If you've got a new Android smartphone or tablet, you'll want to make sure you're using it to its full potential. If it all seems a bit confusing and complicated then don't worry - we'll explain how to do everything. Also see: Essential Android apps and best Android games for a new phone or tablet. 

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 Nougat, which is the most likely operating system to be found on a new phone or tablet purchased today.

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 and ensure it is fully charged
  3. 3. Select a language
  4. 4. Connect to Wi-Fi
  5. 5. Enter your Google account details
  6. 6. Select your backup and payment options
  7. 7. Set up a password and/or fingerprint
  8. 8. Start downloading apps and content

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 (increasingly rare) 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.

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 and click Get Started.

Set up Android language

You'll be prompted to insert your SIM if you have not already done so, though you do not need to have a SIM installed in order to set up the phone. Either insert your SIM or click Skip.

Set up Android sim

Depending on the device you're setting up, you may be asked whether you want to restore from another device (which will copy over your apps and data) or set up as new. 

Set up Android new or restore

The first option, to keep your apps and data, allows you to select Another Android device, your Google account, or an iPad or iPhone.

Set up Android restore

The second option offers you a fresh start, and is the route we're taking here.

Next you'll be prompted to connect to Wi-Fi, so find and select your network in the list, enter your password and click Connect.

Set up Android Wi-Fi

If you already have a Google account you should enter your email address and password now. If you don't, click 'Or create a new account' and register for a free Google account. Click Next.

Set up Android Google account

You'll need to agree to Google's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy - just click Accept to continue.

Set up Android Ts & Cs

The setup process will ask whether you want to turn on or off various Google services, such as the ability to automatically back up device data (recommended), use Google's location service to help apps determine your location (your choice entirely, and you can allow location access to specific apps when required), improve location accuracy by allowing the device to scan for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth even when they're turned off (recommended, provided battery life isn't a major issue), and to help improve your Android experience by automatically sending diagnostic and device and app usage data to Google (your choice entirely). Toggle these on or off, then tap Next.

Set up Android Google services

Adjust the data and time zone if necessary (if you've bought your phone outside the UK then it may be set to a different time zone by default). This is worth doing not only so you know what is the correct time, but because it can cause conflict with your wireless router. If you aren't prompted to adjust the time then you can access these options from the device's Settings menu.

Set up Android Date & Time

If your device has a fingerprint scanner you will be prompted to set it up now. You can skip this and add one later, or click add fingerprint. Before setting a fingerprint you will be required to enter a pattern, PIN or password that can be used to override the biometric login. We chose a PIN.

Set up Android screen lock

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.

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.

Set up Android Fingerprint

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 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.

Set up Android Google Assistant

If your phone has the Google Assistant built-in you'll be introduced and asked to help it recognise your voice - just follow the prompts.

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

Follow Marie Black on Twitter