For smartphone nuts, few things top the excitement of powering up a brand new handset for the very first time and diving right in. By the nature of my work, I have a well-established routine for setting up a new phone when I review it. However, a phone that's going to stick around for awhile gets a little more forethought and effort.
Here are my guidelines for newbies and pros alike. I won't get into the nitty gritty, step-by-step details about the phone, or advise you to download apps (of course you will). Rather, I'll point out some general categories you should think about when protecting and customizing your investment.
Tackle your settings -- all of them
Beeps, chimes, and buzzes annoy me. When phones constantly chirp in an office environment, it can irritate coworkers, too.
So the very first thing I do when setting up a new phone is to adjust my volume profile, choose my ringtones, and shut down haptic feedback (unless it's on a Windows Phone -- that I can take). It's for my own sanity, and for the sanity of the people around me.
Depending on the phone, I also pull up settings from the keyboard to shut down key press tones and other haptic feedback.
But don't stop there. I recommend systematically going through the settings. Not only will you fine-tune your phone's behavior right from the very beginning, you'll also learn a tremendous amount about your handset's capabilities.
Phone-makers slip controls for the most interesting software extras in the settings menu, and sometimes in submenus as well. I always peruse this area from the get-go to learn about the more hidden options for everything from motion and gesture controls to call blocking.
This is also where you'll find any options for simple startup mode (found on some Android phones), a benefit for those people who prefer a less-cluttered way to experience Android. A setup wizard may also let you make this selection if it exists.
Check for updates
Sometimes phones ship with one version of the operating system, but by the time it lands in your hands, there could be an update waiting in the wings.
This is an easy check from the Settings menu, so it's worth looking just to get the update out of the way, especially if it means restarting your phone.
Even if you don't have an OS update, it's worth checking for individual app refreshes for essential and preloaded programs. If there are more than a few of these, the update could take some time, or even require a reboot. I like to get this out of the way early because, especially with Android, updating apps like the Google Play Store, can somewhat alter the setup experience.
Secure your device
Loading up your new device with games, apps, and music sounds a lot more fun than taking the time to enact security measures on your device, but I can't stress how important it is to do this. Right now. Before you get distracted or forget.
There's a lot to remember in this category, which is why this primer from my colleague Kent German is such a gift. He did all the time-consuming research for you, and even laid out your protection choices by OS.
It's important to know what all of your options are, and institute them. In the panic-inducing event that you misplace your phone or lose it to theft, a basic understanding of the measures you set up and how to remotely lock, track, and even wipe your phone will pay off more than you can imagine. This also goes for recovering your assets, like precious photos.
Read: Secure your smartphone and foil thieves
Get cloud storage up and running
Your phone may alert you that you have the option of turning on cloud storage or syncing functionality for your contacts, calendar, photos, music, and so on. It's easy to dismiss these pop-ups in the pursuit of, say, choosing prettier wallpaper or theme colors, but as with updates and security, this is one of those things you should take care of sooner rather than later.
Not only are you making it smoother to share your assets among devices like your tablet and laptop, you're also taking a step toward safeguarding your digital property if you lose your phone, and making it easier to repopulate a future device with your photos and the like.
Likewise, you should also pay attention to prompts for syncing content, and specifically, you'll want to keep an eye on overly enthusiastic syncing features that you don't want turned on by default. Android phones are the main culprit here. If you don't watch what you press, your phone could upload all your photos online, turn on social networking, and generally overshare information you'd rather selectively distribute yourself.
Customize the look and feel
So you've secured your device and gotten to know your phone? Great. Now you should customize it.
Go nuts. Download new wallpaper, explore app launchers, group apps into folders, and jump into the world of rooting your phone and applying custom ROMs if you'd like.
Do keep in mind that if you go the rooting or jailbreaking route, you're violating your warranty, so this isn't an endeavor to attempt on a whim. The good news is that there's a tremendous amount of step-by-step tutorials and support articles on the Internet that can walk you through everything from gaining administrative access and installing ROMs to reverting your phone back to factory conditions. Still, it is a risk, so approach with caution.
One final area of customization I'd address are preloaded apps, better known as bloatware. Most of the time these won't budge; they were included as part of the phone-maker's agenda, or as part of a partnership agreement. Sometimes, though, you can force quit them, disable them, or with iOS and some Android phones, rearrange their icons into the dark recesses of your home screen or app tray to all but ignore them.
Plan for resale
I don't blame you one bit if your dead-last instinct with your new phone is to think about its afterlife. But trust me, a year or two down the line -- or even longer -- you'll be thankful you did.
Especially if you wind up reselling your phone directly to another human (and not to an organization), you'll want to keep the box in good shape, and yep, those structural cardboard inserts, as well. It makes a better presentation that way, and the condition of your phone and its accoutrements can net you a higher sale price.
I'd also strongly recommend getting a sturdy case to protect your phone. This is as much for your day-to-day benefit as it is to safeguard the phone's resale value down the line. Sure, your own self-expression in choosing a case still takes precedent, but if you're going to wind up recouping your costs when you're ready to move on, you might as well get the most for your handset that you can with a case that actively shields the phone's vulnerable screen and corners, instead of just simply looking good.
What are your steps for making a new phone your own? Share your personal tips in the comments below.