An Entry Level Android User Guide

Everyone is abuzz about how cool the Android phones and devices are, but what sets the Android OS apart from other device Operating Systems, and how do you take advantage of the power and openness of this great platform? What devices are for beginners, for the root user/developer, and what does root an Android phone mean? These questions will be touched on here, but only on an introductory level. More in-depth guides will be forthcoming.

First of all, we should understand what Android is. Google and Lucas Arts got together to develop an alternative smartphone operating system that would take full advantage of the powerful tools that most modern handsets incorporate. The Google phone was the ‘Original’ Android phone offered on T-Mobile. It was an impressive OS from the get-go, mostly open-source. It means anyone can access the source code and develop applications or change different kernel and user interface aspects. Though many manufacturers and providers may be in denial of it, the open-source nature of the OS is the key to the success of Android devices.

Once people began developing apps and rooting their devices, the game changed. Certain devices, such as the original Motorola Droid, were quite easily embedded, and developers began instituting what has become known as custom ROMs. ROMs are user-created, device-specific, ready-made custom user interfaces for Android devices. CyanogenMod was, and still is, one of the most popular ROMs. (The ROM series is named after its creator’s forum handle). With the onset of these highly customizable interfaces, the iPhone’s “they all look the same” interface lost a large piece of the smartphone market share.


The rooting of Android phones has become both a boon to device owners and a thorn to some providers and hardware manufacturers. Gaining root access means removing security blocks that keep users from having system access. In many ways, these security measures prevent people from damaging their operating systems, as untrained actions can render a phone as useless as a brick, hence the term “bricking your phone.” Should the unspeakable happen, most root users have learned where the proper forums are and how to avoid damaging their device and restoring it to working condition. The biggest benefit of root access is that you can remove bloatware (the unwanted apps that come pre-installed on your device, taking up space and resources) and the ability to fully customize the interface through the use of ROMs or customization apps.

The most popular Android phones are the line of devices by HTC and Motorola. The main thing to look for if you want a highly customizable device is a popular device that has been around for several months. That way, you have many users, and the developers have had time to build numerous offerings for you to install. Brand new devices are usually a challenge for the developers, as manufacturers and providers have not yet realized the benefit of offering full access to users. People buy these devices for hundreds of dollars or multi-year contracts, and as the owners of the phones, they are entitled to have some say as to what the device looks like, reacts like, and what version of Android they want on their device. It has become a game of intellectual tug-of-war that is entertaining and important.

Many ‘entry-level’ phones offer Android OS without all the benefits of the more popular, high-end phones. LG and Sony-Ericsson have several models that are as great as phones but haven’t had as many user upgrades. Some do not come with WiFi or have not been rooted; perhaps they lack CPU speed or system memory. These phones are great for casual users. Still, if you wish to “own” your phone, want root access, or try your hand at development for mobile devices, you might want to research at any of several Android-specific developer forums. Just search for it – you’ll find plenty of them out there. You can also download Android ROMs.

Regarding the other OS offerings for smartphones, there is the ever-popular but losing ground, iOS on the iPhones and a few iterations of Windows for mobile phones. Both are closed-source operating systems, making developing them difficult, drastically limiting the app offerings. The market isn’t as competitive. Ease of use is pretty high across the board, but the final decision regarding which OS you prefer should be based on a well-researched investigation on your part. Please put your hands on the different phones and feel them out. Many options are more device-specific than OS-specific, so be sure to check out numerous phones and get a good feel for what may well be your best friend for the next year or two.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.