How to Activate an Apple iPhone

Forget making phone calls. Getting texts, checking Twitter mentions, and racking up Instagram love: that’s why we’re glued to our phones 24-7. But before we can make a dent in our monthly data allotment, we have to activate our new smartphones.

PCMag has an in-depth run-down of how iPhone newbies can make the most out of their new gadgets, but here’s how to get started.

If you purchased your iPhone at an Apple Store, you can activate the phone with the assistance of an Apple Genius. If you bought your phone at a carrier store, one of the store’s employees should also be able to assist you. However, if you had your phone delivered to you at home or if you purchased the phone at a store and left without it being activated, it’s easy enough to do on your own.

First things first, if you had an iPhone and this phone is an upgrade, then make sure you back up your phone to iCloud (Settings > iCloud > Backup > Back Up Now) or to your computer. If you’re a first-time iPhone owner, then log into your carrier’s website and back up your contacts and see if they have a cloud service for you to back up other content, such as photos.

Once that’s done, there are two ways to activate your iPhone: Wi-Fi or iTunes.

1. Turn the phone on and the Setup Assistant will come right up and have you select a preferred language and the country in which you live.

2. It will then ask you which Wi-Fi network you want to connect to. You can also get set up using your cellular connection, but if you’re re-downloading apps from the cloud, that can be a huge data suck, so it’s recommended that you connect to Wi-Fi.

3. Select whether you want to enable Location Services. We would recommend enabling location services so that apps like Maps, Yelp, or even Seamless can pinpoint your location and provide more accurate information. But the security-conscious user can choose to disable location services now (or at a later time).

Set Up iPhone4. Next you’ll be given three choices: Set Up As New iPhone, Restore From iCloud Backup, and Restore From iTunes Backup.

  • If this is your first iOS device ever, select the first option.
  • If you’re upgrading and just backed up iCloud, select the second option, and all the apps on your old iPhone (or iPod touch or iPad, where applicable) will automatically be downloaded onto your new iPhone.
  • If you backed up all your apps on your computer, choose door number three (and see below).

5. Sign in with your Apple ID or create an account, and agree to the terms and conditions.

6. On the next few screens, you’ll select whether you want to activate iCloud and Find My iPhone (Yes, you do).

Touch ID7. If you have an iPhone 5s or later, you’ll then be prompted to set up Touch ID, which you can do now or save for later. Choose which finger you want to use, and gently hold it on the home button (don’t push) so it can register your prints. Lift it up and repeat on different sides of your finger until all the red lines are filled in. Press Continue. (To add or delete a fingerprint later, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Fingerprints)

8. Enter a four-digit passcode. Don’t forget it!

9. Choose whether you want to use Touch ID for purchases in iTunes and the App Store, meaning you can use your fingerprint to download apps rather than re-entering your Apple ID password.

10. Choose you want to use iCloud Keychain, which syncs passwords across Apple devices.

11. Choose whether or not you want to activate Siri.

12. Choose whether you want diagnostic info from your phone sent to Apple, and if you want app analytics from your phone sent to developers.

13. If you have iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, you’ll be asked if you want the standard size display or a zoomed display for easier viewing.

iPhone 6 Display Zoom

When you’re done, you’ll be prompted to select Get Started and now your phone is activated and set up. If you have a lot of apps transferring over from iCloud, it may take a few minutes for them to download.

Follow steps 1-3 above, but on step 4, select Restore from iTunes.

The phone will ask you to connect to iTunes. Take the charger cord and plug one side into the iPhone and other into your PC.

iTunes will pop up and ask if you want to set up as a new iPhone or restore from an iTunes backup. Select the option you want and hit Continue. The remaining steps will be the same as they are above.

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