Welcome to our annual smartphone setup 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 computer 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.
Regardless of the specific smartphone you received for the holidays, the weakest link is likely its battery. Treating your lithium-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 Palm, Apple and BlackBerry. What they won't tell you, however, is that you must resist the urge to immediately charge your smartphone. Yup, let that 30-60 per cent charge go down to zero before plugging in. Juicing up your smartphone in its half-charged state will make the battery components settle faster. That, in turn, will mean it won't be able to recharge as efficiently in the future. Ideally, you should always wait for the battery to drain before recharging to maintain good health, but the occasional slip won't matter much. If you really want to understand these fickle little bricks, check out our Giz explains feature on why batteries die.
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. 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.
- 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.
- You can also use Google Sync and a protocol called SyncML to make the transfer. Google Sync supports quite a few smartphones, including the iPhone, as well as ones from Nokia, Windows and BlackBerry. Once it pulls all your old contacts into your Google account, you can go back to the cloud and make it rain contacts.
- 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. The same goes for the iPhone. If you haven't already signed up for a free iCloud account, you might as well do it now. You can use it to sync your contacts from your old iPhone to your new iPhone.
- Windows Phone has such deep Facebook integration that you can populate numbers and email addresses from among your friends. You can also import your Gmail contacts to Windows Live for easy syncing.
Email: Email is probably the most important data you'll need one your new phone. Well that and pictures of you in Bali. Getting your email on your new smartphone could be super easy, or make you want to pull your hair out. If you're not transferring a Google or iCloud account from your former phone, here are the set up guides from the manufactures to get email on your new smartphone: Apple, Google and Microsoft. Keep in mind that you should use IMAP (not POP) when setting up your email account(s). This will keep the unread/read status of your messages synced with your desktop.
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
Google and Apple want you to know that their devices don't need computers. They use the cloud! Yeah, that's great. You still need to get your songs and photos on your device. 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 and 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. You're aiming for converting those files to 320x240 H.264 here. Most new smartphones will be able to play that back without a hitch.
Apps? Apps. Apps!
It's all about the apps. Why even buy a smartphone if you can't add apps to it? But which apps should you get? So glad you asked! 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: Setting text tones, dealing with Siri, changing your wallpaper; the good people over at Lifehacker cover them all.
Android: Ice Cream Sandwich is coming. But your new phone is probable running Gingerbread. that's fine because Google's senior VP of product management, Jonathan Rosenberg' has a list of tips to get you started. If you are lucky enough to get an Android phone with 4.0 here are the awesome features you should be taking advantage of.
Windows Phone 7: Got Mango? Here are 20 essential tips and tricks to get you started.
The Accessories 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. For other smartphones, it's a bit tougher. There are so many different shapes and sizes of the other smartphones on the market. I recommend finding a case you like in our iPhone coverage and checking with the vendor to see if that have a case for your smartphone. 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 $9.
Cables: Picking up a spare charging cable for your phone is never a bad idea. For most smartphones this is a simple mini/micro USB cable. For iPhones, it's an iPod dock connector. Trust us, you will lose them, and having a backup can be a life saving on road trips and in the office.