Congratulations! You’ve got yourself a shiny new smartphone, you’ve worked your way through the initial setup and login process, and you’re ready to start using it in earnest. Before you start Snapchatting and WhatsApping though, check out some of the default settings Android and iOS apply for you—because they might not be exactly what you want.
1) Put up some security
Whatever kind of lock screen protection your phone offers—Face ID, fingerprint scanning, and so on—make sure it’s correctly set up and working before you leave the house. It’s an essential barrier between anyone who might pick up your phone and all of your social media, banking, and email accounts.
Don’t worry if you’re using a phone that doesn’t have any kind of fancy lock screen mechanism, because a traditional PIN code is just as secure as anything else. On Android, head to Security & location then Screen lock from Settings; on iOS, you need to open Settings then tap Touch ID & Passcode or Face ID & Passcode.
2) Lock your phone down
Speaking of security—which we were, just then—it’s a good idea to dial down the screen timeout time so that your phone gets locked as soon as it detects that you’re not doing anything with it (if you’re watching a movie or other video, this setting gets disabled, so your viewing isn’t interrupted).
On Android, choose Display, then Advanced, then Sleep in Settings to set the delay. On iOS, it’s under Display & Brightness and Auto-Lock in Settings. While you’re in those menus, you might want to also lower the screen brightness from the default, as your battery levels will thank you.
3) Decide what you’re doing with your photos
All too often we wait until we’ve got six months of pictures before getting a proper backup system organized for our precious images; a much better idea is to get this sorted, paid storage and all, before doing any snapping.
Thankfully, the integrated options in both Android and iOS are now much easier to understand and operate than they used to be, but you still need to check they’re working and set up the way you want them.
Google Photos is available for both Android and iOS, and will store an unlimited number of photos and videos if you don’t mind them being resized down to a maximum of 16 megapixels and 1080p respectively. Alternatively, you can store everything full size, and pay for cloud storage ($1.99 a month and up). Pick Google if you don’t want to pay, or you want the service that works best across multiple platforms.
Apple Photos is, as you might have suspected, only available as an integrated part of iOS (and macOS). It does a fantastic job of syncing pictures to the cloud and your other Apple devices, but If you go beyond your 5GB cloud storage limit, you need to at least $0.99 a month. Pick Apple’s service if you want the one that works best with Apple kit, and you’re sure you won’t be tempted to ever move to an Android phone.
4) Change how your phone can track you
You might be perfectly happy having your phone track your movements, so it can recommend new places based on where you’ve already been, or so you can share your location with your friends when you’re all trying to rendezvous in the center of town.
If that’s not really okay with you—or you just want to familiarize yourself with your phone’s privacy option—head to Security & location then Location in Android Settings or Privacy and Location Services in iOS Settings.
You can switch location tracking off altogether and live with the consequences (like no turn-by-turn directions in the car), or disable the tracking on an app-by-app basis. As you add more apps to your new phone, they’ll have to specifically request permission to use your phone’s location for any purpose.
5) Set up your shortcuts
Both Android (via the Quick Settings pane) and iOS (via the Control Center) give you access to a range of settings shortcuts for easy access. On Android, you swipe down with two fingers from the top; on iOS, you swipe up from the bottom with one finger (or swipe down from the top right corner on an iPhone X).
You can configure both of these panes to get to the shortcuts you want—on Android, you need to open the panel, tap the Edit (pencil) icon, then drag around the shortcuts as needed. On iOS, open up Settings then head to Control Center and pick Customize Controls to make your selection.
6) Make sure you can find (and restore) your phone
In these hyper-connected days in which we live, you don’t want to be without your phone for too long—and if it gets swiped, you want to have a way of wiping it from your laptop. To get this set up, go to Security & location and Find My Device in Android Settings, or tap on your Apple ID name, then your iPhone, then enable Find My iPhone in iOS Settings.
The tools by both Google and Apple work in very similar ways. You can track your device’s location on a map in a web browser (go here for Android and here for iOS), get the phone to ring (in case it’s lost behind the sofa), and lock or wipe it remotely if it’s been stolen or is lost forever.
If you do have to wipe your device, you’re going to want to have a backup available, and again this is something you should take care of as soon as you’ve got your device up and running. In Android Settings, head to System then Backup, and in iOS Settings, tap your Apple ID, then tap your device’s name, then pick your backup option to keep a copy of your data in iTunes or iCloud.
Bonus: Call on your device from anywhere
Your Android or iOS phone is going to come with a digital assistant app built in, but it won’t necessarily be configured to answer your every call when you first start using it. If you want to be able to shout “hey Siri” or “OK Google” even when your phone is locked, you need to make sure this is enabled in the settings.
On phones powered by Google’s OS, you actually need to open up the Google app, then tap the Menu button (three horizontal lines), then pick Voice and ‘OK Google’ detection (if the option doesn’t appear, it’s not available on your phone). On iPhones, open Settings, tap Siri & Search, and toggle the Listen for “Hey Siri” switch to On.