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New iPhone or iPad? 8 things you should do right away

Instead of rushing to unbox and start using your new phone tablet, sit down, take your time and follow these tips.


The new iPhone 12 models span various sizes. 

Richard Peterson/CNET

Apple launched four new iPhone models this year, varying in size and capabilities. All iPhone 12 models -- the 12 Mini, 12, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max -- all feature 5G connectivity, improved displays and new camera features. Not only did Apple release new phones heading into the holiday season but the company also released a brand-new iPad Air and an updated entry-level iPad

Whether you get a new iPhone or iPad, don't just rip off the plastic cover and try to figure things out. Instead, put aside an hour or two to set up and navigate your new device. Trust me, it'll be time well spent.

Here's how I recommend setting up your new phone or tablet.

Read more: The 30 best iPad games you need to play 

Get started with your new iPhone or iPad

First things, first: backups, gestures and setting up Face ID.


The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the largest screen ever on an iPhone.

Patrick Holland/CNET

If you have a new iPhone or iPad: Back up your old device to iCloud before setting up the new one

Setting up a new iPhone or iPad is a fairly straightforward process, but if you're using a backup from a previous model, it's a good idea to do some housekeeping before creating your final backup. Start by triaging your old photos and old apps you haven't used in months to save space and speed up the process. 

Now playing: Watch this: How to back up an iPhone

Once you've decluttered your old device, use a tool built into iOS that's by far the easiest way to transfer everything over

If you're switching to iPad, then you can restore your new tablet from an iPhone backup to carry over your settings, information and apps. 

Ditching Android? There's an app for that

Apple has a few Android apps, one of which is called Move To iOS. You can use it to transfer most of the information on your Android device over to your new iPhone, including any Android apps that have a free version in Apple's App Store. If you're making the jump, be sure to check out our full rundown covering how to use Move To iOS

Getting around your new iPhone or iPad

The first thing you'll need to learn about using a newer iPhone is how to get around without a home button, which Apple removed in the iPhone X ($384 at Amazon)

The iPad's app switcher is pretty darn cool. 

GIF by Jason Cipriani/CNET

On the iPad, the entire lineup, regardless of whether or not it has a home button, relies heavily on gestures for multitasking and navigating the interface. For example, you can have multiple apps open on the same screen, or multiple windows of the same app open at the same time, but you'll need to know how to make that happen. Here's our guide, complete with animated images, that explains it all.

Earlier this year, Apple added trackpad support to the iPad lineup, which naturally has its own list of gestures. We, of course, have a guide for that, once again, complete with animated images

After you get used to FaceID, you'll forget it's even there. 

GIF by Sarah McDermott/CNET

Important: Use a passcode and Face ID or Touch ID

Touch ID, which is what Apple calls its fingerprint reader in the home button, is still a thing on some iPad models and the iPhone SE. If your device has a home button, be sure to set that up for fast unlocking, convenient mobile payments and security. 

The 2018 and newer iPad Pro models, as well as iPhone models since the iPhone X all have a facial recognition feature called Face ID that you use to unlock your phone, open Apple Pay for mobile payments and complete purchases in the App Store. Using Face ID is convenient and secure, so you don't want to skip this step. Learn a little more about Face ID and how to set it up

The setup process will prompt you to set up a passcode, which we can't recommend enough. Our phones and tablets have our most private information on them, and you wouldn't want someone going through it, would you? 


iOS 13 and iPadOS have a lot of new features, some of which are a bit, well, hidden. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Do you need more iCloud storage? 

Probably. A common frustration for iPhone owners is they don't have enough iCloud storage. Apple gives everyone 5GB for free, but it's hardly enough for the vast majority of people. Instead of waiting to receive an alert warning that you're out of storage, do yourself a favor and sign up for the 50GB plan at $0.99 a month. 

Upping your plan will prevent headaches of failed backups down the road. You can change your iCloud data plan by opening the Settings app on your iPhone and tapping on your name at the top of the app. Next, select iCloud > Manage Storage > Change storage plan to make the change. 

Learn your device's basics

Don't stop yet. Here are essential setup tips you should learn, and a crucial feature to turn on right away.

Get to know your new device

Any new Apple device will have iOS 14 or iPadOS 14 preinstalled, meaning you'll have to jump right in and learn all of the fresh features. There's a completely new way to arrange your homescreen, Messages improvements, and privacy features. Be sure to read about all of the new features

Not every feature is obvious, though, and that's alright. Hidden features are often the best kind, and we've dug up plenty of gems


The ability to record your iPhone or iPad screen is built into the OS.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

If you find yourself struggling with things like viewing your notifications or Face ID not working the way you think it should, we offer some sage advice for troubleshooting common problems

Taking and sharing a screenshot is a quick and easy way of getting help troubleshooting an issue, or to show off a high score in your favorite game. You can take a screenshot by pressing the side button plus the volume-up button at the same time on newer devices, or if you have a device with a home button, press the power and home buttons at the same time. 

Although, sometimes taking a screenshot just isn't good enough. You can record your iOS device's screen with a built-in tool -- here's how


Don't forget to set up iCloud backup. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Keep your iPhone or iPad backed up

After setting up your phone and learning its ins and outs, take an extra five minutes and ensure it's being backed up regularly with your iCloud account. In 2020, there's no reason you should lose any information when you get a new phone. 

If you have a Mac and have MacOS Catalina installed, you already know iTunes is nowhere to be found. Backing up your iOS device is still possible, it's just done via Finder now

Dónde Está o Find My de iOS 13

You'll thank yourself in the future if you take a few minutes now and set up Find My. 

César Salza/CNET

Make sure Find My is set up

Last, but certainly not least, is to double-check that Apple's Find My service is set up and working. With Find My set up, you'll be able to locate and track, as well as remotely lock or wipe your lost device. If you lose your iPhone or iPad, you'll thank yourself for taking the extra time now. 

See? That wasn't that bad, was it? Whether you have a new Mac, new PC or even an Echo device, as long as you take your time and don't rush through each step, you'll learn a lot along the way and save yourself time down the road.


Once you master the iPad, it can quickly turn into a laptop replacement. 

Sarah Tew/CNET