Once you’ve powered up your device, you’ll be greeted with a series of set-up chores. This is where you’ll set your language preferences, connect to your home Wi-Fi network, and then enter your Google account details. This is the same as your Gmail address and password—and yes, you will need to have a Google account to use an Android phone. Lastly, set up your security features like a device unlock passcode and the fingerprint unlocking feature, if your phone offers it.
Being signed into your Google account makes it easy to set up a new phone from there, especially if you've previously owned an Android device. Things like any contacts, calendars, and emails that are tied to your Google account—whether you stashed them there from the web or from your old Android phone—should flow onto your new device automatically as soon as you log in.
If you had an Android phone before this one, just make sure that old phone is backed up. Go to Settings > Backup & reset. There, you’ll see options for Back up my data (turn this on, if it’s not) and Automatic restore (toggle this to on as well). Those two settings will ensure that your contacts, calendars, and Gmail inbox become available on your new phone. Also, all your apps and their various settings should make the jump too.
There are ways to access your photos on your new phone, but your best bet is to use Google’s cloud-based service, Google Photos, which comes preinstalled on Android devices. It's also the place your photos are automatically saved every time you back up your photos on an Android phone. (If you find yourself running out of room in your Google account too often, check out our guide for how to free up space.) If you're not already using Google photos, that's OK. Pick up your old phone, and back up all your photos to the Google Photos cloud by opening the app and tapping on your small round user icon in the upper left. Select Back up Now and wait for the photos to sync. Your photos should then be available to browse and download on your new Android phone—as well as the web, and any iOS device where you've downloaded the Google Photos app.
Once you’ve synced all the data that's available from your Google account, you’ll want to link some of your other accounts to your phone for seamless integration down the line. Just head to Settings > Accounts, select Add account, and enter your info for Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Skype, and whatever else you rely on on the regular.
And that’s basically it! You can tinker in the settings or fully customize the phone to your heart’s content—this is Android, after all—but most of it just amounts to personal preference.
One last tip? Keep an eye on Google Assistant, a personally assistant baked into Android that will learn from your search and location history to serve up timely information and articles. You can see personalized news articles chosen by the Assistant at any time by swiping right on the home screen.
To make sure the Assistant is on, go to Settings > Google > Search, where you can customize the type of cards you see, which notifications you get, and what sort of voice activation you prefer, if any.
This setup guide was updated in December 2020.