The first things you should do with your new Android phone

We're here to help you get started off right and have a great experience with minimal hassle.

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Derek Walter

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There’s a special type of geekish delight that comes with a new Android phone. While it may sound trite, your options for phones are truly better than ever thanks to a new phone from Google and solid updates to other models.

It’s also less hassle than ever to switch from the iPhone or an older Android phone. Yet we still have some insider tips to pass along, as you can’t have enough knowledge when it comes to setting up the optimal smartphone experience.

Switch smarter

The shining example here is the Pixel, which comes with a Quick Switch Adapter to help you move everything over. It does an admirable job no matter which platform you’re currently on. I recommend using it if you want to keep your text messages and automatically download your existing apps.

pixel switch Google

Google’s Pixel has a smooth switching system.

I’ve tried several backup systems, and none of them has performed as well as what Google built here.

If your phone is made by another manufacturer, there’s likely to be some additional services or cloud solutions offered as part of your setup. Samsung offers its own cloud and data transfer tools, and there’s always the useless Verizon Cloud. Don’t get sucked into these, as Google’s integration is the way to go.

If you start fresh, make sure you sign in with a Google account (or create a new one if you’re starting really fresh) because you’ll need this and a credit card for Play Store purchases. As part of startup you should also activate fingerprint sign-on (if your phone has one) or at the very least a PIN. Your phone has an incredible amount of personal data that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands.

Speaking of fingerprints, if you have a Pixel go to Settings > Moves and check out what you can do. 


Several “moves” will speed up certain tasks on your phone.

You have the ability to swipe on your sensor for notifications as well as other hardware tricks like double-pressing the power button to launch the camera. These tools are essential and are among the first things you’ll want to get to know.

Get your Google On

This is Android, and you’ll want to take advantage of all that built-in Google integration. The first stop here is to make sure that Google is listening to you.

Open the Google app, then go to Settings, then Voice. Then choose OK Google detection so you can say, “OK Google” to perform a voice inquiry. If you have a Pixel, there’s an extra treat waiting for you with the Google Assistant. That’s because Google’s artificial intelligence powers are ready to answer numerous natural language questions and control smart home products.

google assistant

The Google Assistant is a powerful tool to use throughout your day.

If you have another phone, you can still get some of the Assistant’s smarts inside of the Allo messaging app. However, the real power won’t be realized until it becomes widely available on other phones outside of the Pixel.

Also, you’ll want to explore the service formerly known as Google Now on Tap. When you hold the home button, Google will scan what is showing on our phone's display and offer you contextual searches. It’s slowly improved over time to where it's a pretty handy aide. I use it primarily when I’m reading an article and would like to know more about the topic (example below) or want to quickly get a read on a restaurant or another venue a friend is talking about in a text message.

now on tap

Google’s screen context search shows you related information about what you’re looking at.

Pick the right app

Two of the most important things you do with your smartphone is to use it for photography and communication. So you should select the default apps and set up any cloud backup so you don’t skip a beat when using these tools.

Google’s Messenger app is a great option for basis SMS testing, and it’s likely to be even more important as carriers adopt RCS Messaging

google messenger 2.0 update

Messenger is more consistent and smarter in how it handles group messaging.

When it comes to photo backup, you can’t beat Google Photos. If you have a Pixel you’ll want to be sure to use it since you get free, unlimited backup at full resolution of all pictures you take.

However, there are plenty of other choices. So if you backup your images to Dropbox or prefer something like Textra for SMS, then be sure to download those or fire them up if you did an app transfer. Getting those core apps you use numerous times a day is a critical step.

Put a case on it

Sure, it's appealing to going native with your phone. You get to see and feel it as the design team intended, without the extra bulk. However, most people I encounter who subscribe to this philosophy have one thing in common: a cracked screen.

pixel live case Derek Walter

Google’s Live Case lets you create your own design.

You really ought to put a case on it. We’re here to help with our roundups of the top cases for the Pixel, Galaxy S7, and S7 Edge. It’s a competitive market and there are at least a dozen top companies that make quality cases. But if you want something minimal, there are plenty of options out there. It’s way better than setting yourself up for disaster.

Updates galore

The final thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the world of Android updates (which we cover every week!), particularly if you’ve switched over from iPhone. If you have a Pixel or perhaps a gently-used Nexus device, you’re in the best possible situation since updates will come directly from Google. And once you unwrap your phone, you’ll have an update waiting thanks to development work that’s gone on since the hardware went on sale.

With Nougat, there’s even less you have to do. The updates will download and install in the background. Once you do the restart, you’re all up to date. It greatly speeds up the process compared to the old system. 

For third-party phones, it’s a bit more complicated. Updates usually take longer as the carrier must approve them. Now that Google has muscled its way into the phone business, it may push others to step up their game.

The final piece of advice: explore! Throw down some widgets, try a custom launcher, or if you have a compatible phone think about exploring the world of Daydream VR. Android and Google’s assorted services are never dull, as there’s often some new feature or service coming in an attempt to delight you.

Google has done an admirable job at keeping the core flexibility of Android intact while also polishing some of the rough edges to make Android a more fluid experience. It’s a great time to be aboard, so it’s time to stop here and let you get to work.

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