If you're hoping to get a new Android smartphone or tablet for Christmas (or you're treating yourself), we'll show you how to set up a new device and start having some fun. Also see: Essential Android apps and best Android games for a new phone or tablet.

If you've got a new Android smartphone or tablet, you can't just switch it on and start playing Angry Birds. Before you can start enjoying it, there are some steps you must take. If it all seems a bit confusing and complicated then don't worry - we'll explain how to do everything.

Most phones and tablets will guide you step-by-step through the setup process. The experience may differ slightly, depending on what brand is your device and which version of Android it is running. They are all very similar, but here we are using Marshmallow, which is the most likely operating system to be found on a new phone or tablet purchased today.

See also: Best smartphones 2016 and How to transfer files and apps from Android phone, Android tablet to SD card.

How to set up a new Android phone or tablet

  1. 1. Enter your SIM, insert the battery, then attach the rear panel
  2. 2. Switch on the phone
  3. 3. Select a language
  4. 4. Connect to Wi-Fi
  5. 5. Enter your Google account
  6. 6. Select your backup and payment options
  7. 7. Set up a password
  8. 8. Start downloading apps and content
  9. We'll explain all the steps in more detail below!

Put your SIM card into your new device if it's a smartphone or a tablet with mobile data connectivity. If it has a removable battery also slot this into place and attach the rear cover.

Switch on your new Android device using the power button, which is normally located on the top or right side. Remember that it might need charging before it will switch on.

See how to add microSD support to your phone or tablet.

The first thing you'll need to do once the device is powered up is select a language. Select from the list which you would like to use. (Note that the image you see might look slightly different to what we have shown below - we are using a Sony Xperia X Compact, which has Sony's own stylings on the UI - but all will in essence ask you to select a language and click Next)

How to set up new Android phone or tablet

Next you'll be asked whether you want to connect to the internet over Wi-Fi only, or whether you also want to use a mobile network. Which you choose really depends on whether you have a data allowance as part of your mobile phone contract, which these days most people will. You will also need to connect to a mobile network for internet if you want to get online while you're out and about and away from a Wi-Fi connection. Realistically, the only reason you should choose Wi-Fi only is if you are on a pay-as-you-go tariff that covers you only for calls and texts.

If you haven't already inserted your SIM card you will be prompted to do so, and then to choose a wireless network. Select your home network from the list, enter your password (you can access upper-case characters by pressing the upwards arrow key, and if you don't have any numbers on the default keyboard look for a 123 key), then select Connect.

It is possible to start using a new Android phone or tablet without an internet connection, but you won't be able to sign into your Google account or anything associated with that account, such as contacts and calendar entries, and you won't be able to download any apps. Also see: Best Android tablets

How to set up new Android phone or tablet

With an active Wi-Fi connection, sign into your Google account with your usual email address and password. If you don't have a Google account then you can create one now.

Some devices will ask you if you want to sign into other services and networks like Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox. You can do this now or later when you open the apps.

How to set up new Android phone or tablet

Next you'll be given a set of options relating to Google services such as backup and location. Untick any boxes you wish, or simply select Next.

Google will then prompt you to add payment details (used to purchase apps, songs and other content from Google services). You can select credit/debit card or PayPal and follow the prompts to enter your account details, or simply press No, thanks to skip this step (you'll be prompted again when you first decide to buy something, and in the meantime you won't be able to do so accidentally). Press Continue.

If you previously owned an Android device signed into your Google account you will be asked whether you want to restore your apps and data from it. We tend to select Don't restore, because a new phone should be a nice fresh slate, but if you want exactly the same experience as before you can select your old phone from the list here. Be warned that it will install everything - even the games you installed a year ago, played once and forgot about. This will happen in the background and may take some time, so be sure to connect to Wi-Fi first if you haven't already done so. Also see: Best Android phones

How to set up new Android phone or tablet

If you are using a Nexus or Google Pixel device, you might now be asked whether you want to use Google Now. (This is available on all Android phones even where it does not form part of the setup process.) Google Now provides helpful information such as news, weather, sports scores and travel data. Other devices such as those from Samsung, Sony or LG might prompt you to sign up for different accounts.

Obviously we are not using a Nexus or Google Pixel device here, so this is an old screenshot from an Nexus device running Lollipop. This will look a little bit different in newer versions of the OS - Marshmallow and the most recent Nougat - but in essence you will be asked the same question, and you can either opt in or out and then click Next. You can change your mind about this later, so don't worry too much which you choose.

Set up new Android device

Many phones and tablets these days come with fingerprint scanners, and it's at this point you'll be asked whether you want to set up fingerprint security (essential if you want to make use of Android Pay). You can set up a fingerprint, pattern, PIN or password passcode, but if you choose fingerprint you will also need to set up a backup, just in case the scanner ever fails to recognise your touch.

How to set up new Android phone or tablet

Select to unlock your phone with fingerprint, then choose either Pattern, PIN or Password from the list to set as a backup option. We chose PIN and clicked Next. 

You may then be asked whether you want to also enable secure startup, which requires you to enter a PIN to turn on the phone. This is entirely your choice as to how secure you want your phone to be, although personally we find it a bit annoying. Choose either Require PIN to start device or No thanks, then press Next.

How to set up new Android phone or tablet

Enter a PIN you will remember that is at least four digits. 1234 is possibly one of the easiest PINs to guess, as is 0000. Press the arrow key to continue.

Google will now ask you to confirm your PIN to rule out the possibility you made a mistake, so again enter your PIN and press the arrow key.

You will now be asked whether you want to hide any or all of your notifications from the lock screen. If notification content is displayed, someone sitting beside you will be able to read the sender's name and the first part of any text message or email you receive even if your screen is locked. If you have something to hide you'll probably want to choose Don't show notifications or Hide sensitive notification content. However, remember that notifications are also there for your benefit, and if you hide them you might miss an important message. We chose Show all notification content, then clicked Next.  

How to set up new Android phone or tablet

Now you're ready to set up your fingerprint. Locate the fingerprint scanner on your device. It will usually be integrated to the Home button (or the power button as is the case here), or located below the camera on the rear of the device. If you're not sure, look in the user manual, read a review of the device or simply examine the image shown onscreen - in most cases it will have been customised to match the location on your device.

Hold your phone naturally, because you want the fingerprint scanner to work quickly and efficiently without you having to do any awkward finger acrobatics. Then begin tapping the sensor. You will need to do this multiple times, and try to move your finger into a slightly different position each time so it can build up a better scan of your fingerprint. A progress bar runs around the graphic shown onscreen, and when this is full you will be able to move on to the next step.

Most phones and tablets will allow you to enter up to five fingerprints. This can be useful if you sometimes pick up the phone with your other hand, or you switch between using it with your index finger and your thumb. Also consider whether anyone else in your household will be using the device and will need fingerprint access. But you don't need to enter all five fingerprints now - you can add these later if you wish.

How to set up new Android phone or tablet

That should conclude the setup process but, as we mentioned earlier, different devices will have different steps. You are likely to be welcomed to your new device and might be shown a brief tutorial on how to do things like customise the wallpaper, widgets and settings. It's worth paying attention to this if there is one, but you can also skip straight to the home screen.

It's worth checking to see whether there are any updates to your phone or its preinstalled apps by going to Settings, About phone or tablet, System updates and by launching the Google Play store app (likely on the home screen), tapping the three lines icon at the top left, selecting My apps & games and tapping Update All.

You can configure things like your wallpaper and ringtone in the Settings menu - take some time to look around and become familiar with Android.

Once this is done you can start installing apps from Google Play. Just open the app store, search for an app or game - such as WhatsApp - and select Install. You will be prompted to accept any permissions, and the app will begin to install in the background.

Read next: How to restore WhatsApp messages on a new phone

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