Setting up your first Android device: An absolute beginner's guide
Thomas Rutter

Just bought your first Android phone or tablet and haven't got around to setting it up yet? This guide is for you.

Assembling the device

There is a wide range of different types of Android devices, each differing slightly in the way you need to set them up.


Many devices these days have an integrated battery that cannot be replaced and doesn't need to be installed.

If your device has a replaceable battery, chances are you'll need to open up your device to put the battery inside. Usually, this will require prying off the back cover of your device with a fingernail, starting from a slot or tab allowing you to get started. Proceed slowly and carefully, and follow the manufacturer's instructions if they came in the packaging. Often the back cover will be held on by a number of small, delicate plastic tabs.


Most batteries should already have a small, low charge when they are first purchased but this small charge won't last very long. It's best for you to start charging this battery as soon as you can. Some devices may not allow you to turn them on for the first time until you have charged the battery more fully.

SIM card

To make phone calls and use cellular data you need a SIM card from a phone provider. Some tablets that are "Wifi only" tablets will not accept a SIM card.

The procedure for installing the SIM card into the device will vary by manufacturer. Follow the manufacturer's instructions if they came in the packaging. If you bought the phone from a physical store, they may have already installed the SIM card for you.

There are multiple sizes of SIM card including "Micro-SIM" and "Nano-SIM", with the latter now more common on new devices. You need to use the correct size for your device. Your phone provider will be able to swap your SIM size for you if you need to. Some SIMs can be trimmed to the smaller size with a device that cuts the excess from around the edges, but not all SIMs will be compatible with converting them in this way.

Charging the battery

The battery is charged with the supplied charger and cord. When charging the battery it is better to use the supplied charger or a dedicated charger, than to plug the cord into a USB port on a computer. The USB port on a computer is unable to provide very much charging current, causing the battery to charge very slowly or not at all. The mains plug (wall wart) charger supplied with the device will allow the fastest charge.

A common myth is that the battery should always be fully discharged before re-charging. This is actually bad for the battery - it should be charged when-ever it is convenient, and running it down to fully empty should be avoided unless it's done rarely and not left discharged for long.

Turning the device on

Your phone or tablet will have a power button somewhere, most likely on the top or side of the device.

Hold the power button down for a few seconds - up to 5 seconds - and release the button. The device should turn on.

The difference between turning the device off and sleep mode

Sleep mode is when the device's power remains on, but its screen is off and it uses low power. During sleep mode, the device is still able to receive phone calls and messages, and some apps may be able to perform background tasks such as checking email or playing music.

Modern smartphones are designed to be "always on" and just to use sleep mode when not in use. In sleep mode, your device should have a relatively long battery life of over 24 hours and possibly multiple days, though the battery will last a lost less time than this if you bring it out of sleep mode a lot.

Putting your device to sleep

If the device's screen is on, touching the power button on the device briefly should put it to sleep.

Your device will also go into sleep mode if it's not used within a certain time. The time can vary been a few seconds, and multiple minutes, and can be adjusted in the settings.

Waking your device up from sleep

If the device's screen is off, touching the power button on the device briefly should wake it up.

After waking up, you may be required to perform an unlock procedure. The most common type of unlock procedure is simply a swipe-to-unlock action.

To perform a swipe-to-unlock action, locate the button or icon on the screen to unlock the device. Touch your finger onto this icon or button, and without removing your finger from the screen, swipe your finger across the screen to the side. Then release your finger.