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How to set up a new Android phone: Do these five things first

Today, I set up yet another Android phone for testing. I've set up over two dozen this year. Here are the five things I do every time.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Woman texting on Android.
Uwe Krejci/Getty Images

I'm setting up yet another Android smartphone for testing. Two, actually. One is the amazing Ulefone Power Armor 18T, which comes complete with a built-in Flir thermal camera, and the other is… well, I can't talk about the other one just yet.

As the year draws to a close, I've set up well over two dozen Android smartphones this year alone.

That's a lot of smartphones.

Also: The 6 best Android smartphones

But in handling that many smartphones, I've learned a few things about how to set up an Android smartphone most efficiently and in a way that's going to give you the fewest headaches down the line (headaches that I've endured through not following my own tips).

So if you picked up a new smartphone in the Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, here are some tips I suggest you follow to make the switch to your new handset as smooth as possible.

Hand holding Ulefone Power Armor 18T Android smartphone

It took me about 10 minutes from getting the Ulefone Power Armor 18T Android smartphone out of the box to setting it up.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

1. Use a good security password

Or better still, a passcode. The biggest threat to your data comes from the people around you who can get physical access to your device.

Passcodes and patterns are easy to spot and remember. A passcode consisting of two words with spurious capitalization and a few numbers and symbols is not easy for a third-party to pick up.

Also: Don't use these passwords

2. Decide if you're recovering from backup or not

If you are moving from one Android smartphone to another, you'll likely have a backup stored on the Google servers.

One of the first things that you need to decide on is whether you're going to set up the new handset as a copy of the old one or as a fresh device.

If you're going to use a backup, the sooner you do that, the fresher the backup will be. If you delay this, your backup -- and all that data you have, like photos and documents and such -- start to get old.

3. Using a fingerprint reader? Do these things

I like fingerprint readers on Android smartphones, but when you're setting up this feature, you get the option to enroll more than one finger.

Do it.


Well, I'm not suggesting that you might lose a finger or something (it's possible, but quite rare these days), but even a small cut or band-aid can leave you having to type in your passcode. I tend to enroll four fingers (two on each hand -- which fingers depends on the smartphone, where the fingerprint reader is, and how big the handset is) to give me the best unlocking flexibility.

Additionally, I tend to enroll the main finger that I use to unlock my phone twice. I find that this makes the reader more reliable and less likely to be thrown off by small scars or some dirt.

Doing all of this takes a few minutes, but it will save you a fair bit of frustration down the line.

4. Install your password manager

The first app you should install should be your password manager.

Install it and log in because you're going to be needing those passwords a lot as your set up your new smartphone.

Also: The 6 best password managers

While you're at it, add the passcode for your new smartphone into your password manager, just in case you forget it.

5. Make sure everything works

There's nothing worse than switching to a new smartphone only to find out that something doesn't work right.

Here are a few of the ways I've seen new smartphones not work properly:

  • Doesn't charge or doesn't hold charge and bad battery
  • Display or touchscreen doesn't work properly
  • Speaker doesn't work
  • Random crashes
  • Smartphone dies after a few days of use

Don't get rid of your existing smartphone immediately. 

Power the old smartphone down and put it in a drawer for a few days -- just in case. Once you're convinced that your new handset is a good one and not going to let you down prematurely, you can wipe the old one for resale or to pass on to a friend or family member.

Also: How to factory reset your phone

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