Understanding apps

If you’re new to smartphones or tablets, you might find some of the terms a bit confusing. Let’s take the term, App.

So just what is an App? We get this question a lot and the answer is very simple. App is short for Application. An application is a program, very much like software you purchase on disc or download for a traditional computer.

Some apps, like the phone app, camera app, and texting app come pre-installed on your phone. Others you’ll have to get from the app store for your particular model of phone.

To Open an app, just give it a single tap. Navigating most apps is pretty straightforward. You tap where you want to go.

The controls for each app will vary. You’ll find most apps don’t come with instructions. You’ll have to learn by doing.  Let’s use an email app as an example.

Just tap the icon to open and you see the inbox.  To navigate the inbox, you swipe up or down. To open an e-mail, just give it a single tap.

In apps where you type, you usually bring up the keyboard just starting a task that requires a keyboard… I’ll select the reply arrow for this message by just tapping on it and the keyboard will open allowing me to type.

On most devices you’ll see the standard QWERTY keyboard from a typewriter.

Now let’s use the YouTube App as an example. To open it, I tap on the YouTube icon.

To select a video just tap on the YouTube Icon and choose a video by tapping once on it.

You can pull up the play controls by tapping the video. We can stop or play the video by tapping there or go full screen.

Most apps will have a menu icon that looks like three little lines, dots, or squares together. Tap it and you’ll get a menu that offers settings options. This is similar to what you’d see if you clicked on the file or tools options in a program on your PC. What those options are will depend on the app.

The menu icon is very important. If you’re wondering how to find or do something in an app, tapping that little menu icon is always a good starting point.

Tapping the menu button on in most apps will give you Settings options where you can control important app functions. Tapping the menu icon in an app like the Chrome web browser gives you options like History and Bookmarks.

But don’t be afraid. You really can’t break an app. Even if you were to change the settings and couldn’t get it back the way you wanted it, you can always uninstall the app and then download and reinstall.

Android, iPhone, and Windows phones are all what is known as a closed ecosystem or walled garden. That means that you can only use Android apps on an Android phone. These apps must be downloaded from the Google Play Store. iPhones can only use apps downloaded from Apple’s App Store, and Kindles use apps from the Amazon App Store. 

You can’t install a favorite PC program on your phone or a Mac program that you love on your iPhone. But you can often find app versions of favorite PC programs. For example, you can’t load the same version of Word that’s on your desktop on your iPhone. But you can find a mobile version of Word to use with your phone.

For some programs/apps, you’ll need to purchase a separate version of the app for each type of device. For other programs, one purchase will allow you to install on multiple devices. For example, some Norton Security subscriptions cover your PC and your phone. This will vary from program to program.

3 thoughts on “Understanding apps

  1. I wanted to add Norton 360 to my iPhone. It downloaded and installed but Norton told me it wasn’t activated because I didn’t have “wi-fi” turned on. I’m reluctant to use my phone with wi-fi on because of security issues. Can you please write about that. Thank you

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