After unboxing your brand new smartphone, the very first thing to do is to set it up. It is not as simple as inserting your SIM card and booting the device - that's something you did when Nokia was still king of the hill. This guide will provide you with all of the necessary steps required when setting up your new Android smartphone.
First of all, do take note that the screenshots and points in this How-To guide are not applicable to all Android smartphones. Although many smartphones run on the Android operating system, different manufacturers have interfaces and setup wizards of their own, and the user interface design as well as feature set also differs from one another. Nevertheless, you can go through the steps below and ask questions in our forum or in the comments should you need any clarification.
For added clarity, we have divided this guide into three segments:
When you unbox your phone for the very first time, you will usually find it with a partially charged battery. The battery charge is normally enough to set up the smartphone, but you should still check the charge level prior to setting up the device. Alternatively, you can plug the smartphone into a power outlet to set it up as this guarantees the battery will not end up flat on the first day itself. Otherwise, you can opt to use the phone directly without having it hooked up to a power outlet if you think it carries an adequate amount of charge (normally more than 50% is recommended).
Before setting up the operating system, you should also insert your SIM card. If you search the box of your new device, you will find a small SIM card tool that you can use to insert the SIM card. Look for the extremely tiny hole on the phone which is normally surrounded by a slim, elongated oval recess. Insert the SIM card tool into the small hole and the SIM card tray should pop out of the device.
Pull the small SIM card tray out of the phone and insert your SIM card accordingly. There's usually a little hint on the slide on the orientation of the card. However, since one corner of the SIM card is always cut off and a similar shape is also in the SIM card tray, you can basically insert it in only one particular direction.
Now push the SIM card tray back into your smartphone and make sure that this is done smoothly without much resistance. If you notice that the inserted SIM card tray is stuck, pull the tray out of the device and try again.
Tip: If you have bought a memory card to go with your smartphone, you can also insert it simultaneously in this step. If your smartphone supports external memory cards, you must insert them into the SIM card tray. Now, turn on the smartphone using the Power button.
When you turn on your smartphone for the first time, do have your SIM card and a Wi-Fi password ready, because you'll need Internet access for some of the setup steps. Your smartphone will attempt to connect to Google and possibly to your smartphone manufacturer. This will unlock additional features, which we will discuss in the following point.
In order for Samsung, Huawei, Sony, and the other manufacturers to obtain the Android operating system for free from Google, they are required to pre-install some Google apps. Hence, the setup wizard will ask if you want to set up a free account with Google.
Having a Google account offers several important benefits for you:
- Apps from the Play Store
- Improved theft protection
- Backups of your contacts and pictures
- Google alternatives
With a Google account, you are allowed to access the Play Store. This is crucial as the Play Store contains all kinds of verified apps for download, i.e. programs that offer additional functions for your smartphone. You will also be able to continue receiving updates for the apps via the Play Store. We will discuss apps further below.
If you already have a Google Account, you can sign in with it now. You can use your Gmail address or the account that you created on YouTube years ago as your Google Account. Otherwise, tap No and create a new free account with an existing or new email address. Once created, Google will ask for payment methods (for any future Play Store purchases) and additional personal information. You may block and skip both questions if you so desire.
By using a Google account you have access to the web service known as Find my device. This is very useful if you have misplaced your smartphone. It allows you to remotely ring your smartphone or lock, wipe or reset it if you lose it, provided it is still switched on and connected to the internet.
Additionally, a reactivation lock is set with the Google account. If a thief resets your smartphone to factory settings in recovery mode, it will ask for your Google account after the first boot up. If the thief doesn't know it, he won't be able to do anything with your device at all. In other words, it will be a useless paperweight.
As a service provider, it makes sense that Google would record, back up, and sync your Internet-based activity. A Google Account provides you with access to your contacts, email, browser bookmarks, appointments, photos, and files from multiple devices.
That way, if you ever lose your device or need to set up a new one, you'll have a lot of important data backed up on the cloud. We'll explain how to restore additional backups or data below.
Some manufacturers such as Samsung or Huawei will also ask you to create an extra account when you sign up. This usually includes alternative services for theft protection or to back up your contacts. However, you will still rely on Google to search for new apps or app updates. While there are reputable alternatives to the Play Store, none offer the same scope. Huawei and Samsung do pre-install their own app store on their smartphones, where you can usually find some apps that are not available on Google. The manufacturer's account is required for this, but you can also get along fine without it.
We assume that you already own a smartphone. Hence the question is this: how do I transfer data from one smartphone to another? We have worked through some possible scenarios that has resulted in a comprehensive article:
- How to transfer contacts, SMS, WhatsApp chats, photos, music, and apps from your old smartphone to a new one
- Set a screen lock
- Install Android updates
- Organise your apps
- Personalise your background, ringtone, and more
- Back up your photos
To prevent just about anyone from using your smartphone, do protect it with a PIN, password, or pattern. Most of all current smartphones now come with a fingerprint sensor, making secure unlocking a convenient process. Face unlocking has also become another common option. This is important to know: If you opt for the so-called biometric unlock process, you must also set a PIN, password, or an unlock pattern as a backup solution. This way, you can avoid not being able to unlock your phone simply because your fingers are wet or the smartphone doesn't recognise your face in the dark.
The screen lock also has other advantages, which we discussed in a separate article. A word of caution: In case you have forgotten your password, you ought to have alternative methods ready. We also explained how to do so separately:
Your smartphone is probably going to be connected to the Internet constantly. Theoretically, this means it is always vulnerable to external attacks. You can do your bit to protect yourself by regularly checking for and installing operating system updates. Many manufacturers provide these updates on a monthly basis. Hence, you will probably be asked as to whether you would want to download these updates shortly after setting up your new smartphone. Installing them all the way until the more recent one is highly recommended to minimise all the possible security loopholes. This is especially for smartphones that have been on the market for a while, and while this can be a rather long process, it is well worth your time and effort.
Begin by installing the apps that are important to you. We've compiled a selection of good Play Store apps for you over the years. You can also choose from a wide range of games on the Play Store to keep yourself entertained. Numerous apps would have been pre-installed on your new smartphone. On the one hand, there are various apps from the manufacturer that oftentimes cannot be uninstalled, and they do consume system resources and are rarely optimal app solutions. You can deactivate them and thus free up a bit more space and enjoy a smoother user experience.
- How to uninstall bloatware and pre-installed apps
- Top 5 performance-killing apps that you delete now
Give your phone a personal touch. A new wallpaper, a different ringtone, or even a different launcher will give your smartphone a completely new look. In a separate article, we will guide you one where to find wallpapers, ringtones, and launchers, and which are the ones that we recommend:
One of Google's much-loved pre-installed apps and services would be Google Photos. This app allows you to store your photos on Google. Doing so has two advantages: First, you can no longer lose your precious photos on the smartphone. Secondly, you can delete the pictures after uploading them from your smartphone and free up additional storage space on your device for new photos. For a long time now, Google Photos offered unlimited storage space - but now Google counts the number of uploaded pictures against your storage quota. Despite this development, Google Photos is still a good way to manage photos on your smartphone though. Because even without a backup, the main drawing point is this: photos are automatically tagged and can be easily searched.
Smartphones are personal companions and are what you make of them. With the right apps, you can leverage the use of your smartphone well by having it deliver a slew of practical functions. You can produce music on your phone, edit videos, or even learn new languages. Here we would like to direct you to our Best App Lists, where you can find selected applications according to specific topics or application areas.
Apart from that, you should take care of your smartphone and clean it regularly so that it doesn't slow down over time due to a full memory or having too many apps running in the background. In order to learn how to clear your smartphone of bloatware and junk data, check out the linked article.
Now that you've picked up a new smartphone, you should be able to take full advantage of all its new features. At the same time, we have tried to think about how you would use this smartphone down the road in this article. After all, once you have set it up, maintaining the operating system and the expanding its range of functions is far from over.
If you are disappointed and realise that you do not like the smartphone, then it does not matter much. This is because you can follow the same setup steps by porting over your existing apps and data to a new phone, as long as you can keep the old phone for a few more days until the new one arrives. Of course, we are supportive of your choice to search for a new smartphone and would love to share with you what we think are the best phones in various categories.
Simply head on over to our overview of best lists to know more
This article was revised and updated in January 2020. Older comments were not deleted and may therefore appear to be out of context.