Congratulations if you just got a new smartphone or tablet. You’re probably thrilled about your new device, but after the thrill wears off just a bit, you may be wondering how to get started using it. Everyone may be telling you how easy your device is to use, but you still need to know where to begin.
Take a few minutes to set up your device now and learn about it so you can start using it/playing with it quickly.
If your device didn’t come charged, plug it into an outlet until it’s fully charged. If your device arrived partially charged, you can go ahead and set it up and take care of charging it later.
If you got an Android device, your first step is to set up a Google account if you don’t already have one. You can set up your Google account from your device or your computer.
Log into your Google account from your Android device on the first screen. Logging into your Google account gives you access to Google Play, where you can get apps, books, videos, music and other content for your device. (Note that Google Play was called the Android Market until earlier this year.) Your Google account will also work on other Google services such as Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, Google +, etc.
For step-by-step instructions on setting up your Android device, check out This Is What You Should Do After Taking Your Android Phone Out Of The Box For The First Time. Android comes in many different versions, called by dessert names such as Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean or versions 2.X, 4.x, etc. The instructions given in the linked article will apply to your phone or tablet no matter what version you have, though your screen might look slightly different from the images in the article.
You can get Android apps from the Amazon Appstore as well as from Google Play.
If you have never had an Apple ID, now is the time to set one up. You can do that from your device or from your computer at the Apple website.
Apple gives you two choices to set up your iDevice: you can sync your files to iTunes on your computer or to iCloud. I’m old school on this, I prefer to sync to iTunes on my computer as that helps me manage my many apps better, as well as my music, video and other content.
Your iPhone and iPad will walk you through the steps to set up the device. If you need more information, Apple has guides to help you: Get Started with your iPhone and Get Started with your iPad. iMore, a valuable resource for all things iPhone and iPad, has an extensive guide on setting up your devices that will tell you everything you need to know: How to setup and start using your new iPhone, iPad, or iPad mini.
You will first need to set up a Microsoft account. You can set that up from your computer or from the phone. With this account, you will be able to get an Outlook email account, SkyDrive (a cloud storage service), get apps from the Windows Phone Store, get Xbox games and music, etc.
Microsoft has instructions to set up your new Windows Phone at their Get Started with Windows Phone 8 page.
Know How to Silence Your Device
Learning how to silence your device is essential and should be one of the first things you figure out about your device. Your affection for your device will quickly transform to hatred if it starts making noises at particularly embarrassing or inconvenient times. Check out How to Silence Your Phone for advice on how to make sure your phone doesn’t make noises at inopportune times. Although the article was written for phones, the instructions apply to tablets as well.
Your new device works best with apps. In fact, it’s pretty much a waste of money without apps. It’s not like having a car without gas, but it’s like having a car you can only drive to the end of your driveway and back.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on apps. Many apps are free and the basic apps are generally free as well. The Amazon Appstore has a free app of the day every day. iTunes is now giving away a free app every week and Google Play often has promotions for free apps and apps on sale.
Start with the basic apps. If you visit a site frequently on your computer, see if there is an app available for that site. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other sites have their own free apps. You might find other apps that connect to these sites that you like better, but download the basic ones first to get you started.
If you don’t want to get distracted, avoid putting game apps on your device. But if you want your device to be a handy diversion for yourself or your kids, download some fun game apps. Check out the classics such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Peggle, Plants vs. Zombies, Words with Friends, SongPop and Fruit Ninja.
Download news apps such as Zite, Pulse and Flipboard. Check to see if newspapers and magazines you’re subscribed to have apps so you can read them on the go. Often these apps are free with your paid print subscription and have interactive features that bring a new dimension to your reading. If you want new subscriptions, check out Zinio, a service for digital (and print) subscriptions.
For other content, download Netflix and Kindle apps.
Download Google Maps if you have an iDevice.
Check out my article, My 10 Favorite iPad Apps! for some ideas on apps to get you started if you have an iPad.
Join the Club
No matter which device you got, you’ve just joined a club. You instantly have something in common with others who own the same device. Compare notes, tips and tricks. Get and share advice on favorite apps, settings, etc. People enjoy sharing their favorite apps with others so you’ll never be at a loss for discussion topics when you’re around someone else with the same device.
By joining the club, though, you have also inherited an instant rivalry with those using different devices. After you’re done with smack talk over whose device is better, try to find common ground. Chances are that a favorite app may be available on more than one platform. Learn from each other as best you can.
Take a few minutes to explore the Settings of your device. Don’t worry, you won’t break your device and your settings can be undone. But part of setting up your device is customizing it the way you want to and by digging around in Settings, you may find options you didn’t know existed.
You may want to protect your device by getting a case. Some people like their device to be naked to display its beauty, others like to protect their device or have a case with added functions. Whether you want your case to be fashionable or functional, try to get one that protects both the front and back of your device.
Keeping your device charged may take on a new importance. You may want to get an extra charge cord, if you don’t have one already. The iPhone and iPad lightning connector is new so chances are you don’t have an extra one stashed away somewhere. Android and Windows devices have micro USB connectors which are fairly common. You may have some extra cords around the house already.
Make sure to get a power cord for your car so you can keep your device charged on the go. If you’re away from an electrical outlet all day, consider getting an extra battery (if you have a removable battery) or an external battery pack.
If you’re the clumsy type or just nervous about damaging your device, you may want to consider buying an extended warranty. Carriers offer insurance plans or you can get a warranty from Apple (for iDevices) or from third party companies such as Square Trade. Be sure to research companies before you buy to make sure you have adequate protection for the best price.
Check out these articles for more information:
- Top 5 iPhone 5 Warranty Options Compared
- Top 5 New iPad Warranty and Insurance Options Compared
- Choosing the Best Phone Insurance
In no time at all you will have mastered the basics of your device, but if you need extra help or want to learn more, there are lots of resources available for you to take your knowledge to a higher level. Search Wonder of Tech articles using the search box in the sidebar at the top.
The Missing Manual series of books gives clear explanations and helpful hints about devices. Download the Kindle version of the Missing Manual for your device onto your device and have it handy whenever you need guidance about using it.
Listen to podcasts about your device to discover helpful hints, app advice and breaking news about your device.
You may be able to get hands-on help by taking local classes. Getting Schooled in Tech! tells you about classes available to help you learn everything from the basics to more advanced skills with your devices.
Getting a new device may seem fun, overwhelming, or a bit of both. By taking some time to learn about your device, you can make the most of it, enjoy it and make it useful. Your device may be mostly for entertainment, work, or a combination of both. Whatever you’ll be using it for, you’ll put your device to the best use by learning about it. The next time you meet someone who has the same device, you may be the teacher instead of the student!
Have you gotten a new device lately? Have you been looking for guidance to get started? Do you have any advice for new users of your favorite tech device? Let us know in the Comments section below!
*Lower gadget image by adamr of freedigitalphotos.net