Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a new iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, or iPhone 13 Pro Max. Or maybe you’ve got a new iPhone 12 or SE. You probably want to dive right into the phone the moment you get the box in your hands, but try to contain your excitement and do a little prep first.
We have a little setup advice you’re going to want to heed. Sure, it seems like an unnecessary drag, but this stuff is going to really save you a lot of time and frustration later. And while you wait for backups and updates, check out our guide to iOS 15 to get up to speed with the latest iPhone operating system. Or maybe learn how to personalize your iPhone’s home screen.
Back up your old iPhone
That’s right, you’re going to want to back up your old iPhone after you have your new iPhone 13 in hand, so the backup is as up-to-date as it can possibly be. You can back up via iCloud, in iTunes (on a Windows PC or older Mac), or in the Finder (on macOS Catalina or later).
For a Mac backup (macOS Catalina or later): Connect your old iPhone to your Mac, open a new Finder window, and select your iPhone in the left column in the Locations section. In the Backups section, choose, Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac. Checking Encrypt local backup is a good idea, so your account passwords and health data get backed up too—just choose a password you won’t forget. Click the button to Back up now.
If you need to restore your iPhone or want to restore this backup to your new iPhone 13, just connect it as above and tell your Mac you want to restore from the backup you just made. Later, you can switch back to iCloud backups if you prefer, in Settings > iCloud > Backup. But it never hurts to run a backup on your own Mac every now and then.
For a Mac backup (macOS Mojave or older): The backup process is similar to that described above for Catalina, but instead, you use the iTunes app. After you back up your old iPhone, connect your new one if you want to restore it from there. iTunes will take you through the steps for setup.
For an iCloud backup: No need to connect your old iPhone to your Mac. Just launch Settings and tap on your Apple ID profile listing at the top, then go to iCloud > iCloud Backup and select Back up now.
When setting up your new iPhone 13, you can restore your iPhone from this backup once you’ve logged into your new device with your Apple ID.
If you happen to be coming from an Android phone (hey, welcome to the garden!), there’s an Android Move to iOS app that can assist you with getting all of your Google account data in Mail, Calendars, and Contacts, moving your camera roll over, even transferring your Chrome bookmarks to Safari.
Update your old iPhone, then use Quick Start
While it’s always a good idea to back up your iPhone before a transfer, the absolute best way to move to a new iPhone is with the Quick Start feature. It’s practically magic. You just hold your new phone next to your old phone, and a little card pops up asking if you want to transfer all your stuff to the new device. You’ll then point your old phone’s camera at your new phone (which displays a cloud of little dots) and enter your old phone’s 6-digit passcode.
You’ll go through the rest of the setup process, like enabling Face ID, and then your phone will be ready to go, set up just like your old iPhone. It’ll even prompt you to update your old iPhone’s backup if it hasn’t been backed up in a while.
Setting up your phone this way transfers over most of your settings, the arrangement of your home screen, and more. It’s a huge time saver. If you’re coming from a really old iPhone, you’ll have to update iOS first, as it requires iOS 11 or newer. You might as well update your old iPhone before you get your new one—you won’t want to wait for a long update process once you have your iPhone 13 in hand.
After you finish setting up your phone this way, you’ll want to give it a little while to re-download all your apps. Initially, your phone will show placeholders for your apps, all arranged and stuffed into folders exactly as on your old iPhone. But your new phone has to actually re-download apps, because every time you download an app from the App Store, your phone actually grabs a unique version specifically optimized for that iPhone model. But your user data and settings get transferred over, and that’s the important part.
This is by far the fastest, easiest, and most complete way to transfer everything from an old iPhone to a new one. The feature has come a long way in the last few years. But we still recommend doing a full manual backup as described above, just in case something goes wrong.
There’s a reason your new iPhone 13 has that shiny glass back, and that’s not because it’s a throwback to the iPhone 4. No, that glass back enables wireless charging support. To use this feature, you’ll need a compatible wireless charging pad that utilizes the Qi standard (we’ve tested a bunch, and here are some of our favorites). If you have one of those laying around, all you have to do is set your iPhone onto the pad and watch it start to power up. Say goodbye to the jumble of Lightning cables on your bedside table!
With iPhone 12, Apple has introduced a new feature called MagSafe and it’s on the iPhone 13 too. It’s a new magnetically-attached charging puck (available separately for $29) that is similar to other Qi wireless chargers, only with secure magnetic alignment. The precise alignment and new internal circuitry allow Apple to ramp up the charging speed all the way to 15 watts—twice as fast as it can go with regular Qi chargers and nearly as fast as a Lightning cable.
Of course, you can charge your iPhone 13 via Lightning if you want to. In fact, this is still the fastest way to charge your phone, provided you use the right power adapter and cable. The iPhone 13 supports fast charging using the USB-C Power Delivery (USB-PD) standard. Anything over 15 watts will charge your iPhone quite rapidly. Your iPhone 13 didn’t come with a power adapter, but you can plug the included USB-C to Lightning cable into any certified USB-C power adapter to charge up. And if you have an old USB-A power adapter and Lightning cable, that will work fine, too.
Set up Face ID and Apple Pay
Once your phone arrives, you should use Face ID for maximum security—it’s the quickest way to unlock your iPhone 13, and will make it less painful to use a complicated passcode since you don’t have to type it in every time. Setting up Face ID is much faster than Touch ID, too—the setup screen will prompt you and ask you to slowly look around in a circle a couple of times. It’s a lot quicker than tapping the home button a few dozen times to register a fingerprint.
Worried about your privacy with Face ID? Don’t be. No photos of your face nor any other biometric data ever leave your phone—Apple doesn’t get any of that. And it isn’t accessible by other apps, just as other apps weren’t able to access your fingerprints with Touch ID. You can read all about it in our Face ID FAQ.
Since you need to have Face ID enabled in order to use Apple Pay, this would be a good time to jump into Apple’s Wallet app to set that up. If you’re new to Apple Pay, just follow the instructions within Wallet to add a credit card or two. If you already had Apple Pay on your old iPhone, you might notice that your credit cards have disappeared on your new iPhone. As a security measure, some methods of setting up and transferring iPhone data don’t carry over payment methods. The Quick Start wireless transfer should move everything over, though. Regardless, your Wallet history will still be there, but you’ll have to re-enter any payment cards you’d like to use with Apple Pay. (For more on Apple Pay, check out our complete guide.)
Update your apps
Great, now you should be at the home screen on your new iPhone, at last. Hit up the App Store first—you’ll want the latest versions of all of your apps. To check for app updates, launch the App Store app, then tap your account icon in the upper right. You’ll find an updates section beneath all your account info, and you can get the updates here. If you used Quick Setup, most of your apps should be up to date already, so this will be, er, quick.
Don’t forget you can have your apps auto-update by enabling the auto-updates toggle in Settings > App Store > App Updates. Or, you can manually update your apps and just check out the “What’s New” release notes to see what changed.
If you use an Apple Watch (or maybe you just bought a brand new Apple Watch to go with your new phone) you’ll need to pair it to your new iPhone to keep the Activity data flowing to your Health database and keep your new phone’s notifications flowing to your watch.
If your Apple Watch isn’t already running watchOS 8, you’ll want to update it. To upgrade, your Apple Watch needs to be connected to its charger, in range of your iPhone, and at least 50 percent charged. Then look for the Software Update option in the iPhone Watch app. Updating your Apple Watch can be a slow process, so it’s a good idea to get started early.
If you used Quick Setup, it should have transferred your Watch to your new iPhone 13, and your Apple Watch will tap you incessantly to get your permission to re-sync with your new device.
If you need to re-pair your Apple Watch manually, start by unpairing it from your old iPhone, either in the Watch app on your old iPhone (tap your watch, then the “i” icon, then Unpair Apple Watch, then enter your iCloud password when prompted), or on the watch itself (Settings > General > Reset).
Then, launch the Watch app on your new iPhone 13, which will walk you through the pairing process including setting a passcode, unlocking behavior, and Apple Pay.
Learn the new gestures and commands
If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 8 or earlier, you probably noticed your iPhone 13 has no home button. Where the Home button used to be, you now have an extra half-inch or so of glorious OLED display! iPhones haven’t had home buttons nor Touch ID for several years now, but if you’re coming from an iPhone 8 or earlier, or an iPhone SE, you have some new gestures to learn.
Here are a few basic commands you’ll need to re-learn now that your iPhone is “home free.”
Return Home: Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen. Easy!
Jump between apps: Swipe left or right along the bottom edge of the phone to jump back and forth between apps.
App switcher: Swipe up from the bottom edge, but not very far. Just go an inch or so from the bottom and stop. App cards will quickly pop up, and you can lift your finger off and swipe around through them.
Close an app: If you need to kill an app from the app switcher, simply swipe up on it.
Take a screenshot: Simply press the side button and the volume up button at the same time.
Did you know Apple maintains a very detailed (hundreds of pages!) user guide that tells you everything you need to know about your iPhone 12 hardware and the latest version of iOS?
You can access the iPhone User Guide on the web, either browse or search for what you want to know. It’s a good site to bookmark. You may instead want to download the free iBook version in the Books app—when you need help, you may not be in a place where you have easy internet access.
Even if you’ve been using iPhones for years, you’re sure to find some new trick of feature in Apple’s official guide. Browsing around in it is a great way to learn more about what your new iPhone can do.
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I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.