You’ve recently gotten a new Android smartphone. You’ve learned how to make a phone call. You either had your contacts ported over from you old phone or have started a new contact list as you make and receive calls. You’ve snapped a picture or two and admired them on the bright, clear display.
You’ve heard a lot about ‘apps’ — small programs that run on the phone and customize it to suit your needs and interests. And you already know how to run apps since everything you’ve done so far, from making a call to taking a picture, was done via an app that came pre-installed on it. But how do you download your first new app?
This is easy to do, right from the phone, using, what else?, a pre-installed app called the Android Marketplace. There’s a browser-based version that you may want to use, later, from your desktop to explore the huge variety of apps that are available and to search for specific apps, but we’ll start with a quick download right from the phone.
I’ve written previously that I think everyone should have a flashlight app installed and handy on the homepage. So, let’s get one for your phone.
- On your phone, find the Android Marketplace app and run it.
- Press the magnifying glass search icon in the upper right corner of the app.
- Enter ‘TeslaLED’ (that’s the free, no-ads app we’re going to download).
- A list with at least a couple of entries will pop up, press the Tesla LED Flashlight entry to get to the Product Details page.
- Press the Download button.
- Scan the Permissions list and make a note to know more about these later.
- Press the Accept & Download button.
- Watch for some sort of progress indicator. It may be within the Marketplace app display, it may be a flashing arrow in your notification bar (very top of the display).
- When the download is complete, an Open button will show up. Press it.
- Hold up the phone, touch the lightbulb on the screen, see the bright LED camera flash on the back come on and stay on. Press the bulb again, see the flash turn off.
- Optional: Go into a dark room and play with your new flashlight.
Prefer to learn from video? Here is a two minute video that covers the same material in the first minute. (Just skip the second minute about QR codes for now.)
Play by play instructions with background info and color commentary:
1. Run the Android Marketplace app. On your phone’s homepage (what you see when you unlock your phone), you should see a little shopping bag icon with the green Droid image peeking up from one corner. Press the bag to run the app. When it starts up, you see a hype screen that pushes today’s new, fun, and hot apps at you. Ignore them for now.
2. Find the little magnifying glass icon, probably in the upper right corner of the screen. Press the magnifier. It brings up a Search Market text box. Tap the box to bring up a keyboard. Try typing in ‘flashlight’. At some point, a suggestion list will start to form under the text entry. When you see an entry for ‘flashlight’, press it. Or, just finish typing the whole word and press the Go/Enter button on the keyboard.
Google is always tweaking the marketplace app, so what you see next may vary from time to time. Right now, I’m seeing the ‘top two’ flashlight apps listed by name (ranking seems to be based on a both a raw number of downloads and the number of comments users have posted) with a ‘>2227 results’ notation above them. That means that over 2000 apps match the search term ‘flashlight’. Busy beavers those app developers around the world, eh?
So how do you choose? Well, that’s a subject worthy of another post. Suffice it to say that flashlight apps are pretty interchangeable and the features of the top 20 or 30 apps are likely to be very much the same. In this category, I’m looking for three things:
- The app should be free; I shouldn’t have to pay to try it even if I might want to donate later if I use it a lot.
- The app should be advertisement free. I don’t object to ads in general but I’m unlikely to be in a mood to view ads when I’m needing a flashlight.
- I want the option of using either my camera flashlight LED for the light (bright but eats batteries big time) or the phone screen (less bright but often good enough and enables other features).
Unfortunately, at the time I write this, the top two apps in this category both show ads. So, let’s back up and try this another way. One of your best sources for app recommendations is always going to be reviews and word of mouth, so you’ll often want to shop for an app by name rather than by category. Let’s do that.
Use the back button to get back to the app’s home screen so you can press the search button again.
3. Type in ‘TeslaLed’ then press Go/Enter. You should see an entry pop up for the free TeslaLED Flashlight app. (You’ll also see one for the ‘Donate’ version where you can decide later to pay 99 cents to the author if you like the app and use it. Ignore it for now; remember it for later.)
4. Press the entry for the free app and the Product Details page for the app will be displayed.
I don’t know the TesleLED author and have no business association with him/her. But the app is free, doesn’t show ads, supports both types of light, has had 1,000,000+ downloads, has earned 4.5 out of 5 stars in its user reviews, and works well on my phone. (If the Tesla app doesn’t happen to show in the list from your phone, it may not support your hardware and you’ll have to go back to the big list and search around a bit or just grab one of the top two apps and see if the ads bother you. They might not.)
5. On the Product Details page, you should see a Download button on the screen at the top of the detailed listing for that app. Press it.
6. Huh? Instead of the download starting, you get another button, ‘Accept & Download’ this time with a listing of Permissions to review. This list may seem like pure techno-babble to you and if I get a strong word-of-mouth recommendation for an app, I tend to just blow past it and press Accept. But, the case of a flashlight app is instructive, so let’s talk about what you DO and DON’T want to see in the permissions list.
What you DO want to see:
- Hardware Controls / Take Pictures (or Take Pictures and Video).
Yikes — I don’t want my flashlight app taking pictures, do I? No. But you do want the app to control the bright LED camera/video flash when you need it and the only way to do that is with the ‘camera driver’. Google, pretty reasonably, tried to make these permissions easy to understand, so any app that wants to control the camera driver has to ask you for Take Pictures permission. This is ok for this app.
What you DON’T want to see:
- Network Communications / Full Internet Access
- Phone Calls / Read phone state and identity.
For another app, these might be fine. But for a flashlight, these just indicate that the app want to serve you ads (for which it needs the internet) and the ad provider wants to be able to track your identity enough to know what ads you’ve already seen. These permissions don’t amount to a invasion of privacy conspiracy, they just shouldn’t be required for a simple flashlight app.
7. When you’re comfortable with the Permissions being requested, press the Accept and Download button and you are almost done.
8. Watch for some sort of progress indicator. It may be within the Marketplace app display, it may be a flashing arrow in your notification bar (very top of the display).
9. When the download is complete, press the Open button to run the app. If it comes with a license or a disclaimer, you’ll have to review those and Accept (or not) first.
10: In the case of the the TeslaLED app, when it opens you should see a lightbulb home screen. Tap that screen anywhere and your LED flash should come on. Tap again and it goes off. You can find additional features either by flicking the main screen to the left and exploring alternative screens or by pressing the Menu button and exploring the various settings.
11. Optional: Go into a dark room and play with your new flashlight.
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