Do These 12 Things First When You Get a New iPhone

When you get a new iPhone—especially if it's your first iPhone—there are literally hundreds (maybe even thousands) of things to learn how to do. But you need to start somewhere, and that somewhere ought to be the basics.

Read on for suggestions and instructions on the first 12 things you should do when you get a new iPhone (and a 13th if the iPhone is for your child, not for you). Though these tips only scratch the surface of what you can do with an iPhone, they'll start you on your path to becoming an iPhone pro.

Create Apple ID

Man holding iPhone
KP Photograph/Shutterstock

If you want to use the iTunes Store or the App Store—and you must, right? Why would you get an iPhone if you didn't want to take advantage of its hundreds of thousands of amazing apps?—you need an Apple ID (aka an iTunes account). This free account not only lets you buy music, movies, apps, and more at iTunes, it's also the account you use for other useful features like iMessage, iCloud, Find My iPhone, FaceTime, and many other awesome technologies on the iPhone. Having an Apple ID isn't technically a requirement, but it's very essential. This is an absolute requirement.

Install iTunes

where to download itunes
The latest iTunes icon. image copyright Apple Inc.

When it comes to the iPhone, iTunes is much more than just the program that stores and plays your music. It's also the tool that lets you add and remove music, video, photos, apps, and more from your iPhone. And it's where a number of settings related to what goes on your iPhone live. Needless to say, it's pretty crucial to using your iPhone.

Macs come with iTunes pre-installed; if you have Windows, you'll need to download it (luckily it's a free download from Apple). Get instructions on downloading and installing iTunes on Windows.

Activate New iPhone

Customer inspects new iPhone
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Needless to say, the first thing you need to do with your new iPhone is to activate it. You can do everything you need right on the iPhone and start using it in just a few minutes. The basic setup process activates the iPhone and lets you choose fundamental settings for using features like FaceTime, Find My iPhone, iMessage, and more. You can change those settings later, if you want, but start here.

Set Up & Sync Your iPhone

Once you've got iTunes and your Apple ID in place, it's time to plug your iPhone into your computer and start loading it with content! Whether that's music from your music library, ebooks, photos, movies, or more, the article linked above can help. It also has tips on how to re-arrange your app icons, create folders, and more.

Once you've synced via USB once, you can change your settings and sync over Wi-Fi from now on. Learn how to do that here.

Configure iCloud

iCloud logo
iCloud logo. image copyright Apple Inc.

Using your iPhone gets much easier when you have iCloud—especially if you've got more than one computer or mobile device that has your music, apps, or other data on it. ICloud collects a lot of features together into a single tool, including the ability to back up your data to Apple's servers and re-install it over the Internet with one click or automatically sync data across devices. ICloud also allows you to redownload anything you've bought at the iTunes Store, so even if you lose or delete them, your purchases are never truly gone. And it's free!

Features of iCloud you should know about include:

Setting up iCloud is part of the standard iPhone set-up process, so you shouldn't need to do this separately

Set Up Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone app

This is crucial. Find My iPhone is a feature of iCloud that lets you use the iPhone's built-in GPS to pinpoint its location on a map. You're going to be glad you have this if your iPhone ever goes lost or gets stolen. In that case, you'll be able to locate it down to the part of the street it's on, which can be important information to give to the police if you're trying to recover a stolen phone. But in order to use Find My iPhone when your phone goes missing, you first have to set it up. Do that now and you won't be sorry later.

It's worth knowing, though, that setting up Find My iPhone isn't the same thing as having the Find My iPhone app. You don't necessarily need the app.

Setting up Find My iPhone is now part of the standard iPhone set-up process, so you shouldn't need to do this separately

Set Up Touch ID, the iPhone Fingerprint Scanner

set up Touch ID
image copyright Apple Inc.

Another very important step if you want to keep your iPhone secure. Touch ID is the fingerprint scanner built into the Home button on the iPhone 5S, 6 series, and 6S series (it also makes an appearance on some iPads). While Touch ID was originally only used for unlocking the phone, and making iTunes or App Store purchases, in iOS 8 any app can use it. That means that any app that uses a password or needs to keep data secure can start using it. Not only that, but it's also an important security feature for Apple Pay, Apple's wireless payments system. Touch ID is simple to set up and easy to use—and makes your phone more secure—so you should use it. 

Setting up Touch ID is now part of the standard iPhone set-up process, so you shouldn't need to do this separately

Set Up Apple Pay

Apple Pay
image copyright Apple Inc.

If you've got an iPhone 6 series or higher, you need to check out Apple Pay. Apple's wireless payment system is super easy to use, gets you through check-out lines faster, and is much more secure than using your normal credit or debit card (Apple Pay never shares your actual card number with merchants, so there's nothing to steal). Not every bank offers it yet, and not every merchant accepts it, but if you can, set it up and give it a shot. Once you've seen how useful it is, you'll look for reasons to use it all the time.

Setting up Apple Pay is now part of the standard iPhone set-up process, so you shouldn't need to do this separately

Set Up Medical ID

Medical ID on iPhone 6

With the addition of the Health app in iOS 8, iPhones and other iOS devices are starting to take important roles in our health. One of the easiest, and potentially most helpful, ways you can take advantage of this is by setting up a Medical ID. This tool lets you add information that you'd want first responders to have in case of a medical emergency. This could include medications you take, serious allergies, emergency contacts—anything someone would need to know when giving you medical attention if you weren't able to talk. A Medical ID can be a big help, but you have to set it up before you need it or it won't be able to help you.  

Learn the Built-In Apps

Control Center

While the apps you get at the App Store are the ones that get the most hype, the iPhone comes with a pretty great selection of built-in apps, too. Before you dive too far into the App Store, learn how to use the built-in apps for web browsing, email, photos, music, calling, and more.

Get New Apps

App Store logo
image copyright Apple Inc.

Once you've spent a little time with the built-in apps, your next stop is the App Store, where you can get all kinds of new programs. Whether you're looking for games or an app to watch Netflix on your iPhone, ideas on what to make for dinner or apps to help you improve your workouts, you'll find them at the App Store—and usually just for a dollar or two, if not for free.

If you want some tips on what apps you may enjoy, check out our picks for the best apps in over 40 categories.

When You're Ready To Go Deeper

iOS 7 Battery life

At this point, you'll have gotten a pretty solid handle on the basics of using the iPhone. But there's so, so much more to the iPhone than the basics. It holds all kinds of secrets that are fun and useful. The link above will take you to all the iPhone how-to articles on this site, but here are a few highlights you may find useful:

And If the iPhone Is For a Kid...

iPhone 5C
iPhone 5C. image copyright Apple Inc.

If you're a parent, and the new iPhone in your life isn't for you, but instead belongs to one of your kids, you need to read this article. The iPhone gives parents tools to protect their children from adult content, prevent them from running up huge iTunes Store bills, and insulate them from some online dangers. You may also be interested in how you can protect or insure your child's iPhone in case it gets lost or damaged.

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