How to set up an Android phone for your parents

26 September 2013

Being tech savvy can introduce you to a world of information and entertainment that was unimaginable a few decades ago. But it can also relegate you to the status of '24x7 tech support' within your family.

So, it is not uncommon to feel some trepidation before introducing a less tech literate parent to a new smartphone, especially an Android model. Here are our tips for setting up a new Android for Mum or Dad in a way that should minimise too many extra questions down the road.

1. Can the bloatware

When you look at a new phone, you probably don't see the bloatware the way your patents will. While you mentally block it out, they see an overwhelming collection of coloured icons and baffling widgets. We recommend you remove as much of this as possible.

Remove home screen widgets and app shortcuts by long-pressing on them and moving them to the Trash Can icon. The specifics of this tip may vary from phone to phone, so play around a bit.

Also,hide apps in the app drawer. You can't delete any of the apps that come pre-installed on a new phone (like Telco apps) but many Android systems let you 'hide' apps, so they are not visible in your collection.

Go to the App Drawer and press [Menu], look for a [Hide Applications] in the options. If it's there, use it to make tools your parents won't use invisible.

2. Fewer home screens

Out of the box, many Android phones start with as many as five visible home screens that you can swipe between. If you think this is a recipe for confusion, consider delete a few, or most, of them.

  • On a home screen simply press [Menu} then [Add or Remove page].
  • Long-press on redundant pages and drag them to the bin.

3. Design the perfect home screen for Mum or Dad

Now that the superfluous bloatware is gone, start to build up a really useful home screen for the person who owns the phone. Nearly all Android phones comes with a static task bar along the bottom with shortcuts to the Phone Dialler, Contacts, Messages and the Web Browser, so you won't need to worry about these.

The goal is to build up a complete one-page approach to the phone, covering as much of their needs and interests as possible. Perhaps build a collection of shortcuts based on the following:

  • Contact Shortcuts - there are 3 options for a contact shortcut under the widgets menu, you can link to the contact's information, you can have a button that directly dials them, or you can have a button which launches a new text message to them.
  • Web browser shortcuts - while your parents are getting used to using the web browser on the phone, consider introducing them to the Google Search bar widget as a one-stop place to begin browsing.
  • Camera and Gallery shortcuts. Grandparents plus grandchildren: need we say more?

4. Add a utility home screen

One you have the basics laid out on the central home screen, you could consider adding a second screen with a few useful widgets.

  • Add a photo gallery widget to show off pics of those special people
  • A sticky notes widget for quick reminders. If there isn't one on the phone already, there is a dozen to choose from on the Play Store.
  • A Calendar widget if your parents are used to using the calendar for reminders
  • A widget for a favourite news service, like Flipboard or Feedly
  • Android has a pretty useful Browser Bookmarks widget, which takes up about half of a screen and is scrollable. This is a good option for a web browsing parent.
  • A data monitor widget/shortcut. Your parents may not be tech savvy, but they should understand how to monitor their phone usage. Most big telcos have apps for this now, with widgets you can sit on a homescreen.

Battery Management

One thing you should try and do with your parent's phone, is set it up to be as power efficient as possible for them.

Phones from Samsung, HTC and Sony all have 'power saving' tools which you can find in the core system settings. Switch these on to help the battery last a bit longer between charges.

Also, set the screen brightness to a level which is as low as it can be and still easily readable.



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