How to Set Up Your New Android Device

New Android phone or tablet? Get connected fast

Whether you're new to Android or you've been using Android a while, when you start fresh with a new device, it helps to have a checklist of sorts to get you started. 

For your particular Android phone or tablet, the exact menu options might be different, but they should be similar to the steps shown here. 

The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

At a glance, here's what you need to do to get started with Android:

  1. Unpack your phone and sign in with your Google account.
  2. Set up your phone or tablet security options and wireless connectivity.
  3. Install essential Android apps.
  4. Customize your home screen and more tips and tricks.

Unpack Your Mobile Device and Sign In With Your Google Account

Android Setup - connect to Google

Unboxing the phone or tablet is an enjoyable experience. In the box, you may find a quick set-up or getting-started guide, which tells you if you need to put in a SIM card, which will be included in the box, into the phone.

If your phone has a removable battery, you need to insert it. You should have enough of a charge to finish all the steps to set up your new Android device, but if you're near an outlet, you can plug in and start charging the battery.

When you first turn on the phone or tablet, Android guides you through the initial steps of getting started. You'll be asked to sign in with your Google account or to create a new one. This keeps your device in sync with Google's services for email, calendar, maps, and more.

During the setup, you'll be able to link other services, such as Facebook, but you can add those accounts later if you just want to get into your phone as quickly as possible.

You'll also be asked some basic settings questions, such as which language you use and if you want to turn on location services. Location services are needed by many apps to do things like give you driving directions and show local restaurant reviews. The information is gathered anonymously.

Set Up the Security Options and Wireless Connectivity

Android Setup - Security
Melanie Pinola

Setting up the security options might be the most important step of all. Since phones and tablets are easily lost or stolen, you want to make sure yours is protected in case anyone else gets it.

Head to your device's settings by tapping the Menu button. Select Settings, and then scroll down to and tap Security.

In that screen, you can set a PIN code, pattern, or—depending on your device and Android version—another means of locking the phone or tablet such as face recognition or password.

A long, multicharacter password offers the highest security, but if that's too daunting to enter every time your screen locks, at least set up a PIN.

Depending on your device and Android version, you may have other security options, such as encrypting the entire device, which is important if you use your phone or tablet for work, and locking the SIM card.

If you have the option to enter owner information, definitely set that up in case you lose your phone and a Good Samaritan finds it.

Set up remote wipe as soon as possible, which allows you to erase all the data on the phone or tablet from afar if it is lost or stolen.

Set Up Wireless Connectivity

At this point, connect to your Wi-Fi network. Leaving Wi-Fi on all the time isn't a great idea for your mobile device's battery life, but when you're at home or at a known wireless network, it is best to use Wi-Fi.

Head to Settings again from the Menu button, and then go to Wireless & Networks and tap Wi-Fi. Enable Wi-Fi and tap the name of your wireless network. Enter the network password, if any, and you're ready to roll.

Install Essential Android Apps

Google Play
Google Play. Melanie Pinola

There are thousands of Android apps to download and play with. Here are a few suggestions to get you started with your new Android smartphone or tablet.

Recommended apps include Evernote for note-taking, Documents to Go for editing Microsoft Office files, Skype for free video calling and instant messaging, and Wifi Analyzer to help you improve your wireless network. 

Three others to consider are Avast's Mobile Security and Antivirus, GasBuddy (because we all could stand to save on gas), and Camera ZOOM FX Premium, an impressive camera app for Android.

If you use your phone or tablet to catch up on news and websites, Google News & Weather, Flipboard, and Pocket are popular.

You'll find all of these apps and a whole lot more in the Google Play store, formerly known as Google Market.

Pro tip: You can remotely install apps to your phone or tablet from your laptop or desktop computer from the Google Play website.

Tips and Tricks to Customize Your Android Home Screen

Android Setup - Widgets
Android Setup - Widgets. Melanie Pinola

After you set up your device's security and download some essential apps, you'll probably want to customize the phone or tablet so your favorite apps and information are at your fingertips.

Android offers a ton of customization features, including the ability to add dynamic widgets. Here are the basics of customizing your home screen and device:

  • Your Android device comes with several home screen panels. Swipe right or left to access the other ones.
  • To remove an app from one of the screens but not delete it entirely, tap on the app and hold it with your finger for a few seconds until you see a trash can icon at the bottom of the screen. Drag the app to the trash can to remove it.
  • To add an app to one of the screens, tap the Applications icon and then long press the app you want to add. Drag it to the panel you want to place it on.
  • You can add folders to a screen too. Long press an empty area of the screen and select Folders. Depending on your system, you may be able to set up not just a new basic folder to contain your apps, but also specific folders such as "All Contacts" or "Recent Documents." Move apps into a folder by dragging them to it with your finger.
  • To add a widget or shortcut or to change the wallpaper, long press on an empty area of the screen. Widgets can contain dynamic information, such as weather, news, a clock, and more. Shortcuts are quick links to an app, a contact, a bookmark, settings, and so on.

There's a whole lot more you can do with Android, but this basic setup guide should get you started. Enjoy your new phone or tablet.