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Activate your iPhone 5

If you purchased your iPhone in the Apple Store, you may have already activated it with a Specialist by your side. But if you’ve received your new gadget in the mail, or you opted not to activate immediately, here’s a guide on how to do so.

Set Me Up: To begin the activation process, move the slider to the right.

Unbox your iPhone and turn it on by pressing the On/Off switch. A welcome screen greets you, displaying a Slide To Set Up slider that rotates between different languages. (If you need quick access to your device’s IMEI or ICCID number without setting up the phone, you can tap the information button [represented by a lowercase i] located directly above the slider.)

Once you begin the activation process, you’re asked to pick your language and country, and whether you’d like to enable Location Services. This allows Apple apps (and third-party apps) to access your location via Wi-Fi networks and your GPS (Global Positioning System) location. Your iPhone then checks for any Wi-Fi networks in the area that your phone can connect to; if there aren’t any, or if you’d rather use your cellular service, just tap the Next button.

If you’re activating carrier service—which, unless you managed to pick up an unlocked phone, you most likely are—you’ll see a message asking you to confirm the phone number you’re activating this iPhone 5 with. In addition, you’ll need to supply your billing zip code and the last four digits of your social security number. Apple’s servers will then communicate with AT&T to activate your device.

From here, you can set up your device as a brand-new phone or, if you’re upgrading from an old iPhone, you can restore your data from an iCloud or iTunes backup.

Restore from an iCloud backup

Choose Your Own: You can set up your new iPhone as a blank slate or restore it from a backup.

If you have an iCloud account and have backed up a previous iPhone or iPod touch incarnation using iCloud’s Backup feature, you can use this backup to restore your data to your new iPhone (though you’ll need to be on a Wi-Fi network to do so). To restore your data, sign in to your iCloud account; agree to Apple’s terms and conditions; and then choose which backup file you’d like to use, and tap the blue Restore button in the top right corner of the screen. (Depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi connection, this process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.)

Restore from an iTunes backup

If you tap Restore From iTunes Backup, you’re brought to the Connect To iTunes screen. Connect your iPhone to your computer and open iTunes; after clicking your device in the source list, you’ll see the Set Up Your iPhone screen, which asks if you’d like to set it up as a new iPhone or restore from a specific backup. Choose the correct backup, and click the Continue button to proceed. This process is significantly faster than restoring from iCloud, because you’re transferring data over USB, not over Wi-Fi.

Add an Apple ID

If you choose to set up your iPhone as a new device—or after you choose an iCloud backup to restore from—the first thing you have to do is supply an Apple ID, or create one if you don’t have one. If you’ve ever purchased something from the iTunes Store, you’ve signed up for an Apple ID (it’s usually your primary email address). Your login information for Apple’s iCloud service should also work for signing in.

Email Identification: Your Apple ID is an email address: one you already use or a new email you create on the spot.

Use your current Apple ID: Already have an Apple ID? Tap the Sign In With An Apple ID button and enter your username (usually your email address) and password. Apple then spends a few moments linking your device to your Apple ID.

Sign up for a new Apple ID: If you don’t have an Apple ID, it’s easy enough to create one by tapping the Create A Free Apple ID button. You need to enter your birthday, name, email address (or create a new iCloud email address), a password, a security question (in case you forget your password), and whether you’d like to receive email updates from Apple. Once you’ve entered all your information, you’re asked to read and agree to the terms and conditions, and Apple then registers your Apple ID.

No Apple ID for me: If you’d rather not set up an Apple ID, you can tap the Skip This Step link in the lower right corner. You can always add or create one from the Settings app later, but note that you won’t be able to buy anything from the iTunes Store or set up iCloud until you do.

Once you’ve set up an Apple ID, you can also set up iCloud on your device. iCloud is an umbrella term for Apple’s collection of syncing services, and it allows you to sync your photos, apps, contacts, calendars, reminders, notes, and mail across multiple devices.

Send to the Cloud: Enable iCloud to sync your device.

Choose to set up iCloud, and you’re first asked whether you’d like to enable iCloud backups for your iPhone. If you do so, you can have your device back up all essential settings to your iCloud account; if you ever need to restore, you can do so over Wi-Fi without an additional computer. You can also elect to use iTunes to back up your iPhone to your computer.

Additionally, you’re asked whether you’d like to opt in to iCloud’s Find My iPhone service. This enables location monitoring for your device, allowing you to find it using your Apple ID and the Find My iPhone app, should it go missing.

Finishing Touches

One of the iPhone’s nice features is Apple’s personal voice assistant, Siri. If you want to take advantage of Siri, you can enable it here. Then, once you finish the setup process, you’re asked if you’d like to send Apple anonymous diagnostics and usage information (similar to a desktop crash report). After you answer that question, your iPhone will be all set and ready for you to begin using.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Slim, light case
    • Taller, roomier display
    • Improved performance
    • Higher-resolution front-facing camera


    • Lightning connector incompatible with older peripherals
    • Features limited by some carriers
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