How to activate a new iPhone

How to activate a new iPhone

New iPhone at startup

What a new iPhone looks like when it’s first turned on.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The first time I bought and activated a new phone at home was about ten years ago, and I was amazed at how painless the process was when I did it myself instead of going to a store. Since then I’ve only gotten calls like this and I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

Before the do-it-yourself era, setting up and activating a new phone was reserved for the employees of the telephone operator.

Buying a new phone was akin to buying a new car: You’d save up for it, research for weeks (or months), then go to an authorized dealer and spend most of the afternoon in between talking to a salesperson and signing of deals, to come out with a shiny new thing – albeit a little worse.

Also: Which iPhone is right for you?

Today, the process is as simple as buying it online from a retailer and following a few instructions to set it up. We’ll walk you through the steps to set up a new iPhone and how to troubleshoot any obstacles along the way.

How to activate a new iPhone

Okay, get excited. Here’s the best part: Unwrap your new iPhone and discover all the goodies hidden inside with that shiny new phone. Okay, it’s just a charging cable.

Also: How to tell if your Lightning charging cable is fake

Then turn on your new iPhone by pressing and holding the power button on the right side of the device. The screen will show the word “Hello” in different languages. Simply swipe up on the screen to open the setup wizard.

Hand-held phone with Apple logo

The Apple logo appears at startup.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

If you already had an iPhone to replace, Apple gives you the option to set up the new one automatically by holding the old device close to the new one.

Possibility of quick start or manual setup

Quick start or manual setup.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Select your Wi-Fi network if you are within range of one. If your iPhone has a SIM card, this is when it should connect to the cellular network. The new iPhone 14 series only uses eSIM, and depending on the carrier, your phone may ask you to activate eSIM.

Also: eSIM vs SIM: What’s the difference?

After this, follow the instructions to continue activating your new iPhone.

My phone carrier is Mint Mobile, which supports eSIM. However, I had to skip the cellular network connection and activate the eSIM via the Mint Mobile app. When I did this, the app said that this service was not available. If you have Mint Mobile, you may need to contact customer service to have them email you for eSIM activation.

You can also learn how to transfer your number to one of the new eSIM-only iPhones.

The Data and Privacy section of the iPhone setup

After you’ve joined a Wi-Fi network, tap through the data and privacy information.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Face ID uses facial recognition to unlock your iPhone, use Apple Pay, sign in to apps, and make other purchases and downloads without having to enter your passcode or, in the case of signing in to apps, your passcode.

Setting up Face ID involves letting your iPhone use the TrueDepth camera mechanism on the notch or Dynamic Island on your iPhone to learn your facial features.

At this point, you can also set up a passcode to unlock your iPhone.

The Face ID part of the iPhone setup

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Your brand new iPhone is a clean slate, so you have the option to use a backup, another phone, or skip it altogether. Here are the options for transferring apps and data:

  • Restore from iCloud Backup: An iCloud backup can easily transfer most information, apps and media.
  • Restore from Mac or PC: People usually use a computer backup for an iPhone’s media.
  • Transfer directly from iPhone: This option allows you to use your old iPhone to transfer data and apps to the new one, simply by allowing the action on the older phone and keeping them both close to each other.
  • Move data from Android: If you are one of the many people switching from Android phone to iPhone, choose this option and follow the steps to move your data from Android to the new phone.
  • Do not transfer apps and data: This option allows you to start from scratch, without transferring any of your previous data to your new iPhone.

Also: How to back up iPhone with iCloud or Mac

Transfer data in iPhone setup

Choose one of the ways to get started with previously backed up data.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

An Apple ID is the way to log in to everything to do with Apple. If you’re new to iPhone, tap “Forgot password or don’t have an Apple ID” to create an Apple ID. Everything you do on your iPhone, iPad, iCloud and all Apple products will be linked to your Apple ID.

After signing in with your Apple ID, you can continue to follow the instructions to allow automatic updates, set up iMessage, FaceTime, and location services.

Setting up Siri can help the smart voice assistant learn how your voice says different phrases, so the new iPhone will ask you to read some phrases to Siri, like “How’s the weather today?” and others.

Also: How to change the voice of Siri

Download Complete Popup for iPhone

Maria Diaz/ZDNET


Do I need to call my carrier to activate a new iPhone?

You usually don’t need to call your phone carrier to help you activate your new iPhone, but it will depend on the carrier. When you buy a new iPhone from your phone company, such as Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile, it’s easily connected to the cellular network during setup. If you buy it directly from Apple, you have the option to choose a phone carrier from a list of a few companies or choose to set it up later.

How do I activate an eSIM?

An eSIM can usually be activated during setup, but if you’re having trouble connecting to your cellular network when you first set up your new iPhone, you can skip this step and complete it later.

As I mentioned above, I use Mint Mobile, so when I got mine iPhone 14 Pro Max from Apple, I chose to set up a phone carrier later, since Mint was not one of the options. When I received my iPhone and set it up, I couldn’t enable the eSIM at setup, so I skipped that step, and once the iPhone was up and running, I followed these steps:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Cellular
  3. Press Set up mobile network

I had to chat with Mint customer care because eSIM activation was disabled on the Mint Mobile app, but they sent me an activation email within 24 hours.

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