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Parent-proofing an Android phone

Discussion in 'Android Lounge' started by Fallingwater, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. Fallingwater

    Fallingwater Newbie
    Thread Starter

    My mom's told me she'd like a smartphone, partly because all her colleagues are going on Whatsapp and Facebook and partly because she's curious.

    I happen to have a new-old-stock Chinese phone I'm not using (Android 4.0.3, dualcore, 512 megs of RAM, 5" display, software completely non-upgradable); since she doesn't really need or care about serious performance, multitasking or really anything that isn't a few basic apps, it sounds like it'd be perfect for her.

    Thing is, I'd like to set it up in as parent-proof a way as possible. My mom is not much of a tech-head, and gets confused by such things as the Windows 7 start bar being moved around, so anything that involves tinkering on her part must be avoided.

    I'd like, at the very least, a keyboard with big buttons (she's a bit clumsy) and a launcher that's as clear as possible.

    Before you ask: no tablets. She wants something she can carry around easily; even the 5" phone made her raise an eyebrow.

    I don't know much about this stuff because my efforts at customizing Android devices usually go in the opposite direction - the more stuff that lets me tinker, the happier I am. Any ideas on how to achieve extreme Android simplicity?

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  2. Brian706

    Brian706 I like turtles!

    Simple Launcher

    Fleksy Keyboard

    I think those are two pretty good options for your criteria.

    If you really want to dumb the phone down, you could use something like SureLock, but that may be a bit too much.
    kate and Rxpert83 like this.
  3. Fallingwater

    Fallingwater Newbie
    Thread Starter

    I like the simple launcher and will be giving it a go, thanks.

    On the other hand, I've used fleksy and it's not something I'd give to her; it requires too many gestures that you have to keep in mind.

    Surelock isn't really what I need; I'm not afraid she'll go tinkering in the settings (she'll probably be too scared to even go there), I just want to make the whole thing as easy and straightforward as possible.
  4. bjacks12

    bjacks12 Android Expert

    I know Nova launcher lets you lock the home screen so you can't move or delete icons and shortcuts.
  5. Brian706

    Brian706 I like turtles!

    I think Fleksy is just really clean and the buttons are pretty large. The thing about the gestures is that they are optional. You don't have to swipe for punctuation and spaces, you can use a standard spacebar if you want to.

    Personally I like SwiftKey as it predicts your next word and you don't even have to type a lot of times. You can simply just keep tapping the suggested words.
  6. AnonGuy

    AnonGuy Android Enthusiast

    My mom uses a Galaxy S4 without issues. Thing about the average consumer is that they don't tend to tinker. They use the basics and a few apps/games but she has never had issues messing anything up because she simply doesn't care about all the extras.

    For that reason I never really had to parent proof her phones. If she needed help she could just call me or video call me and I'd walk her through it. That has happened once or twice.

    I think adding more software layers has more potential to confuse them. Also, why not just get her a cheap Moto G? (Costs money over what you have, but something to consider).

    Bad performance has a way of making some people think devices are malfunctioning, because they don't often think in terms of specs. More "it's slow and must have a virus/be dying" instead of "I wish this thing had more RAM so that it would perform better." Difference in thinking.
  7. AnonGuy

    AnonGuy Android Enthusiast

    Google Keyboard does that while using less RAM and storage.

    It's a low end phone.

    Better to avoid loading it up with redundant apps or you end up exacerbating all the issues inherent in its spec package.
  8. AnonGuy

    AnonGuy Android Enthusiast

    Let her use the phone and then ask for feed back. No use trying to derive solutions for potentially nonexistent problems which can harm the user experience and turn her off of the platform (potentially).
  9. Fallingwater

    Fallingwater Newbie
    Thread Starter

    Oh, this will be useful, thanks.

    Is it downloadable? This phone comes with some non-stock keyboard and doesn't have the stock Google one.

    My point is precisely that if I let her use it unmodified she'll be turned off. Believe me, I've known her for thirty-one years. :p
  10. bjacks12

    bjacks12 Android Expert


    My mother had a Samsung Galaxy Proclaim, a $100 phone from Straight Talk. She's a very smart person(and introduced me to computers when I was a toddler), but the newer tech is not her thing. She had no real difficulty just using the Proclaim. She switched providers and I tried to get her set up on a Nexus, but she ended up buying a friend's used iPhone 4, which she's actually had more issues with, lol.

    Anon, you are 100% spot on with that last paragraph. When people see my phone, they will comment about how I should get an iPhone because Androids are buggy, slow, and don't ever work. I then ask them what experience they have. 'Oh, I had the droid.' 'Which one?' 'I think the Galaxy Centura or something'. :pound: I wish people knew the difference between owning a flagship and owning a pos free phone.
  11. drexappeal

    drexappeal Extreme Android User

    It's actually quite easy (and actually even easier with Android) to allow for an easy transition for older folks or non-tech savvy parents. So easy, in fact, that when Sprint first offered up the iPhone, my Mom wanted it (even though she loved the Samsung Epic...Sprint's Galaxy S1)...and after 1 month, hated it (but was too late, since it was past the return timeframe). She actually found Android to be MUCH easier to use and understand.

    This is how I accomplished her feeling that way:

    1) Before considering a phone, I thought about my Mom's personality and what would suit her needs and interests the most.
    2) I knew that I could easily fix her Epic setup, since I became an Android fanatic as soon as I got my EVO and would continually learn new things that I could apply on her phone, without her even knowing.
    3) Homescreen customization made it easy.

    So, here's the deal. When I got my Mom the Epic, I knew there were 4 things that were most important to her - 1) Phone Calls, 2) Facebook, 3) Text Messages, 4) Pictures.

    Those were the key things for her. Everything else would be way too confusing for her. So, on her Epic, I set it up so that each homescreen had the same exact widgets and app shortcuts, so that no matter what screen she swiped to, she would see the same exact thing. Then, as UI's got a little more customizable, I set it up so that only one homescreen would be shown with those apps on the homescreen and no additional homescreens.

    I then, taught her the basics:
    1) Touch to activate an app, don't touch and hold down
    2) swipe up, down (when reading facebook or text messages), don't hold down.
    3) swipe left, right on homescreens, based on the things she used most.
    4) Press the back button until you go all the way back to the homescreen, when you're done using an app.

    That was it. I didn't teach her how to use the play store, download apps, backup apps, or anything else. Every weekend, I'd just back the phone up for her, without her needing to do anything. I didn't even teach her how to use the app drawer.

    After a while, my Mom was curious enough that she started to learn how to do things on her own (e.g. change wallpapers, save pictures, etc.). She had no clue where she was putting any of the pictures and no sense of organization, but it worked for her. She learned how to look through the app drawer, not knowing what any of the other apps did, but also learned that even if you opened an app that you don't want to use, back button will take you back to the homescreen safely.

    So, once I set the structure, she was smart enough to figure a few more things out. After we brought her back to Android with the Motorola Photon Q, she finally saw the value in having a bigger phone and was wanting the Note 3. I had bought the G3, to use as a secondary phone, but when she saw it immediately wanted it, so that is now her current phone. It's the perfect size for her to manage, but also has the huge 5.5 screen. She is so comfortable with touchscreen only phones, that for the last 6 months that she had the Photon Q, she wasn't even using the qwerty keyboard anymore. And she absolutely loves the G3.

    The other day, she's showing me how she changed her wallpaper to a live wallpaper that scrolled through all her pictures and saved some pictures of my nephews and nieces, so that she could see all of them every day....LOL.

    Now, there are certain caveats to be prepared for. At times, she'll accidentally combine her app shortcuts, so that they're in one folder. So, every now and then, I have to do a little cleanup for her, but for the most part, she has gotten so comfortable, that I don't really need to check her phone. She has expanded to using her phone for emails, rather than using the Surface RT I got her (which she absolutely hates and in her words, "not users friendly."...Yeah, it's not singular user, it's users in the plural...HAHAHAHA).

    Bottom line, if you have the patience to get lots of questions to help them fix whatever screw-ups they've done with their phone, then it's actually quite easy (especially if you guide them through step by step). The only thing I wish OEM UI's had is the ability to lock the homescreens, once you have them set. That would eliminate my Mom's few mess ups, every now and then.

    But, for the most part, she's happy with the experience she gets from Android. The iPhone experience was not as "easy" for her as Android, especially when I was around to spoon feed her introduction and customize the phone for her needs only.
  12. AnonGuy

    AnonGuy Android Enthusiast

    She found Android easier because it's what she was used to, most likely, and that's normal.

    My mom went months without a Google account on her phone. She basically used it like a feature phone.
  13. drexappeal

    drexappeal Extreme Android User

    Actually, she went for a whole year with the iPhone and still hated it and wanted her old phone back. I had to wait until another line was open for upgrade, in order to get her back to another android phone. After a year of getting familiar with iOS (plenty of time), still didn't find it as easy to use as Android.
  14. AnonGuy

    AnonGuy Android Enthusiast

    That's not surprising, for the reason I gave. I had similar issues with Windows Phone and iOS coming from Android, and I had the Windows Phone for 22 months.
  15. Pizzamannetje

    Pizzamannetje Newbie

    I actually love Android, because the flexibility allows you to go way further in modifying the phone. Here's what I did to get my 70yo parents to use their smartphone. And love it! Not just technical tweaks, but some general advice.

    - only one homescreen, put all the essential widgets and apps on it. So they don't have to learn to use multiple homescreens (at least at first) or the app drawer.

    - Install the TeamViewer app so you can give remote support if you don't see them regularly. And teach them to make and send you screenshots if they get a popup they don't understand.

    - Give them the phone with the protective case already on it. Of course a phone looks better without a protector, but elderly don't always realise how vulnerable smartphones are. They come from a time of rocks and bronze tools ;-)

    - Set up the phone together. Let them pick a ringtone, wallpaper, etc. They'll love that.

    - There's no getting around the task pane. You'll have to tell them to make sure they understand all the icons in the task bar and if not, contact you. And regularly check the task pane. I had to repeat this a lot before it became habit to them.

    - Installing their e-mail account on the phone will make them feel more at home on it, even if they don't use it much.

    - But explain to them how chats such as facebook messenger, hangouts, whatsapp, etc are not e-mail. You don't start a message with "dear sir".

    - Assess if they want extra chargers or extra batteries.

    - Consider disabling all auto-updates. Apps, android, etc. Update the phone yourself when you see them. This avoids a lot of questions they don't understand. What i did is just tell them to always accept all updates, but that may be a bit risky if they get exposed to malware. I do warn them ahead of time when their phone will get a system update.

    - If a security thing hits the news big time, like the fappening, or when 5 million Google accounts got hacked, check and let them know it doesn't concern them. Be their watchful eye!

    - Here's one: tell them there's no need to press hard or swipe extra fast if it doesn't open the task pane at the first try.

    - We made a WhatsApp chat with both parents and all children in it. They love it and we use it daily.

    I hope this may help some people.

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