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How to configure a smartphone for digital beginners?

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Smartphones have long ceased to be only telephones – they are handheld computers, thanks to which we can not only make calls, but also work, study and relax. However, for people who are not tech-savvy, using a smartphone can be confusing or downright unpleasant. The multitude of colors, icons, options and blinking windows can make it difficult to use basic phone functions, such as calling or sending and receiving messages. That is why today we suggest how to configure a smartphone for digital freshers – so that it is a fully useful tool for them.

Authors of the report “The Global Smartphone. Beyond a youth technology” point out that the term“ smartphone ”(smart phone) can be a bit confusing. First of all, because it should no longer be treated primarily as a type of telephone – after all, traditional telephone calls currently constitute only a small part of the functions offered by this type of device. Second, because the smartphone itself is not intelligent – it does not learn on its own, and its value depends on how it serves the person who uses it. And you can use it for all sorts of purposes: to stay in touch with family and friends, to take care of your health and make appointments with doctors, or to participate in social life.

For many of us, using a smartphone, i.e. smoothly navigating the menu and its settings, seems to be natural – it certainly results from years of experience. But not everyone is equally confident:

  • digital beginners, i.e. people who learn new technologies and do not use them freely, may have problems with reading the interface, launching applications or using the on-screen keyboard;
  • people with visual impairments may have difficulty seeing text and images;
  • and people with reduced mobility have difficulty pressing screen buttons.

Fortunately, each smartphone can be configured to become more accessible and friendly. By changing some of the settings, you can, e.g. make text easier to read, simplify controls, and opt to communicate with the screen by voice rather than manually.

We discuss smartphone configuration for Android (it is still the most popular operating system in Poland), but you can also find similar functions in iOS.

Screen prep

You should start configuring your smartphone by adjusting the screen.

Simplify the home screen

The screen visible after unlocking the phone should not be cluttered – too many icons can make the user feel overwhelmed. Ideally, it should contain only the most important applications, such as: phone, messages, camera, Internet.

If the owner of the smartphone uses many applications, you can group them into named folders:

Also, make sure that the wallpaper does not adversely affect the readability of the screen – preferably it should be in a toned down, uniform color.

Simplify the interface

You can also simplify the home screen with a special application launcher / easy mode. The purpose of such applications is to replace the default home screen with a simple and intuitive interface with large, clear and signed icons.

Easy mode applications make the smartphone a friendly tool for digital beginners as well as seniors, children, visually impaired people or people with motor problems.

Some smartphones have a built-in ability to turn on the simplified mode (eg Samsung).

For other manufacturers, you can install one of the applications, e.g.:

Customize the keyboard

Writing and sending messages is one of the basic functions of a smartphone, but for people who are used to a traditional keyboard, clicking on the letters on the screen can be troublesome – especially when the smartphone tries to read the thoughts of the author or uses autocorrection when it’s not asked to do so.

To rectify this, try to simplify the functions of the on-screen keyboard: go to the keyboard settings and deselect all non-basic options, such as: autocorrection, word prediction and others that are not necessary to use the keyboard.

Settings -> Additional settings -> Language and input methods -> Manage keyboards -> Settings:

  • Preferences
  • Text correction

Change the text size and adjust the contrast

To make the text on the smartphone’s screen more readable, increase the font size and increase the contrast – this will make the colors more expressive.

Settings -> Display -> Text size

Settings -> Additional settings -> Accessibility:

  • “Display” section: interface size, magnification, color inversion, color correction
  • Experimental section: High contrast text

Install a text reader

If adjusting the text size and contrast is not enough and the person using the smartphone still has trouble reading the text freely, you can make the device read the text aloud.

Settings -> Additional settings -> Accessibility:

“Screen readers” section: read aloud, text-to-speech

Enable voice control

Smartphones are often equipped with the so-called voice-controlled digital assistant. With its help, instead of “typing” requests on the screen, you can say them out loud. This option is especially helpful for people who find it difficult to use the touch screen due to their age or loss of manual capabilties.

Set up favorite contacts

Make sure that the person using the smartphone can quickly contact the people / institutions that are most important to them, without having to navigate through the complicated search menu. To do this, add their numbers to the favorites list – they will be displayed at the top of the contact list.

You can also “pin” selected contacts to the home screen:


Digital beginners can unknowingly put themselves in danger, such as malicious applications, virus-infected attachments, phishing, and identity theft.

That’s why you should:

  • Make sure your smartphone has antivirus installed.
  • Inform the owner of the smartphone about what signals of danger should they pay attention to (e.g. text messages with suspicious links) and ask them to be vigilant and let you know when a message disturbs them.
  • Additionally, if the smartphone owner uses social media or other applications that store personal data, teach them two-factor authentication.
  • Set up Google Play: the first time someone opens Google Play, they are asked to choose how to pay for apps (for example, add a credit card number). Digital beginners may not know that this is not mandatory, so it’s best to set up access to the Google Play app right away.

In case the smartphone is lost or damaged:

  • Turn on “Find my device”: even the most careful people sometimes lose their smartphones or cannot remember where they left them. Therefore, it is a good idea to turn on “Find My Device” in advance.
  • Enable cloud syncing: broken screen, flooded phone or missing – all this can lead to the painful loss of important photos, messages, notes and other valuable information stored in the smartphone’s memory. Therefore, take care of a backup in advance and set up automatic synchronization of the smartphone content with an external drive, e.g. One Drive or Google Drive.

Paper instruction manual

Technologies are great, but … there is nothing like paper 🙂 Just in case, prepare a short paper manual in which you will include the most important information about using the smartphone, for example:

  • how to unlock the screen;
  • instructions on how to proceed if the smartphone freezes or won’t turn on;
  • icons of key applications with an explanation of what they are for;
  • list of important phone numbers.


The main assumption when configuring a smartphone for digital beginners is, above all, convenience: making the device as easy to use as possible for them and that everything they may need is at their fingertips. With a good configuration and guided first go, digital beginners can enter the wider “digital waters” and gradually start using other convenient features that facilitate communication, work, relaxation and life in general. Good luck!