Android is the most popular operating system for smartphones worldwide, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. So, if you buy a new phone, statistically speaking, it’s likely to be an Android model. And, in general, that’s a good thing: Android is one of the most versatile and intuitive mobile OS options on the market.
At the same time, Android’s open-ended nature means that setting up your phone isn’t always the foolproof affair it can be with the iPhone. In the time between taking your Android phone out of the box and making your first phone call, you’ll have to make a series of decisions: which Wi-Fi network to use, how to safeguard your phone, whether to import your old phone’s settings and so forth.
The setup process on Android is pretty straightforward, but if you’re wondering how to narrow down the options at your disposal, follow our step-by-step guide. And remember: You can always reset and try again.
Before you begin
Bear in mind that every Android phone is slightly different from all the others, and manufacturers often add their own steps to the setup. For simplicity’s sake, the steps listed here cover stock Android (which is what you’ll get with a Google Pixel 2), with a few added sections on Samsung-specific steps for Galaxy smartphones. Don’t be alarmed if your screens look a little different from those shown here; just follow the prompts, and your phone will walk you through the rest.When setting up your phone, you’ll sometimes see screens that ask you to agree to Terms and Conditions, or you can simply click Next to advance. If you see one of these screens, just follow the instructions and click through it; there’s no real decision-making required on your part.
If possible, you should keep your old phone around until you’re done with the setup. This way, you can automatically transfer all of your accounts and apps. Whatever you do, make sure you take your SIM card out of your old phone if you plan to keep the same wireless carrier and phone number.
1. Insert your SIM card.
Whether you’re starting over with a new phone number or transferring over your old one, you’ll have to insert a SIM card into the phone. (If you’re buying a brand-new phone directly from a wireless carrier, the device may come with a SIM preinstalled; in this case, ask a store representative whether it’s easier to use the old or new card.) Consult your new phone’s instruction manual to find out how to pop out the SIM slot, then insert your card in the correct configuration. But don’t worry; if it’s not in the proper position, you’ll know right away, as it will fall out.
2. Connect to a Wi-Fi network.
This step isn’t strictly necessary, but considering that getting the phone up and running will take at least a few hundred megabytes of information, you’re better off not wasting your precious mobile data. Use a Wi-Fi connection instead. Choose your network, input your password — you know the drill.
3. Import your backup data — or don’t.
There’s something to be said for getting a fresh start with your new phone, but there’s no denying that it’s a lot easier to start life with your accounts already set up, your text messages recorded and your photos in place. I feel that it’s a lot cleaner and simpler to start from scratch, in which case you should select “Set up as new.” But if you prefer to transfer data, you have some options.
Select a backup: The Pixel 2 lets you transfer data via a specialized cable; everyone else will have to transfer data wirelessly. Some phones let you transfer data from an Android phone only; others also offer options for cloud backups and transfers from iPhones. Whichever option you choose, select the appropriate prompt and follow the on-screen instructions.
The most common scenario is transferring data wirelessly from another Android phone. This process involves using the Google app on your old phone to parse a “Set up my device” command. (You can say this to your phone or type it in; the app will know where to go from there.) Although the process may sound complicated, all you really need to do is follow prompts on two screens to match codes and shapes. If your new phone doesn’t detect your old one at first, simply try it again; it may take a few attempts.
4. Sign in to your Google account.
If you loaded a backup into your new phone, the device will already have your Google account information. However, you’ll still have to enter your password. Otherwise, enter your Gmail address first. Remember: If you use two-factor authentication, you’ll still have to confirm your login on your old device. If you’ve already ditched your previous phone, request a backup code via text — assuming you kept your old SIM card, of course. (If both options fail, you can verify your identity in other ways on Google’s 2FA site, but some of the options get pretty involved.)
5. Set up security options.
Like many other aspects of setup, the way you protect your phone will vary considerably depending on what kind of handset you have. The Pixel wants you to use a fingerprint scanner; the Galaxy S9recommends facial-recognition technology. You can go with the default choice or set up a more traditional option, like a PIN or password. Whatever you do, I recommend that you set up some kind of security measure. You can always program your phone to bypass these protocols on trusted networks, but if your phone falls into the wrong hands, a simple screen swipe is not going to stop anyone from mining your data.
6. Activate additional services.
At this point, your phone will probably ask whether you want to set up the voice-activated Google Assistant. You do not have to do this now (or ever), but it takes only a few seconds, so you might as well. Depending on your handset model, you may also be able to choose some initial apps to install, or your preferences for notifications. Don’t sweat this step too much, because you can always go back and do it later.
7. (Optional) Go through your manufacturer’s setup process.
If you have a stock Android phone (or a phone that emulates stock Android), your setup process ends here. But if you have a phone from Samsung, Motorola, HTC or another manufacturer that likes to put its own spin on the OS, you’ll probably have a few more steps.
For example, on Samsung phones, you have to set up a Samsung account, which will allow you to customize your battery options, create secure folders, alter font size, get weather forecasts and more. Motorola phones will walk you through setting up gesture controls.
There’s no one-size-fits-all directive to give here, save to fill out whatever information your phone requests and tweak the options until you find a solution that works for you. And that’s the beauty of Android, after all: You can customize the OS any way you see fit.