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9 Things to Do When You First Get an iPhone

You just got an iPhone, now what?  The amount of things to setup can be overwhelming for first-time users, but How-to Geek is here to guide you through the essential steps required to get your iPhone up and running.

Photo by Paulo Ordoveza.

1. Create an Apple Account

You’ll have to create an Apple account to use many of the features on your phone (iTunes, App Store, etc).  You can do so here, or just create one when prompted when you first turn on your iPhone.  You’ll need an email address in order to create your Apple ID, so have one in mind when you first power on your phone.  If you already have an iOS device and Apple ID, you may want to start syncing it with iCloud, so a lot of the data on your old device can be automatically downloaded on to your new one.

When signing in with your Apple ID on your iPhone for the first time, it’s also a good time to supply your credit card information for future app and music purchases.  If you don’t want to be troubled with it right then, you can always enter it later in Settings > iTunes & App Store > Apple ID > View Apple ID > Payment Information.

2. Learn Some Quick Usage Tips

This isn’t a comprehensive list of every touch gesture you can do, but it should be enough to get you around your phone so you can easily follow the rest of this guide.

Opening Apps

Ok, this one’s easy… to open an app, just click on the icon once.  If you need to get to another page to see your other apps, just swipe your finger in the opposite direction (if you need to move right, swipe your finger left).

Moving and Deleting Apps

If you hold down the icon of an App for a few seconds, all of your Apps will start to shake and can be moved by dragging them across your screen.  If you need to delete one, just click on the X in the upper left part of the icon.  Icons that don’t show an X are on the phone by default and can’t be removed.

Search for stuff

Swiping downwards on the home screen will bring up the spotlight search, which you can use to quickly find a needed app, contact, note, search the web, or other things.

Opening Control Center

Swiping up from the very bottom part of your screen will bring up the control center.  You can be on the lock screen or the home screen, and it’s even accessible in most apps (this is configured in Settings > Control Center).

Airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, do not disturb, portrait orientation, brightness, music, AirDrop, flashlight, timer, calculator, and your camera can all be easily accessed from this menu.

Notification Center

Swipe down from the very top of your screen to access the notification center, which will show the last few missed phone calls, texts, emails, etc.  Reminders, calendar events, and messages from apps will also show here.  So if you miss something, you can come here to see your past alerts.  You can further configure this menu in Settings > Notification Center.

3. Setup an Email Account

Click the Mail app to start setting up an email account on your new phone.  Simply select your email provider and enter your address and password.

If you have another account not associated with any of these email services, just click Other at the bottom and manually enter the server information. Your email provider’s help section should have instructions for manually entering this information.

4. Add Your Info

Another thing you’ll want to do is tell your phone who you are.  Open the contacts on your iPhone and click the plus sign in the upper right corner to create a new contact.  Adding basic information like your name is only helpful in that Siri knows how to address you.

If you’d like the ability to simply type “Home” into your Maps app, or tell Siri “Take me home,” and get the directions you need, this is the place to specify that information so your phone can reference it later.  If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see a spot to add addresses – fill in your home, work, or other address so your conversations with Siri can be more casual as you ask for directions.

It also comes in handy to specify the names of your relatives, so you can have Siri pull them up for you with phrases such as “Text my Mom” and “Where is my wife?”

After you setup your own contact record, you need to go to Settings > General > Siri > My Info and assign the contact to yourself.  If you need to continue adding relatives after this, you can have Siri do the work for you – “My wife’s name is Jacqueline.”

With your information setup, Siri will recognize phrases like “Remind me to take out the trash when I get home.”

5. Customize Your Contacts

While we’re on the subject of creating contacts, there are a few nifty things you can do to customize your contacts that you should know about.  Instead of just adding a first name, last name, and phone number, take some extra time to add an address and birthday.  The person’s birthday (or anniversary, or whatever else you decide to put) will appear on your Calendars app, and with their address stored in the contact info, you can simply type their name into Maps or ask Siri for directions to their house.

You can also set a custom ringtone for your contacts, so you’ll know who’s calling without needing to look at your phone.  You can even change the way your phone vibrates when they call, as well as change the sound it plays and the way it vibrates when you receive a text message from them.

6. Use iCloud

There are two main reasons you should care about Apple’s iCloud: It backs up the important content on your phone, and it allows you to seamlessly share that content across your other iOS devices.

Synchronizing iOS devices with iCloud

You can access your iCloud settings in Settings > iCloud.  In this menu, you’ll see a list of everything that you can synchronize to your other iOS devices.  Just click the button to the right of each option for the stuff you want to share (green indicates that it’s being shared).

With the settings shown above, contacts and photos are automatically synchronized with other iOS devices that are using the same iCloud account, while the other settings are turned off.

Backing up content with iCloud

iCloud shouldn’t be used as your only backup solution, particularly for photos, but you can use it to save some important information and act as a temporary backup for your photos until you’re able to properly back them up another way (on to an external hard drive, Dropbox, etc).

Navigate to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.  At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see an option to enable iCloud Backup, which will “Automatically back up your camera roll, accounts, documents, and settings when this iPhone is plugged in, locked, and connected to Wi-Fi.”

As we mentioned in the previously linked article, iCloud has quite a few limitations, so don’t rely on it to be anything more than a feature that provides a half-baked backup of some of your phone’s content.  However, its ability to synchronize your contacts, calendar events, reminders, and some other things to all of your Apple devices can prove incredibly convenient.

7. Use Find My iPhone

While still in the iCloud settings menu, you’ll want to make sure that you have Find My iPhone turned on.  In the event that you lose your iPhone, you can locate it on a map, make it play a sound (even if it’s on silent), send a message to someone who may have picked up your phone, lock it, erase it, and prevent another person from activating it.

Beyond simply turning the feature on, there’s not any configuration that you need to do.  Log into iCloud or pull up the Find My iPhone app on another iOS device and you can locate your iPhone and test out some of the features, if you’d like.

You can even see how much battery life your phone has, and whether or not it’s currently being charged.

8. Use Find My Friends

You can use the Find My Friends app to locate your friends and family, as long as they have an iPhone.

When you first get your phone, you’ll have to add the contacts that you’d like to follow the location of.  Open the app, click Add in the upper right corner, and – this is the annoying part – type their email address that they use with their iPhone/iTunes.  Unless you know that information off-hand, you’ll have to ask them what email they use, which would also probably be a good time to ask them if they mind that you retain the ability to track their every movement from that moment on.

They will receive a request to allow you to see their location, and upon accepting it, probably send a counter-request for your location information as well.  If at any time you don’t want your friends to know your location, you can tap “Me” in the app and choose to hide your location.

9. Configure Your Social Networking Settings

In order to setup sharing features and turn on/off notifications for your Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking accounts, open up Settings and you’ll see the options when you scroll down a bit.  Setup is self-explanatory, just click on each one and login with your username and password.  After that, you can configure the related settings in the same menu.

For more information on what you can do with your new iPhone, search around our site for some other great guides.

Korbin Brown is an IT enthusiast with a passion for writing. He enjoys troubleshooting complex Windows, Linux, and networking issues and sharing his experiences with fellow geeks.

  • Published 01/28/14

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