A too-long and overly-opinionated guide to setting up a new Android phone.

I got a new phone. Picked the Galaxy S6.

The white one was a hundred pounds or so cheaper than the black one. I’d rather have had black, but, uh. Not a hundred pounds worth of rather. I’m totally gonna cover it in a decal anyway so, yeah, white.

Whatever.

Here it is, covered in custom decals ordered though DecalGirl.

Phone Back

Phone Front


Setup

There’s a lot of setup to do on a new phone, which I love, coz I’m a geek and I wanna know how the thing in my hand is working and I wanna understand it and control it.

I suspect when you buy a phone through a carrier they do much of the setup for you, thinking it’s a service. But I haven’t done so in nearly a decade now and things were different back then. So I dunno really.

I suspect for most people doing the setup is a service that they pay for coz they don’t wanna know or care.

But I wanna know, I care.

So here’s what happens when you setup an S6. The first Android device I’ve owned that wasn’t direct from Google.

Power it up!

EULA: Diagnostic Data

I give it the WI-FI password and am asked about sending Diagnostic Data to Samsung for their debugging and stuff.

Not really inclined to do that to be honest. I’ll send a bug-report if I find a bug, maybe.

UNCHECK.

Terms And Conditions

Can’t be arsed to read all that.

DISAGREE

Can’t continue while disagreeing.

Well. Okay then.

Under Duress.

AGREE

Log into Google

I don’t really like it, but I have accepted that Google is looking after my address book and my calendar and my YouTube account and a whole bunch of other things. Not least of which: The Android Apps that I have installed or paid for.

So yeah, logging in to Google is going to have to happen. Fine.

Google Services: Backup app-data

Nope. Nope nope nope.

Nope.

Google do NOT get a copy of everything I put in my apps. I do my own backups thanks.

UNCHECK

Google Services: Use Google’s location service

Google Services: Help improve location services

I like my phone to know where it is. I live in a city, where there’s rarely much sky and so GPS is temperamental. So yeah, my phone needs to occasionally contact Google and say “Where am I again?”

So I need google to be able to know the answer.

To know where it is, the phone looks at the nearby wi-fi signals and compares their names to the maps that have been built of that. Roughly speaking.

Knowing where I am is worth a bit of WI-FI chatter.

CHECK.

Google Services: Help improve your Android experience

by sending anonymous debug data.

Glad some people do, not for me though. I’ll send a bug report if I feel like it.

UNCHECK.

Samsung Account

I suspect I probably will have a Samsung account now I have a Samsung phone, but I’m not doing it till I know why I’m doing it.

SKIP [For now at least]

YES REALLY SKIP (damn thing)

Wakeup Command

You know when you’re in a noisy room and someone around you says your name and you hear it despite the noise cos of the Coctail Party Effect?

Your phone wants to be able to tell when you are saying it’s name, even if it’s the other side of a noisy room.

I consider this basically naming my phone really, which is a big task. This phone will likely live for about as long as a hamster.

A name should be unique, so “Ok google” or “Hey Seri” or “Computer!” or anything anyone ever said in a movie to make a computer wake up and listen is ruled out.

So obviously I’m not gonna tell you what I pick. If you ever hear me say it then you’ll know, it’s not a password, but it shouldn’t become a meme either.

Something tentacles related for me. I’d never do that for a password, but for a phone’s pet-name it’s fine.

Though I’m not *sure* that I want this. It is probably battery-draining, and while it seems to do a reasonable job of requiring unlock password to do sensitive things feels like it’d only need a little bug to expose the phone.

Leave it on for now.

Add Fingerprint

Fingerprint scanners aren’t passwords and they do not secure things. They are public, you literally leave them everywhere you go. They’ve been fooled by jelly-babies.

I’m encrypting my phone’s data shortly, and we can’t use fingerprint-unlocking when the phone’s encrypted anyway.

SKIP, won’t be using the fingerprint scanner.

Easy Mode

Bwahhaha! No. I don’t need it easy. Give it to me hard!

Immediate Notifications

So the phone has started up properly, and there’s immediately some notifications.

Get Content From Existing Device

Sometimes, that’d be the right thing to do, but here I’m basically attempting to start afresh. Getting rid of accumulated crap from the last phone is part of the plan. New start.

NOPE

Backup Your Photos To One Drive

I can see why people would want their photos all automatically backed up, but I want control over WHAT is backed up and where it goes instead.

NOPE.

Software Updates

This is an internet-connected device, it will be attacked. It’s software needs to say up to date.

ALLOW, IMMEDIATELY.

Some apps need more permission

Google already have basically everything, so allowing individual apps of theirs to access more stuff is just a courtesy request really.

Skype though? Skype?

Not only do Skype not get extra permissions, I’m disgusted to see they have an app on a brand new phone at all. Screw Skype.

Will un-install ASAP.

OS Updates

Apparently a whole new Android version is here as well as the apps needing updating.

Fingers crossed it’s Marshmallow (doubting)…

That’s a reboot of course…

It’s not Marshmallow. Oh well.

Hopefully soon.

Beaming Service Is Ready

WTF? Coupons? There seems to be no uninstall button. I see why they say OEMs ruin rather than improve on Android.

Coupons?

Get out of my phone damn you!

Settings

We’re in!

Time to change some default settings.

Settings/Display/Screen Timeout

This this has been turning itself off too quickly for ages already. I hate it.

I’ll turn you off when I want you turned off.

FIVE MINUTES.

Settings/Display/Brightness

Too bright. Too battery-draining.

AUTO

Other security settings / Encrypt Device

First phone of mine to have encryption, and I’m glad to turn that on.

“Takes over an hour” it says, then completes in two minutes. This is why we encrypt first, right away. The advantage of encrypting when there’s so little data on the device is it doesn’t take long.

Picking the password is different on a phone screen than on a keyboard. Password not only needs to be complex enough to be secure, and memorable enough to avoid forgetting, also needs to be fast to type on a phone screen rather than a keyboard.

Lock Screen And Security: Screen Lock Type

My phone is supposed to be locked until I give it my password. No choice here now we’re encrypted anyway. But even if we weren’t encrypted we’d still want a lock-screen password or PIN at least.

Lock Screen Type: Password

Secure Lock Settings: Lock Automatically

Default of 5 seconds after screen-off is far too short. Give it a minute.

Lock Screen And Security: Show Information

Putting your email address here means it’ll be displayed on the lock screen so anyone who finds the phone can email you to say they’ve done so.

I’ve not lost a phone yet, but expect I will do one day.

Put a public email address here.

Smart Lock

Interesting idea, disabling security when you’re at home.

Terrible for anyone who lives with others or who ever has anyone visit their house at any time ever though.

So won’t be enabling that.

Remove Cruft

Sad to have to do this, never had to do this with Google’s own devices….

These things can’t be deleted, will always be taking up space, and are either useless to me or considered actively harmful. They are bloatware and Samsung should be ashamed of themselves for having them installed let alone making them undeleteable.

  • Excel
  • Google+
  • My Galaxy
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote
  • Peel Smart Remote
  • PowerPoint
  • S Health
  • Samsung Gear
  • Skype
  • Word

“Smart” Manager

Samsung’s “Smart” Manager isn’t smart, it’s stupid. Yet more bloatware that sends notifications on unlock every couple of days, mangles RAM management, and has a pointless virus-scanner.

You do not want your apps to be turned off randomly just coz they’ve been quiet for a few days. Turn that off.

Never use any of these things and sigh sadly that you can’t even disable this stuff.

Personalistation

Make the phone mine…

Ringtones

Your ring tone should be unique, ideally, so you can tell it’s yours when it rings. That means accepting someone else’s pre-made ring-tone is a noooope.

But we are unable to set arbitrary mp3s or wavs as ringtones or notification-noises without faffing round installing MP3 Ringtone Maker and using that.

I retain my “Moo” for notification-noise and since this is the full-on-tentacles phone use Frankie’s News theme for the ringtone.

Once the ringtones are set you can uninstall MP3 Ringtone Maker unless you think you’ll be changing often.

Home Screen

Samsung’s home screens here are horrible. As soon as I swipe right there’s a nasty news app.

Ugh.

What the hell is this crap?

Disable that nonsense ASAP.

Long-press on the backdrop…
Swipe-right to see “briefings”…
UNCHECK.

Horrible thing.

Can add screens to home by swiping left and clicking the +.

Set up 5 home-screens (for now), with the “Home” home-screen in the middle and a 5×5 grid.

Remove all default icons and apps.

Notification-Menu

On swipe-down we get a screen-brightness control and a bunch of switches for turning things on and off.

This is annoying compared to raw-android. It’s too big, the blue is wrong. It covers half the damned screen with icons that are like Fisher-Price toddler-toys, I can only fit five of them on a 1440 pixel width!

We can swipe left/right to make it ten though.

Clicking “Edit” to order them. My judgement of the five you’d want first:

  • Screen-Rotation – If you read in bed, you read weird-side-up
  • Torch – I need to see if I’m in the dark
  • WIFI
  • Mobile Data
  • Bluetooth – Quick access to attach controllers etc.

And have to drag to get these:

  • Location
  • Sound
  • Flight-Mode (Stupidly named, should be called radio-silence or something)
  • Power Saving
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Screen-Rotation – If you read in bed, you read weird-side-up

And more importantly, Any damn thing I like which is missing.

Was using “Notification Toggle” to get this service on vanilla Android. The Samsung one here isn’t quite right (Can’t put my own apps into the slots) but it’s close enough.

Wallpaper

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-51-14

A phone’s face is the display you get behind the lock-screen, the display you get behind the home-screens, the thing you see immediately you turn it on.

I’m going for a short video I made the other night to match the Tentacles motif.

There’s an app called “Video Live Wallpaper” in the Play Store that’ll let you set any video you want. Picking something long would be insane, but, you know. A second or two’s worth of videos makes sense. It’s not like it’s running and taking power when you’re not looking at it.

So mine has the Tentacles on it, and Frankie.

Mostly looking aloof and looking around.

Keyboard: Fleksy

I want my keyboard to work quickly and efficiently, and I never really got on all that well with Swype boards. Seemed to guess wrongly whenever I tried to actually go fast, and be worse for long words.

Fleksy is the answer.

Best keyboard in the store I reckon.

Gesture-based control, which means your “swipes” can do interesting things like change auto-correct words etc. Run the tutorial, you’ll get it.

Fleksy Extensions

Ditch the silly gif thing. Add “Cut/Copy/Paste” instead, and a numbers row. Also the Fireworks Pop is amusing. Wish it made noises like Ziggy off of Quantum Leap instead though. That’s the dream. Might look into if that’s possible one day.

Also install “OMW” for quick-access to frequently typed things like email addresses. EG: type “ato”, get “adam@tentacles.org”. You’ll need to pay to have that many plugins though. Maybe lose fireworks if you’re too cheap. Or just give ’em 60p I mean really.

Theming Flesky

Expected to have to pay for this, but no. Theme menu has a “Design your own theme” button in the top carousel.

Add tentacles image, customize button colours.

Hackers Keyboard

Fleksy is okay for typing English, but no good for typing code. Might have to do that now and then, so install Hackers Keyboard. Now we can have ctrl keys and type weird EMACS combinations etc.

Event Flow Calendar Widget

I don’t really care what my calendar app is much, so long as it works. But I do care what my calendar WIDGET looks like. That has to be right, and Event Flow Calendar Widget is beautiful.

It’s not greedy about permissions, looks pretty, and shows an agenda on the home screen. And it’s not from The Man, man.

INSTALL.

Ultimate Custom Widget

Pretty Clocks And Stuff, customizable more than you can imagine.

It runs my home-screen clock and weather icons.

Weather icons came from one of the sets on this page but I may add tentacle monsters to them at some point.

Also invisible touch hotspots so pressing Frankie does stuff:

  • Press her face: Launch Voice-Search.
  • Press her belly: Launch Google-App.
  • Press her legs: Shortcut to “Navigate home”

Google App/Google Now

Google already know where I am all the time, in return for letting me know where I am. So they might as well give me some info about wherever it is that I am alongside the GPS Coordinates.

INSTALL.

Stay Awake Widget

Screens should turn themselves off usually, but sometimes you want it to stay on till you say otherwise. It should be on my home-screen dashboard for easy access and just toggle when I press it.

Thus the Stay Awake Widget. So now when I set an baking-timer in the kitchen I can see the countdown from the other side of the counter without touching my phone with my floury hands or whatever.

Install Apps

That’s got the phone looking more or less right, but it’s empty of actual apps for doing things.

A few notable apps:

And FTP

I expect I’m weird by wanting to move files around my network using scp, mostly. But that’s how it is. And FTP lets me do that.

Astro

File browsing. Incredible that you can have an OS without file-browsing built-in these days. What madness it this?

Chromecast

Send video to to my projector, and likely any other screen I buy.

It pisses me off that Chromecast protocol isn’t open, that Iceweasel and Firefox and anyone not in the copyright gang can’t use it, that I can’t, say, chrome-cast from my phone to my linux-PC.

We shouldn’t support these, and I don’t support Chromecast nor Amazon Fire, nor Apple TV nor any of these other monopolists till they get together and make a compatible free protocol FFS.

And so….

THIS IS A THING THAT IS BROKEN IN THIS PHONE

And it’s broken *because* of that stupid format-war as far as I can tell.

Samsung’s “broadcast screen” menu-item doesn’t detect the Chromecast devices. Because the world thinks software freedom doesn’t matter and patents do.

So I can’t have my screen-cast icon in a notification-drop-down menu because the lawyers at Google think they can get one up on the lawyers at Samsung and Apple and Amazon, and vice-vice-vice-vice-versa.

I’ll switch to the free and open one as soon as it exists I guess.

But the Chromecast device wasn’t much more expensive than a cable.

It ought to be as free as one.

Droidedit

Text editor. How can you even call it an OS without a half decent text editor? Vim doesn’t really make much sense without a keyboard so this will do.

Firefox

The most free browser is the correct browser. Always seems perfectly fast and fine to me too, but even if it wasn’t it’d still be the right one.

Google Maps

Already there. Good.

Pixlr

Photo-Editing.

VX ConnectBot

Ssh client, for CLI-interface talking to computers over a network.

Complete App List

Messenger Apps

The interesting thing about Messenger apps is that their popularity is inversely related to their software-freedom and encryptedness. Nobody has messaged me in Signal at all so far. It appears only two of my friends have installed it. A few use Telegram, more use WhatsApp, more still use Twitter (though that’s a different thing anyway really, and I barely read it. Hate that 140 character limit. You can currently attach any type of media you want other than a damned text document. How crazy is that?).

    Read

  • Kindle
  • FBReader
  • News+ (theOldReader plugin)
    Listen

  • Audible
  • Podcast Addict
  • Music Player (Samsung’s one seems fairly excellent)
    Maps

  • Google Maps (already there)
  • City mapper
  • Google Earth
  • Google Sky Map
    Watch

  • BBC iPlayer
  • Youtube
  • Samsung Gallery
  • Chromecast
    Message

  • Signal Private Messenger
  • Telegram
  • WhatsApp
  • Google Hangouts
  • Samsung’s Messages for SMS
  • Twitter
    System

  • And FTP
  • ASTRO
  • DroidEdit Free
  • Pixlr
  • Dropbox
  • VX Connectbot
    Other

  • TechCalc
  • DaTuner Lite
  • Cardboard Camera
  • Prey Anti-Theft

Some App Settings

Whatsapp

Settings/Chats-And-Calls/Media Auto-download: None, ever at all. I’ll download ’em if I want ’em. God, the number of pointless irrelevant photos I don’t wanna see (nor certainly keep) in Whatsapp group-chat threads is too high! Too high I say!

This phone’s memory is the biggest I ever had, but I do not need pictures of friend’s pets clogging it all up.

Kindle

Settings/Notifications/Push-notifications.

Nope. NOPE. World of nope. They always come in at like 8AM when they happen. Waking me up to try and sell me a book is a sin and damn nearly made me install this reader. Google Books isn’t that much less convenient Amazon, watch out!

Homescreen Layouts

Here’s some images of my home-screens.

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-40-09

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-40-21

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-40-32

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-40-41

Bottom row for groups of apps:
Read, Listen, Watch, Map.

Home-screen has agenda, weather, time, date, and press Frankie for navigate-home, voice-command, Google Now.

Click the weather icons for the address book.

Swipe right for web bookmarks and messenger apps.

Swipe left for system apps, stay-awake, camera and app stores.

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-41-28

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-41-32

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-41-36

Screenshot_2016-01-30-14-41-40

Camera

Camera launches on double-press of home button. Create a Samsung account so you can install camera modules:

  • Surround-Shot – 360 spherical projection
  • Panorama – Panorama
  • Dual Camera – Take photo with front and rear simultaneously
  • Beauty Face – Some automatic beauty photo-shopping
  • Animated GIF – Short moving pics
  • Virtual Shot – 3D images
  • Slow Motion – Slow video action down
  • Fast Motion – Speed video action up
  • Pro – Adjust aperture/ISO/focus etc manually

Ant+

Apparently this machine can measure my blood oxygen rate or something and talk to all my medical devices. But I don’t have any medical devices or really care about my blood oxygen levels, so that’s all pointless.

Finished

These are my compromises. Some apps here can be trusted more than others, few of them are really open enough. It actually IS a good deal to get all this stuff in return for carrying a tracking-device most of the time though.

I mean, it’s not like it’s surgically implanted. I can leave it at home to go out and commit my hypothetical crimes or whatever.

Though I suspect there’s a good chance I’ll get one surgically implanted at some point too, come to that. Heh.

Oclus

And then we get to the question of “why did you upgrade your phone Adam? I thought you were gonna use it till it broke?” and the answer is “Coz of Virtual Reality”. My old Nexus 4 wasn’t really up to the tasks I was demanding of it, and Google Cardboard VR wasn’t quite the VR I was looking for.

Here’s my Gear VR Guide

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