Everything You Need to Master Your New Smartphone

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?

Getting Started
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. Once you know what you're doing, it's easy. In short: you want to keep that battery cool and avoid going from 100 to 0 on a regular basis. That does a lot on its own, and if you really want to be careful, there's more you can do too.

Moving Your Data

Everything You Need to Master Your New Smartphone

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:


  • If you have a GSM phone, you can 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. Finally, if you got an Android you can forego the "recommended" apps and go with doubleTwist, a handy cross-platform media player and syncing app. Alternatively you can give Google Music a try, throw up to 20,000 of your favorite tunes into your own personal cloud, and never think about syncing again.

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.

The Accessories

Everything You Need to Master Your New Smartphone

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 Apple and 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: It's rarer and rarer that your (Android) phone has a microSD expansion slot, but if it does, you're in luck! 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. You can't go wrong with Monoprice; it offers a combination of quality and affordability across a wide range of cables and gear that's unprecedented.

Wreath photo: photastic/Shutterstock