Setting up an imported/unlocked Android 4 phone
October 22nd, 2012
Recently I bought a new mobile phone* see here. It was an Android 4 phone running on dual-core processor and with dual-SIM capabaility with a 4.3″ HD screen. I love it and I raved about it on Twitter. Because of interest from some of my followers I did a review on Twitter and also did one on Amazon – where you can buy the ‘phone. As a result of those several people bought either the same or a similar handset from the Chinese manufacturer I got mine from (DracoTek). This had two effects:
- I felt a bit nervous because people were buying phones on my recommendation
- People started to ask me questions or mostly make generic statements on Twitter about setting the ‘phone up.
One of the upsides of getting a phone like this is that it is not “locked” to a particular mobile network. This means you a) own the ‘phone outright from the beginning (no contract) and b) don’t get a ‘phone cluttered with all ther “added value” the mobile networks put on handsets they provide. For the most part this is an advantage but the only downside is that the phone will not usually be supplied set up for the UK. It’s something that’s easy to remedy but it can at first seem overwheleming.
As I feel partly responsible for people buying these phones and because I want people to have the best experience they can, I am writing this post which I hope will provide some tips and guidance on how to get your nice shiny ‘phone acting how you want after it first arrives. The tips here apply to any Android 4 phone by the way but they are particularly relevant to a phone you have bought outright rather than as part of a contract. It’s by no means an exhaustive list but it does include the most commonly requested items.
This post does not explain how to unlock a phone or how to “root” one. Sorry.
If you are interested I bought this phone from these people. It’s also available through Amazon but I didn’t get it from any of the sellers currently offering it there. I did however write a review of the phone on Amazon which you can see here. I am not affiliated with the seller or manufacturer.
Update January 2013: I’ve had the phone for about six months now and it is still performing as good as when I first got it. The battery is great and the only slight thing I mis sis an LED to tell me when there’s a missed call. I solved that one by install the NoLed app from Google play though.
I also teamed this up with a SIM from GiffGaff who are a SIM only network based on O2. I use one of their bundles which gives me enough minutes and texts plus a huge wodge of mmobile internet to use. There’s no contract and you can switch between a bundle or PAYG whenever you feel like it. I’ve not had any issues with the service but that may be because of my location. I do know some parts of the country have had problems at times. The link to GiffGaff I’ve given there is an affiliate link – this means if you click it and then order a SIM (which is free) I get some credit as a thank you. So I do benefit from your ordering a SIM but I would recommend them even if I didn’t.
Setting your location and language
When the ‘phone first arrives it is likely to have been set up for the country it originated in. In my case this was China and whilst the language was set to English (US) so was the keyboard. Note that the ‘phone will probably get the time and timezone from the network of your SIM though and this is fine.
- You need to go to the Settings app. If you can’t see an icon for this on your homepage tap the apps drawer using the icon highlighted in Figure1
- Scroll down to Personal->Language & input
- Tap the settings icon next to “Android keyboard”
- Tap “Input languages”
- Select your chosen language – in my case this is “English (UK)”
- Tap the Home key to return to your homepage
**Update – November 2012 ** : It seems that on some handsets the English(UK) language is not available to pick. This will be becuase the supplier has only installed a stock set of languages and not all of them (probably to save room). You can fix this by installing locale-selector apps. One I have found good is Set Locale and Language by brucedior (link goes to Google Play Store). You can install it, set the language and then uninstall it if you need spaxce or if (like me) you find it conflicts with Touchpal keyboard app.
Wireless and mobile Internet
You can connect your phone to a wireless network (provided you have the password etc.) quite simply. The ‘phone will remember the details and will connect to the network whenever it is is range.
- Go to the settings app (see above)
- Tap Wifi
- If your network is not listed Tap “SCAN”
- Tap your network when it appears and enter the password.
When you are out and about you may find some places offer free wireless. Often to connect to this you must give your email address or inside leg measurement. In this case you should connect to the network as listed above but then go to the web browser and go to your usual homepage. You will probably be presented with a web-form for your email address. Follow the instructions on there.
Mobile internet – GiffGaff
For most SIM you will find the mobile internet is available as soon as you put the SIM in and power up the ‘phone. If you are using the GiffGaff network (in the UK) however you need to change a few settings. Under Android 3 this used to be done for you by GiffGaff but Android 4 prohibits apps from altering your ‘phone mobile internet settings (for security reasons). This means you’ll have to do it manually. It can be tricky but there is some really good help available.
I want to repeat this is ONLY for GiffGaff users.
- Download the GiffGaffAPN app – you may beed to add your Google account first in order to use Google Play (see below)
- Run the GiffGaffAPN app and follow the instructions.
The app works by posting a notification for each step showing the settings you have to use. Copy the setting and add it to the appropriate APN step.
I’m using a lot of odd words and terms here but in essence this is very simple process. Download the app and run it, it tells you exactly what to do for the rest of it. Just make sure you read it and follow the advice given. I did this and had my mobile network up in under 5 minutes.
Adding your accounts
If you want to download apps from Google play or browse your gMail you’ll need to add your Google account. In addition you can have the “eMail” app download and view your non-gMail email.
- Open the settings app (see above)
- Tap”Accounts & Sync”
- Tap “Add Account” at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap “Google”
- If you have a Google account, tap “Existing”, otherwise tap “New”
- Enter the relevant account details when requested.
- Open the app drawer as shown in Figure1
- Find and open the eMail app
- You will be asked to set up an account. Use the settings given to you by your regular ISP/IT people for your desktop eMail.
Make sure you leave the account so it leaves the eMail on the server. In addition you may find you have to enter a username and password for sending eMail. Many ISPs insist upon this unless you are connected to their network (e.g. via wireless at home). Some do not permit you to send via any other network. Check with your ISP about this and if that is the case you may have to set the outgoing email (SMTP) server to your mobile provider one. Check with them for details about this.
Set your web browser homepage and bookmarks
You may find the web browser initially is set to Google.cn or similar. You may also find a bunch of bookmarks the manufacturer added to test the unit before shipping. You can set these to your own choices.
Set Google as your homepage
- go to the browser app
- tap in the address bar and type www.google.commonly- tap “Go”
- If you are connected to a network (wireless or mobile – see above), Google will load for your location (e.g. Google.co.uk)
- Tap the menu key (see figure 1)
- Tap Settings->General->Set homepage
- Tap Current page
Bookmarking a page
- Go to the webpage you want to bookmark (e.g. Twitter.com)
- Tap the menu key
- Tap Save to bookmarks
- Tap the menu key
- Tap Bookmarks/history
- To delete a bookmark hold the icon for it and select Delete
Notification bar and area
One feature many new Android 4 users don’t seem to notice is the improved notification area. This is near the top of the screen (see figure 1). You can drag this down to see more of the notifications and also quickly change phone settings. (See figure 2). See those icons at the top? There are three screens of those. Slide your finger left and right across them to see more. Tapping one will switch it on or off accordingly.
In my experience the batteries on these unbranded phones work really well but it’s always nice to make your battery last as long as possible. The best way to do this is to disable some of the more power hungry apps and features such as GPS, Wireless and screen brightness. Most of these can be done through the Notification icons (see above) but sometimes you want to do it without all the dragging. Enter the Power widget. This is a bar -type widget which you can add to a homepage (see below) and which has icons for the common power saving things I just mentioned. Drop it onto your homepage somewhere and you can quickly toggle the screen brightness or GPS and save your battery even more. It’s handy for things like disabling your wifi when you are on the road and unlikely to encounter a wifi hotspot.
Adding apps and widgets to your hoempage
Adding icons and widgets to your homepage is very easy but not always as obvious as you may think.
- Open the app drawer
- Tap and hold and icon
- The homepage screen appears with spaces marked out for icons. Drop your icon into the appropriate one.
The app drawer as two tabs – apps and widgets. Go to the widget one for more interactive bits n bobs on your homepage. You add them to the homepage in the same way as icons.
Handy apps to install
Everyone has their favourite apps and flame wars are possible on which ones are best. These are not required ones but they are the ones I find useful and you might like to look into them. I am no affiliated with this in any way.
- My backup pro – backs up your contacts SMS, pictures, apps and other data on a scheduled basis to either an online storage areaa or (my favourite) the SD card in your phone.
- Advanced Task Killer – handy to see what is running and kill any apps you don’t want using up your juice
- Digital Clock – my phone came with an analogue clock widget. I like analogue clocks but not on my homepage.
- Touchpal keyboard – this is a more powerful “swipe” keyboard which I find makes typing much easier. It’s a personal preference though.
- Twitter – there are loads of these but chances are your phone didn’t come with one. Browse Google play and get one if you like to tweet.
- Facebook – ditto to the above really. Chances are you rphone didn’t come with one. Install one of these and you can “like” things as much as you er like.
I hope this all helps. Feel free to add comments here if there’s stuff I’ve missed or you have any tips of your own.
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