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Getting Started with a Cheap Android Tablet

So you've just gotten a tablet. This post is a collection of problems I've had with cheap Android and questions I've been asked.

I originally wrote this post back when Android tablets shipped with almost no apps. The situation has improved somewhat so this post isn't as useful as it used to be. As always, any suggestions on topics to include would be appreciated.

First things first. Go set the time and date. If they're set wrong then this will cause a bunch of problems. For example, you won't be able access your Gmail from the tablet. I know that doesn't make much sense, but it's true.

Next, calibrate the touchscreen. Hopefully your tablet will prompt you to calibrate the screen when you start it for the firs time. If it doesn't you'll need to do look under the settings for the calibration option. Check your manual; the option is in different places in different versions of Android.

Don't forget to set up the Wifi. I bet that you've already done this, but I'm putting it on the list just in case.

Installing Apps

There are 4 ways to install apps: downloading from a website, through an app store, email it to yourself, and install it from an SD card. The first 3  are relatively straight forward, but there's a problem with the last one.

It isn't as simple as you might think. Would you be surprised to find out that some a lot of Android tablets don't ship with a file manager? Well, then you're going to be shocked to discover that some file managers can't see the APK install files (I'm not kidding, either).

You'll need to check under the apps menu and make sure that you have a file manager. Otherwise you won't be able to install the apps downloaded to your SD card.

Here's the file manager I like, and it works with most versions of Android:

You can install this file by emailing the link to your tablet so you can open your tablet's web browser and visit that page.

Finding apps

Some developers host a copy of their app on their website, but not very many. (Adobe started doing it recently, though.) I always check a developer's website, just in case.

If you're one of the tablet owners who have access to the Android Market, I hate you (kidding). Chances are you might not have the official Marketplace, and you might not have any market app installed at all. Here are my 3 favorite places for finding apps:

  • Amazon Appstore - Amazon launched this store last fall, and it's beginning to gain wide acceptance.
  • Slideme - This is a legitimate app store with both paid and free apps. It even has its own app for you to install on your tablet.
  • 1Mobile - This is a not entirely legitimate source for apps, but it does not pirate paid apps (so far as I know).

Starter Apps

I already pointed you at a file manager and I know that you'll want other apps. Here's a list of apps that you'll probably want.


About Nate Hoffelder (11126 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

68 Comments on Getting Started with a Cheap Android Tablet

  1. WHERE do u put the app file do you put in in a specific folder or not

  2. You can put them anywhere on the SD card and ES File Explorer should be able to find it.

  3. Ok but like I am supposed to download it to the SD card but it wont show up so i need help like what does the file s10 need to open with(it says open with blah blah blah)

  4. I have no idea what you’re asking.
    How the hell do you expect me to help you when you can’t even ask a coherent question?

  5. Ha!

  6. I understand the need to install es file explorer to be able to install the apps. Problem is how do I get es file explorer installed? All I can do is download it. Any help would be great. thanks,.

  7. You can email it to yourself, and then open the email on the tablet. You should be able to click on the attached apk and install it.

    Or you could download it direct to the tablet and then pull down the taskbar and click on it to install it.

  8. Nate – I’m having the same problem as Andrew.
    I emailed the apk files to myself, opened the email and I have the option to open or save the file. No matter which I choose I get “Unsupported Format”
    I opened the browser and downloaded to the tablet but, while there is the the download icon on the taskbar while it is downloading, once it is downloaded I pull down the taskbar and there is nothing there.

    Thank you

  9. This is weird. It worked for me.

  10. Got it. Used the file://sdcard/*filename.apk
    command in the web browser. I can now load apps on the sdcard and use the file installer to get them installed on the tablet

    Thank you so much!

  11. I don’t know what happened but I suddenly have Market Access!!!

    Now to work on memory management.

  12. Is there a way to install Flash Player on the pandigital novel? Every version I’ve tried, I get the “cannot open this app” error message.

  13. can you help me set up the email this is my 2nd pandigital and again i get the unable to open connection to server message any help would be appreciated

  14. Just got a brand new Android Tablet and the battery has been charged (green light on) but nothing comes up on the screen. Stays blank.

  15. Press and hold the power button. If nothing happens then it is probably a dud.

  16. william newton // 12 July, 2011 at 10:18 pm //

    You people that write this stuff give me hope for today and the future. Thanks just bought a white novel with a 4 gb card ,whats your advice,,, leave alone or hack it,, my first computer and iam 70 years old and was last in my class. What is the over all finish product,,sure is fun just the way it is, sure i want it to do more,,can it take me to the moonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn thanks again.

  17. Your page is so helpful! I’m wondering if you can help me out? I just received my android tablet last week and am having THE WORST problems with it. The biggest issue is it will not download ANYTHING. I followed all of your above steps, when I attempt to download anything from the market it says Download was unsucessful, Please try again. No matter how many times I try, it will not work. Any suggestions?

    Thanks in advance :)


  18. Hi, Nate
    Idownloaded Amazon Appstore but when tried to install – got “Application not sintalled”, “App could not be installed on this phone”. Did it 3 times – same result. Any ideas?

  19. What’s the tablet, and what version of Android is it running?

    The most likely cause is that the tablet is running a version of Android that it too old for the app.

  20. I just got an android tablet, “superpadIII” I have have set it up to the best of may ablity and no i am trying to download apps from the android market with no success. The tablet keeps telling me that there is no android device associated with this account. I did get pandora to download, but it wont work. Help!


  21. It sounds like you will first need to install the Android Market on the tablet. If it’s already there then you need to visit the Android Market from the tablet and set up an account. That way the AM will know about your tablet.

  22. Ever hear of the Visual Land Prestige 10 (Vl-110)? When I bought it I thought it was just being introduced but it seems from their site ( it is one of many. I was drawn to it cause of two MP3’s I bought of theirs and liked. Anyway I yanked the mounted SD card without unmounting it and now can’t take pictures or videos and oddly it also affected my ability to down load anything. Any thoughts? I tried doing factory reset without any luck! I haven’t found any other affected aps.
    I understand that even though it runs Android 4.0 it is not compatible with google aps! It has an ARM cortex AB processor. So far tech support has been to slow with to little in assistance. Wish I knew who did their manufacture.

  23. I think you will find its a cortex A8 not AB. I have heard of it. If you had read the article properly you will see that you can get apps without the google market app (which can be installed yourself).

    The issue with the SD card is very common on mac and Linux. Android being based on Linux has inherited it. Turn off the tablet completely. Remove the battery for 10 seconds. Reinsert the SD and the battery. Turn on again. It should now work, you may have to search for a mount button in settings.
    If that doesn’t work the look for an SD USB adaptor and connect it to a Windows PC, not OSX or Linux. It should pop up letting you access the files. Go into my computer, right click the SD card, eject. Then try the above process again.

    The issue is to do with the mount/unmount status of an SD or flash drive being stored on the Sd rather than the tablet itself somewhat oddly. Then when you connect the SD to something else that something else thinks the device is being used already and tends to ignore it.

  24. I have an android tablet that i already have google play on it and wifi is ready. Every tome i hit “download” on the app, it says “eror retrieving information from server” i need help

  25. I’m running an android tabletusing 4.0 but when trying to download apps from google play store it keeps giving me error message. Any ideas?

  26. Not without knowing what the error message said, no.

    In any case, you’re probably better off Googling the text of the error message. If you posted the text here I would google it and then offer a solution.

  27. I am having the same problem. I think I have a bad router. I bought another one today, but haven”t installed it yet. I will get back to you when I do. I am having problem with my pc and all of my other devices too. So I hope the new router will fix them all.

  28. I purchased a Cortex Android RoboDiary 153 for a family member who now does not require
    this. I was wanting to have another family member use but we have forgotten/lost codes and screen is frozen “too many pattern attempts”. Could you please advise how does one
    have this cleared to enable someone else to use.

  29. If you can’t remember the pattern, after a few attempts it should ask you for your gmail address and password. If you can’t remember that. all you can do is a “factory reset”, which will wipe out anything in storage. How to do this varies by tablet, but usually holding the power and volume down buttons down for a few seconds will do it. If you don’t have a volume down button, try holding down your reset button for 20-30 seconds.

  30. Hi,
    I have a brand new android tablet – rob diary 153 – some how it has got stuck with a message “android” on the screen and it won’t move.
    If anyone has any ideas or this has happen to them please, please share.
    Thanks so much in advance

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