Set up your new iPhone 8 the right way

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iphone x dock
Get your new iPhone set up the right way.
Photo: Apple

Whether you’ve gotten yourself a new iPhone 8 there are some essential things you’ll want to do to set it up right away. Granted, we’re biased toward our own process, but after so many years setting up iPhones, we’ve learned a thing or two about doing it right.

After you’ve gone through the basic guided setup that Apple walks you through, these additional tips and tweaks will get you to a better iPhone experience faster, no matter which model you have.

 

Restoring from a backup of your old iPhone

icloud backup iOS 10 iOS 11
Manual iCloud backups are easy.
Photo: Cult of Mac

It’s most likely that you’ll be restoring your new iPhone from a backup of your current iPhone. If that’s so, then you only have to do two things:

  1. Make sure you have an up-to-date backup.
  2. Use Apple’s new Automatic Setup feature to get you started.

Number 1. is as simple as heading to the iCloud settings on your iPhone, and checking that there is a recent automatic backup. If not, just do one manually. Head to Settings>Your Name>iCloud>iCloud Backup and tap Back Up Now. Wait until it’s done.

Number 2. Works if both your devices are running iOS 11 (which they will be if you are reading this guide after the initial launch week). Automatic Setup lets you copy across your Apple ID and home Wi-Fi setting from another device, just by bringing them close together.

If your old iPhone (or iPad) is already running iOS 11, you can put them next to each other, follow the prompts, and avoid having to type in your Apple ID and Wi-Fi passwords. This makes the initial setup much smoother.

Setting up a new iPhone from scratch

The guide below assumes you’re setting up your new iPhone from scratch. If you don’t want to do that, you’ll definitely want to check out our how-to guide on backing up your previous iPhone via an encrypted backup in iTunes. Even if you restore a backup to your new iPhone, chances are you’ll still want to run through this list to make sure you’re getting the most out of your device.

Set up your new iPhone: the basics

Make sure you've got your battery percentage on.
Make sure you’ve got your battery percentage on.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Turn on battery percentage – Nothing’s better than seeing precisely how much battery you have left at a glance than this. Drop into Settings and tap on Battery. You’ll see a toggle for Low Power Mode and then one for Battery Percentage. Toggle that second one to ON and never guess how much your battery has left in it again.

Re-download only the apps you need – This one is a must. We all have way too many apps on our iPhones that we just do not use. This is the big reason we do a clean set up, to be honest. Tap into the App Store app and make sure you’re signed into your Apple account (swipe down to the bottom of the Featured tab to see which account you’re signed in as). Only download apps that you’ve used in the past 6 months. Or, be daring: just download stuff you use on a daily basis. We’re willing to bet it’ll be a very few.

Do Not Disturb is an essential setting for any iPhone.
Do Not Disturb is an essential setting for any iPhone.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Set up Do Not Disturb – If you’re like the rest of us, you’re constantly getting notifications, iMessages, and other kinds of distractions up on your iPhone. Set up Do Not Disturb in the Settings app (it’s in the second section down the page, just under Notifications and Control Center). You’ll want to schedule it for times when you need to not be bothered. Toggle Scheduled to ON and then set the times you want to keep Notifications out of your face. Try 10 pm to 7 am, if you can. Pro tip: let some things through if there’s an emergency: enable Allow Calls From your Favorites, and toggle Repeated Calls to ON.

Go retro with your ringtone — Set your ringtone to something no one else will have these days: Xylophone. Tap into Settings, then tap on Sounds. Swipe all the way to the bottom of the list and tap on Classic. You’ll go to a list of all the sounds from the original iPhone, including Xylophone, which sounds to me like something out of Law and Order. There’s nothing more distinctive, and since no one else is using this old and busted ringtone anymore, you’ll know which iPhone ringing is yours immediately.

Much easier to find when you have more than one device on the network.
Much easier to find when you have more than one device on the network.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Change your iPhone’s name – When you’re using connected services like Find my iPhone and you have several devices, you’ll want to change the name to your new iPhone so you can figure which one to Find. Tap into Settings>General. Once there, tap into About, then tap on Name, which usually defaults to something vague. Type in iPhone 8 (or iPhone 8 Plus if that’s your jam) to make sure you know what device you’re targeting over the network.

 

Add all four fingers from each hand to make unlocking your iPhone even easier.
Add all four fingers from each hand to make unlocking your iPhone even easier.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Add four fingers to Touch ID – Sure, you can add all of your fingers on one hand, but why? Do you really need to unlock your iPhone with your pinky? Probably not. When you set up your new device, just add the four fingerprints you’ll use the most: both thumbs and both index fingers. Tap into Settings>Touch ID & Passcode (you’ll get a prompt to enter your passcode) and then add your four fingerprints in the second section. You can even name them accordingly, with right thumb, right index, etc. Be sure to toggle iPhone Unlock, Apple Pay, and App and iTunes Stores to ON here so you can use Touch ID or Face ID for everything possible. You’ll never want to type in a passcode again. You can also have a significant other add their fingerprint so they can use your iPhone without having to know or remember your passcode.

Manage email

Add your email accounts and make sure you can see enough in the preview.
Add your email accounts and make sure you can see enough in the preview.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Add your email accounts – Whether you use Mail, Google Inbox, or something like Sparrow, you’ll want to add your email accounts right away. For Apple’s Mail app, tap Settings>Accounts & Passwords, then tap Add Account, choose your email provider (some folks still use Exchange), and follow the steps to enter all the info required.

See more preview – Mail lets you see the content of a message without opening it. Might as well see as much of it as possible, right? Tap into Settings>Mail and tap on the Preview button. Change your settings to five lines and get more info from your emails without having to tap them open.

Add default email address and set swipe prefs here.
Add default email address and set swipe prefs here.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Set your default account – For some reason, our iOS Mail settings always seem to default to an account we never use, like iCloud. Tap Settings>Accounts & Passwords>Your mail account name, and then tap Account>Email. Once you have reached the depths of this setting, you can tap your an email address, and this is what will be used as your from address in new mails. If there is only one address in here, you’re good to go. This is also the place to add any other email addresses associated with your mail account.

Swipe to manage email – It’s much nicer to be able to swipe your emails away, rather than clicking through and tapping on several buttons. Change Swipe Right to Archive, so that when you swipe that direction, you’ll be able to either quickly save an email to your Archive, or (if your email Account supports swiping left as a default Delete action) it will offer a Trash icon. Change Swipe Left to Mark as Read, which is a great way to just slam through your email messages as you get them. This only affects your built-in Mail app from Apple; each third-party email client will do things differently.

Add an HTML signature – A nice email signature can really make you look professional, so be sure to add an HTML signature to your email. If you’ve already got one on the desktop, copy and paste the code into an email and forward to yourself. Then you can copy and paste it into Mail app (or whichever email client you prefer, if it supports it). It can be as simple as text formatting tags or as complex as adding a logo from a webserver. You can use an iOS app to make one, too, but they tend to look pretty basic or clip-art-y.

Calendars, iCloud, Messages and more

Make sure you're notified in useful ways.
Make sure you’re notified in useful ways.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Set default Calendar alert times – Calendar is great for alerting you to important events, but it’s not always at a convenient or useful time. Set the default timing on three types of events: Birthdays, Events, and All-Day Events so you get reminders when they’re actually helpful. Tap into Settings>Calendars. Tap on Default Alert Times and set your Birthday reminders to one day before, your Events to 15 minutes before (or a time that makes more sense for your own brain), and all day Events On day of event (9 am), so that you’ll never miss an event again.

Background app refresh – You’ll want to be choosy about which apps you want to be able to run in the background, so take a look at the list in Settings>General>Background App Refresh. Toggle Background App Refresh to ON, then toggle OFF all the apps you don’t really need accessing anything in the background. When in doubt, toggle it to OFF and see if you are slowed down by any apps that need to refresh when you launch them. Of course, you’ll want to enable Background Refresh for Cult of Mac Magazine!

Keep your iPhone on longer, and back it all up to iCloud.
Keep your iPhone on longer, and back it all up to iCloud.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

iCloud is everything – There’s no doubt in our minds that iCloud is the simplest, best answer for keeping all your stuff backed up and safe. Tap into the Settings>iCloud and be sure to sign in with your Apple ID. You can manage your storage in here, but be sure to enable everything you need right away so you’re never not backed up. Enable iCloud Drive, Photos, Contacts, Reminders, Safari, Notes, News, Wallet, Backup, Kechain and Find My Phone as soon as you get your iPhone 6s unpacked. You can enable Mail and Calendars if you only use Apple’s apps and services; otherwise, you can keep those toggled to OFF.

Lengthen your Auto-Lock – Let’s face it, we’re on our iPhones all the time. The default two minutes you get for the length of time your iPhone will stay on without turning off its display may keep your battery power higher longer, but it’s really not enough for anyone during normal use. Tap into Settings, General, Auto-Lock to set this to the maximum five minutes so you can stop tapping your screen all the time to keep it awake.

Get those regular text messages everywhere.
Get those regular text messages everywhere.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Get text messages everywhere – You can enable your Mac or iPad to get text messages from your iPhone, provided you’ve set up iMessage on them (Settings, Messages, toggle iMessage to ON on any iOS device, Messages Preferences on your Mac). Make sure your other device is nearby when you tap into Settings on your iPhone, then tap on Messages, then tap on Text Message Forwarding. Any devices available will show up in the list. Toggle your Mac or iPad to ON, and then check the target device for a code. Enter that code into your iPhone, and now all your devices will get not just iMessages, but also Text Messages from those not using iMessage.

Equalize your tunes – Turn on the EQ in your Music app so that you can hear your favorite jams without having to hassle with a bluetooth speaker. Launch Settings>Music. Once there, tap on EQ and set your iPhone to Late Night. This will give you a great volume boost for those times where you just want to blast The Clash while you make a quick dinner in the kitchen.

Secure your web experience

Use your own contact info to fill out web forms; manage credit cards.
Use your own contact info to fill out web forms; manage credit cards.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Safari setup – Surfing the web is full of forms to fill out; adding your name, address, email, and credit cards can take up a lot of your time. Be sure to head into Settings> Safari> AutoFill to set up your mobile browser the right way: toggle Use Contact Info to ON, and then tap on My Info to pick the Contact you want to use when you encounter any form fields in Safari. Toggle Names and Passwords to ON, as well, so you can save that across visits to the same website (this pulls from iCloud Keychain, so be sure to have that enabled). Toggle Credit Cards to ON, as well, so you can shop with abandon; just be sure to use only SSL encrypted websites. ProTip: Manage which credit cards your iPhone will save with a tap on Credit Cards. You can Add new cards in there, or Delete ones that no longer work or that you don’t want to use via mobile Safari.

Services to subscribe to

Make sure your media is where you want it, when you want it.
Make sure your media is where you want it, when you want it.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Enable iCloud Photo Library – We love iCloud Photo Library; it keeps your photos and videos safely stored in the cloud and let you retrieve full-quality copies of your files in case you misplace (read: trash) your originals. iCloud Photo Library relies on your iCloud storage, so if you have a lot of photos, you’ll want to bump that up. Tap into Settings, then iCloud, then tap on Photos to toggle iCloud Photo Library to ON. Note that this will turn My Photo Stream OFF. If you want both, you’ll need to re-toggle Photo Stream ON.

Use iTunes Match – Sure, Apple Music keeps track of all the music files on your devices, but if you delete them from your iPhone and don’t have a backup elsewhere, you’re going to have to settle for whatever quality Apple Music will give you when you listen. If you want to keep your full-resolution music files backed up to the cloud, use iTunes Match. You get all your music files matched or uploaded to iCloud in the highest bitrate possible. You can then stream or download the music to any device provided your iTunes Match subscription is intact. Never be without your tunes (or have an over-filled iPhone) again. Tap into Settings, tap on Music, and then tap on Subscribe to iTunes Match to get this valuable service enabled on your new iPhone.

Now you’ve got several options to set up your new iPhone the right way — let us know how you set things up on your own iPhone in the comments below.

  • lee

    How do the live wallpapers work please anyone? Have chosen one it remains static

    • Darryl Young

      3D Touch the screen and it’ll move.

  • imtough

    This was an extremely thoughtful and well-done blog. You touched on literally everything. That being said, I do what I want.

  • Sweet!! One feature I didn’t know iOS had gained was Do Not Disturb. I’ve enjoyed this on my Galaxy Note 3 for the last two years and was figuring I’d just have to mute the phone at night when my 6s Plus arrives (still ten days out; grrr).

    • iPhone expert

      Lol, there’s been do not disturb since iOS 6 over three years ago.

  • HTD

    Not much to do in Alaska so I arrange my apps by color. Poof, 5 hours gone!