have your contacts set to synchronise with Google. If it had to transfer a high resolution contact picture whenever you synced, it would eat through your data allowance very quickly. Therefore, the images are automatically resized to lower the data requirements. If this is a real issue for you, the simplest way to solve the issue is to use Phone contacts, not Google contacts, which prevents them from syncing - please note that this may or may not work on phones since the Ice Cream Sandwich update
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    Section 5 – GPS, WiFi, and Mobile Data connections

    5.1 What are GPS and aGPS?
    GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and is used to accurately calculate your location (often to within a few metres). It is also known as ‘Fine’ positioning on the handset. This accuracy and the ability for it to track you in real time makes it invaluable for satellite navigation.

    aGPS stands for assisted Global Positioning System. It is identical to normal GPS, It can download the satellite position info from the cell network for faster lock but it also provides tower-triangulation backup positioning when the environment (buildings in urban areas, or storms or other conditions) cause loss of sufficient satellite signals.

    GPS can be enabled or disabled by pressing the menu key, selecting location, and checking or unchecking ‘Use GPS Satellites’. Alternatively, you can download a widget such as Switchpro that allows you to toggle GPS from your homescreen by long pressing on the home screen, selecting widget, selecting settings, and adding the GPS toggle.
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    5.2 Is GPS free?
    The GPS itself is a totally free service, and there are no data charges. It uses exactly the same system as a normal sat nav unit (Eg. TomTom). However, some applications that use GPS also use data, so you have to be careful. Google maps, for example, does not store maps locally on the phone, so whenever you move the screen, change the layer you are viewing, or zoom in and out, it will use your data connection to download the maps and images. This can quickly add up to a lot of data, and if you have a low data allowance it could get expensive if used a lot.

    There are a couple of solutions to this. Firstly, when using the Navigation app installed on the phone, you can enter your route when at home and it will pre-fetch the map data over your wireless network (As long as you have one set up). However if you make a mistake and leave the calculated route, the phone will download a new route and if needed new map data to compensate.

    It is worth noting that, since a more recent update to Google Maps, it is possible to cache up to a 10 mile radius around your current location.

    Another option is to download a different mapping app – For advice on this, please see section 5.3
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    5.3 Are there any alternatives to Google Maps?
    Plenty of them. Two popular applications that store maps on the SD card are CoPilot and Navigon. They have ‘Live’ services such as traffic reports, but other than that do not use any data, as the maps are stored on your SD card. This dramatically lowers your data usage, and is invaluable for those who use GPS a lot, or who are going abroad. However these apps have a substantial one-time fee, so for people who don’t use GPS a lot Google Maps is a better option.

    There are free alternatives that download map data to the SD card, but as you’d expect they aren’t up to much. MapDroyd is free and allows you to download maps for most of the world, but the maps may be out of date in some areas, and there is no navigation, no search, and no stored Points of Interest. If you’re just looking for maps it’s good free software, but it is severely limited.
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    5.4 Does GPS use a lot of battery power?
    When GPS is active, it uses a vast quantity of battery power due to the rate at which data must be sent and received for active tracking of your location. However, the GPS system only activates when an application wants to use it, so you can leave it switched on in the background and it will use no battery unless an application activates it. But if you want to be certain, it can easily be switched off as described in 5.2.
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    5.5 I use GPS a lot in my car – Is it a good idea to get a car charger?
    In a word, yes. GPS will drain your battery pretty quickly when active, so if you use it a lot then a car charger is a good idea. Chargers, however, are a slightly more complicated topic than you’d expect.

    Most car chargers for phones supply a lower supply of current (often the same as charging your phone via USB). While this is fine for at home, with the screen on using GPS, the phone will still lose battery power while plugged in. Therefore you need to look for a higher current charger.

    If you have a car charger and aren’t sure how much power it is supplying, then plug it in, then click the Menu button --> Settings --> About Phone --> Battery. If it says ‘Charging AC’ then your charger is supplying an amp of current and is sufficient. If it says ‘Charging USB’, your charger is not powerful enough for the phone, and you should invest in a branded one for your device.
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    5.6 My phone gets hot when using GPS with a car charger – Is this normal?
    Yep. Heat is produced by the transformer in the phone and the battery itself during charging, the screen during operation, and the CPU during use. GPS while charging will generate a serious amount of waste heat, especially charging at the 1 amp required for GPS. This will only be made worse if you have a windscreen mount and it is a sunny day.

    One popular solution is to use an air vent mount instead of a windscreen mount, so the air conditioning will cool the phone. But if you go down this road, remember not to use the vent mount if you turn the heater on, or your phone will most likely overheat and shut down.
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