Set up Your New Android Smartphone in a Snap

Restore your Android apps, customize settings, and choose accessories

When you get a new Android smartphone such as the latest Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, Moto Z, or OnePlus, get it up and running quickly. Setting up a new Android smartphone used to take time, but with Android 5.0 Lollipop or later, there are ways to avoid manually downloading your favorite apps one at a time or building your contact list all over again.

The information included here should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Basic Steps to Set up Your Android for the First Time

When you power up a new smartphone, the welcome screen prompts you to install a SIM card if you haven't already. The SIM card tray can be popped out of the side, top, or bottom of the phone (each model is different) using a small tool or the end of a paper clip. Insert the SIM card and slide the tray back into the phone. If it's a new SIM card, input a pin number, which is on the packaging.

Check the manual that came with the phone if you have trouble finding the tray or inserting the SIM card.

Next, choose your language from a dropdown list, and then optionally connect to Wi-Fi.

Finally, decide how to move your contacts, apps, and other data to the new device. Your options are to restore a backup or set up as new. If you set up the phone as new, you'll start from scratch, which makes sense if you're setting up your first smartphone, or you just want a clean start. 

Backups can be restored from an Android device, your Google account, or an iPhone or iPad. When migrating data from an Android or iOS device that has built-in NFC (near field communication), use a feature called Tap & Go. Otherwise, log in to your Google account and download data from a backup.

On a Google Pixel, use the included quick switch adaptor. Connect your new phone to your old device, then choose what to transfer. Plug the adapter into devices running at least Android 5.0 Lollipop or iOS 8.

Transfer Data Between Phones With Android Tap & Go

All that's required to use Tap & Go is that your new phone runs Lollipop or later and that your old phone has built-in NFC, which came to Android phones in 2010.

To use Tap & Go:

  • Enable NFC on both devices.
  • Tap the backs of the devices together.
  • Wait as the data copies over to the new device.
  • Continue the setup process.
Enable NFC on Android

If you want to use Tap & Go after using a different method, access it by resetting the new device. Tap & Go moves your Google accounts, apps, contacts, and other data.

Restore Data From a Backup on Your Google Account

If your old phone doesn't have NFC, copy data from any device that is registered and backed up to your Google account. During setup, if you skip Tap & Go, choose the restore option, which copies data from an old device. You can restore any Android device associated with your Google account.

Making backups on Android

Start Your New Android Phone From Scratch

You can also make a fresh start, and install apps manually. If you synced your contacts with your Google account, those will carry over once you sign in. Next, set up wireless and then customize your notifications.

Complete the Final Setup

If you have a non-Pixel smartphone, there may be prompts to sign in to a separate account (such as Samsung). Otherwise, the rest of the process is much the same regardless of manufacturer.

  • Choose whether to opt into Google services, such as automatic backups, locations services, and sending usage and diagnostic data to the company.
  • Set or confirm your time zone. If you bought the phone in the same time zone as you live, it should be accurate.
  • Select an unlock method. If you select fingerprint, set it up to recognize your digits and choose a backup pattern, pin, or password.
  • Choose how notifications will appear when the phone is locked. There are three options: show all, hide sensitive content, and don't show notifications.
  • Set up Google Assistant to recognize your voice.
Android setup settings

After completing the setup, check to see if the device is eligible for an OS update and make sure apps are also up to date.

Should You Root Your New Phone?

Rooting means you can access advanced settings on the phone that are blocked by the manufacturer. When you root a phone, you can remove bloatware (unwanted apps installed by your carrier) and download apps that require root access, such as Titanium Backup.

Magisk root app on Android

If you have the OnePlus One, there's no need to root it; it already runs a custom ROM, Cyanogen.

Choose Android Accessories

Now that you have the software covered, it's time to think about the hardware. Do you need a smartphone case? A case protects your smartphone from drops and spills and is stylish at the same time.

Phone cases

What about a portable charger? Investing in one means you don't have to worry about being low on battery life when you're on the go, and you can use one to charge multiple devices.

If your new phone has wireless charging built-in, consider buying a wireless charging pad. Some device manufacturers, including Samsung, sell these, as well as many third-party companies. Instead of plugging in, place your phone on the charging pad.