Welcome to our annual New Smartphone Set Up Guide. Someone thought enough of you to help replace that dumb ol' brick you've been lugging around these past few years. Now what?
Out of the box, most smartphones aren't all that smart. In fact, many can be downright idiotic. Prepping your new pocket ‘puter means some hand-holding, which also means slogging through a checklist of occasionally tedious (but necessary) steps. Don't worry, we're here to help. Remember, this device will be your constant companion for the next year or two. So you'll want to start the relationship off right.
Keep the Battery on Its Toes
Regardless of the specific smartphone you received for the holidays, the weakest link is likely its battery. Treating your Li-ion with respect will not only extend the life and usefulness of your new phone, but also boost its resale value—just in case you decide to dump to back on the market prematurely. Lucky for you, almost all the major manufacturers offer guidance here, including Apple, and BlackBerry. The bottom line: run your battery all the way down before charging it all the way back up to maximize its life. Do this once a month and you'll be fine.
Moving Your Data
Contacts: If you're moving from one iOS device to another (ditto Android to Android), one good sync should be all it takes to migrate your contacts—don't forget to plug your phone into iTunes if that's the way you backup. But if you're moving from dumbphone to smart—or hopping between ecosystems—here are a few options for shuffling all your contacts to your new handset:
- The easiest way is to simply have your carrier to do it. This option is particularly useful if you're upgrading on the same carrier. Stop by your local retail store and a service rep should be able to transfer them in a minute or two. Beware: If you're switching carriers, there may be a small fee associated with the contacts relocation. Be sure to ask.
- If you have a GSM phone, you can also use its SIM card to make the transfer. These days almost every phone (smart or dumb) will have an option to ‘write all contacts' to a SIM card. After you've done this, simply remove your old card and slide it into your new phone. Be sure to transfer all your contacts from the old SIM onto your new phone's memory, as you'll be taking the old SIM out again. This, of course, won't work for CDMA (SIM-less) carriers. Sorry, Verizon and Sprint customers.
- Again, if you're updating an Android phone and you have a Google account, all you need to do is sign into your account on your new phone and sync all your contacts. Total cinch. The same goes for the iPhone. If you haven't already signed up for a free iCloud account, do it before you switch—it's the easiest way to move your people from Apple to Apple.
- On Windows Phone, use social networks to flood your handset with friends. Connect to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts, and everything will sync automatically.
Email: Email is probably the most important data you'll need one your new phone, and luckily, it's one of the easiest steps. If you're using an existing Google or iCloud account, all you have to do is log in, and your inboxes will magically appear. here are the set up guides from the manufactures to get email on your new smartphone: iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
Calendars: Google Calendar and iCloud users again have it the easiest. If you're using a new Android phone, your calendars will sync automatically. Likewise, the iPhone will pull any calendars you have synced with iCloud. Just be sure you allow calendars syncing.
Media and Syncing:
Even with all of the cloud syncing flying around the stratosphere, you might still need to get your songs and photos on your device the old fashioned way. For the iPhone you'll need to download iTunes if you haven't already. It's your one-stop spot for syncing songs, videos, books, photos, apps, and if you're not a fan of iCloud, you can sync your email, calendar, contacts there. Windows Phone users should use Zune software. For BlackBerry users, you can download the BlackBerry Desktop Manager. Finally, if you got an Android, BackBerry, you can forego the "recommended" apps and go with doubleTwist, a handy cross-platform media player and syncing app.
Converting Video: Your 32GBs are crying for content. But you can't just copy all those torrented videos over to your smartphone. First you'll need to encode them with something like Handbrake. Check your new phone's screen resolution, and then convert your movies to a h.264 file at that resolution. Most new smartphones will be able to play that back without a hitch.
Apps? Apps. Apps!
Of course. Here are our specially curated, constantly updated lists of the essential apps for your smartphone of choice:
OS Tricks and Tips
Whether you're coming to your smartphone's operating system fresh or are a seasoned veteran, here are a few tips for getting the most out of your new device.
iOS: We've got all the best new features of iOS 6 riii-iiight here.
Android: Android absolutely loves to be tweaked. Lucky for you, we've got a giant list of ways to squeeze juice out of Android. Tweak away.
Windows Phone 8: Scroll down to the Test Notes in our big ol' WP8 review for some neat niches to check out.
Blackberry: You can either head over the BlackBerry's official tips and tricks site, or read through TechRadar's comprehensive list.
No smartphone is perfect. And frankly, it's easy to go overboard on accessories that make up for those inevitable faults. Resist that urge. Remember, you'll only be dumping more money into a device that you're ditching in two years (maybe less). That said, there are definitely some worthwhile investments you can make. Here's our list:
A Case: All the Gorilla Glass in the world won't save your smartphone from a direct hit to the concrete. You're probably going to want a case. For the iPhone you can peep our coverage of iPhone cases and decide which works best for your lifestyle (although we still love the thrill of going naked). For other smartphones, it's a bit tougher—but OtterBox makes damn rugged cases for non-Apple handsets.. Remember, you're walking around with a tiny expensive computer. Unless you're super careful, find case with a slight edge to protect the class and protection for your new smartphone's corners.
Headphones: Your new phone is your primary music player now. You might as well put that iPod in storage. First thing you should do is throw the headphones that came your phone in the trash. If you're on a budget, the Sennheiser HD280 headphones are a great way to groove without emptying your wallet.
Storage: Unless you're rolling with the iPhone, most smartphones come with an expandable storage slot for a microSD card. If your handset comes with less than 2GB of internal storage, you need to pick up some additional storage. You can find 8GB microSD cards online for as little as $3 Or just sign up for Spotify, and never worry about music storage again.
Cables: Picking up a spare charging cable for your phone is never a bad idea. For pretty much every phone other than the iPhone, this means MicroUSB. Buy the cheapest one you can—they're all the exact same.
Wreath photo: photastic/Shutterstock