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Just Got a New Smartphone? Here’s What to Do First!

Did Santa bring you a shiny new smartphone? Congratulations! My first smartphone purchase was some five years ago and since then, I’ve learned a few tricks that are worth sharing. In fact, I asked my wife what’s the first thing she’d do with a new smartphone and she answered, “I’d give it to you so you can set it up.” I can’t do that for everyone, at least not directly, so here’s a first-day checklist for new smartphone owners.

  • Get connected to your home Wi-Fi network. Most folks have a wireless network in the home and even though a smartphone has cellular connection to the Internet, your data plan may be limited. That means you run the risk of paying overage fees if you exceed the amount of data allowed by your carrier. Even if you have an unlimited plan, it’s likely that your home network is faster than the phone’s cellular network, so connecting to your home Wi-Fi network can improve the smartphone experience.
  • Buy a second battery. Even the best smartphones can run through a battery in under a day, especially the more you rely on your device for the web, apps and phone calls. No matter what mobile device I buy, but especially with smartphones, I purchase a second battery if possible. I always keep the spare charged and I try to rotate the batteries on a daily basis as well, so they wear down evenly over time. It never hurts to get a car charger for your smartphone, either.
  • Manage up your email. While text messaging is one of the most used and popular applications of a phone, staying on top of your email on the go is a huge benefit as well. Regardless of whether you use Gmail (s goog), Hotmail, (s msft) Yahoo Mail (s yhoo) or some other email provider, it’s a safe bet that your smartphone will support it. Of course, some of us don’t want to be buried in mail or checking our Inbox every five minutes. In that case, check to see if your phone has a setting to schedule email synchronization for certain times: this way, you can limit the time frame that your smartphone will check for mail. Or better yet, set the phone to only check for email when you manually tell it to in your email application.
  • Install Google Voice. Although your new smartphone has a phone number provided by the carrier, consider getting a second number for free, courtesy of Google. The company will give you a phone number that’s local to you but Google Voice is so much more than a number. For Android handsets, BlackBerrys (s rimm) and iPhones (s aapl), there’s a Google Voice app that lets you make free calls, reducing the need to use those carrier minutes. Google Voice also works as a smart voicemail system: callers leave a message which gets recorded but also transcribed. Those messages can be sent to your smartphone as texts or emails. Plus you can schedule times when you want your calls to automatically go to voicemail. There’s more to the service and if you’re unsure of its value, my earlier summary of why you might want Google Voice could help you decide.
  • Get some apps! One of the biggest benefits you’ll likely find with a new smartphone is how easy it is to find and install useful apps. To get you started, I have a recommended list of eight free apps that run on most smartphones, ranging from simple news and weather titles to advanced apps that can shoot your location to friends and family, or apps that can control your home DVR. Watch out though: after you get a few basic apps on your phone, it’s easy to keep adding more, which put make a serious dent in your wallet!

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

Think about a custom case or screen protector

5 Responses to “Just Got a New Smartphone? Here’s What to Do First!”

  1. Kevin, thanks for some of your tips on smart phones but who buys extra batteries anymore…? More stuff to buy/carry in your pocket/briefcase, who wants the hassle…? Most modern phones can make it all day on one charge. I’ve been using the same phone and battery for three years…! Texting is best left for kids and non business related items. Normal business users should be using email for concise details and not some random abbreviated message.

    I’m liking some of the articles on Gigaom website but the writers and articles are lacking somewhat.

    • Hmm…. one of the most common complaints and/or questions about every smartphone we review is: how’s the battery life? can I make it through a full day? Obviously, the answer depends on the device and also on how much and what activities you use it for. For heavy users, smartphones often *don’t* last a full day.

      Bear in mind that this article was for new smartphone owners, so if you’ve been using the same smartphone for 3 years (yikes!), it’s probably not for you. ;)

  2. This article perpetuates a common misperception that google voice is voip. It is not. It uses your ATT line for all calls and cannot be used to reduce cell minutes. It can only save you on calls to other countries. Also it cannot be used overseas to call home without roaming charges. The only app that has google voice type features combined with voip is Line2, although it doesn’t have voicemail transcription.