What a lovely new iPhone you have! Whichever one of the many iPhones in Apple’s lineup you bought, the setup experience is nearly identical. Here’s how to get acquainted with it to ensure a two- to four-year lifetime, give or take, of happiness. Or just one, if you’re an annual upgrader. Things always go more smoothly when you’re prepared, so make sure you have the following ready for the easiest possible setup:
- Your old phone (not essential, but it’s smart to have it handy)
- Your SIM card (not required for eSIM activation)
- Your Wi-Fi details
- Your Apple account details (you must have an Apple account to use an iPhone)
After you set up your device, check out our guides on cases—the Best iPhone 14 Cases, Best iPhone 13 Cases, and Best iPhone 12 Cases—to protect your handset, and see our Best MagSafe Accessories guide to kit it out.
Updated September 2023: We tweaked this guide to reflect the latest version of iOS and the new iPhone 15 range.
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First, Back Up Your Old Phone
Start by backing up your old phone. If it’s an iPhone, this will make copying over your data a bit easier. The simplest method is to back up to iCloud by going to Settings, tapping on your name at the top, and choosing iCloud, iCloud Backup, and tapping Back Up Now. You can find alternative methods and more details in our guide on how to back up your iPhone. You can also take advantage of Apple’s Quick Start feature for switching iPhones simply by enabling Bluetooth on your old iPhone and having it nearby when you turn the new one on. We have a guide on how to switch iPhones that goes into more depth and offers some alternative methods, but we’re also going to go into it below.
If you’re coming over from Android, be sure to download the Move to iOS Android app from Google Play. On the Apps & Data screen during the setup process for your new iPhone, tap Move Data from Android. Go back to your Android phone, open the app, tap Continue, and follow the instructions from there. You can’t transfer everything, but you can bring over your contacts, messages, photos and videos, calendars, and email accounts. Some apps will even make the jump. Just be aware, depending on how much data you have, it can take a long time to move.
Setting Up Your New iPhone
Stick your SIM card into your new iPhone (skip this step if you are using an eSIM) and hold down the power button to turn it on. You’ll be greeted by the Apple logo and the word “Hello” in many languages. You can then choose Quick Start (the easy way) or Set Up Manually (the hard way). Which path you choose depends on whether this is your first iPhone.
If you’re an Apple vet and have your old iPhone handy, try Quick Start for the fastest path to getting that new iPhone set up. Make sure your old iPhone is fully charged and that Bluetooth is turned on, then just bring your new iPhone close to your old one, and confirm that you want to use the same Apple ID on the new device. An animation should appear on your new device; hover your old one over it until that image appears in your viewfinder. Wait until you see Finish on New [Device] on your old iPhone. Enter your password at the prompt, and you’re on your way to setting up Face ID. From there, you can choose exactly what you want to back up, and which settings—including for Apple Watch, if you have one—you want to carry over.
Alternatively, you can simply select Other Options and Restore from iCloud Backup or Restore from Mac or PC Backup. Then enter your Apple ID and password, and go grab a peppermint mocha while your iPhone restarts with all of your settings, preferences, apps, and more in place. In other words, it’ll be just like your old device, but … newer.
Set Up Manually
If this is your first Apple rodeo, or you just want a fresh start and like fiddling around in menus, select Set Up Manually. Follow the onscreen instructions to activate your iPhone or iPad. You will connect to your Wi-Fi network, activate your eSIM or pop your physical SIM into the new device, set up a six-digit passcode, set up Face ID or Touch ID, and restore or transfer your data and apps. (You can choose to Restore from iCloud Backup, Restore from Mac or PC, Transfer Directly from iPhone, or Move Data from Android.) People coming from Android, remember that you can use the Move to iOS app. You may also be interested in our useful iPhone tips for ex-Android users.
Next, you’ll sign in with your Apple ID, choose whether to turn on automatic updates, and set up features like your iCloud account, FaceTime, iMessage, and Location Services. You’ll also be asked if you want to set up Siri (you do!), which includes saying a few phrases so the assistant can get to know your voice. Your final options relate to Screen Time, which tracks your device usage and lets you set limits, and some display settings like True Tone (where available) and Display Zoom to set icon and text size to suit you. It sounds like a lot of decisions and inputs, but the whole process takes only a few minutes. Better yet, none of these choices are binding; you can find them all again later in the Settings app.
A Quick Word on eSIM
Apple has supported eSIM technology since the iPhone XS. It’s basically an electronic SIM card instead of the tiny, physical chip you insert into your phone for cellular connectivity. The iPhone 14 series were the first devices to completely get rid of the physical SIM card slot (in the US). That means the only way for you to set up a cellular connection in the US is with an eSIM.
If you’re unfamiliar with the process, don’t worry, it’s very easy. During setup, you’ll be asked if you want to transfer your number from your old iPhone. Once you agree, it will take a minute or two to activate cellular data on your new iPhone, and you’re good to go. Keep in mind that your old physical SIM card will effectively stop working once you do this.
If you’re coming from an Android phone (with or without eSIM support), you will need to scan a QR code provided by your carrier. This might even be the case with an iPhone if you’re having trouble—just contact your carrier and they should be able to sort things out quickly.
Adding Other Accounts and Setting Preferences
Otherwise, it’s just a matter of personalizing your preferences. Want to add an email account? Go to Settings, Mail, Accounts, and choose Add Account. Want to fine-tune which apps refresh in the background (and drain your battery in the process)? Head to Settings, General, Background App Refresh, and toggle your little heart out. Want to save time on web forms? Go to Settings, Safari, Autofill, and preload your contact info. You can also turn on the battery percentage view by going to Settings, Battery, and toggling on Battery Percentage.
One last recommendation: Get rid of the clutter. iOS now lets you delete Apple’s many, many stock apps. Do it! It feels great, I promise. We even have tips on how to customize your iPhone’s home screens. Oh, and while you’re digging around in Apple’s software, go to Settings and then Focus to take advantage of the Do Not Disturb mode that lets you cut down on the constant stream of alerts.
Hitting these basics should get you started on the right path. When you’re settled, read our hidden iPhone tips and tricks for more goodies. And if you’re done with your old iPhone, read our instructions on how to factory reset it.
How to Set Up All Your New Tech
You got a cool gadget! You lucky duck. Now you’ve gotta set it up. You poor sap. WIRED’s master guide can help.