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A guide to setting up your new iPhone

Congratulations on your new iPhone. There's never been a better time to get one – especially with the advent of iOS 7, the phone can do more than ever before. Even if you've had an earlier model, there's a lot that's new with the OS this time around. Whether you've got an iPhone 4S, iPhone 5C, or iPhone 5S, here's everything you need to know to get started with the handset.

Get a case

First off, you should get yourself a case. Yes, that’s rather boring advice, we know, but replacing an iPhone out of contract isn’t cheap. The very first thing you should do is protect that delicate metal and glass slab – especially the iPhone 5S, which in addition to a glass touchscreen, also has a glass back panel. With hundreds to choose among, from unobtrusive bumper guards and clear plastic cases, to stylish, colourful designs and wilderness-minded rugged encasing, there's bound to be a carrying case out there that fits your needs and expresses your personality.

Dive into iCloud

After charging your handset, just power it up and follow the on-screen instructions. You'll need to make some choices, including the default language, whether you want to activate Location Services (for GPS-enabled apps), and which Wi-Fi network to connect to. Along the way, activate iCloud and choose the data you want to backup (such as contacts, browser bookmarks, or notes). Apple gives you 5GB of storage for free, and you can always buy more if you need it.

Turn on Find My iPhone

Next, you'll want to enable the free Find My iPhone feature. You can enable it during the initial setup (it will prompt you), or at any time after by heading to Settings > iCloud and scrolling down to Find My iPhone; then tap Allow. Later, if something happens to your phone, or if you just want to test it, install the free Find My iPhone app on another Apple device. That installation will then let you find your phone, see its location on a map, and remotely wipe its contents if necessary – always a good idea, if only to protect your email accounts and address book info. (You might also want to check out our article: What you should do if your Apple iPhone gets stolen).

Sync up

Be sure to sync your movies, music, and photos over iCloud or iTunes Match. Syncing media still works over USB and Wi-Fi, but iCloud makes syncing playlists much easier between your computer and iPhone. Note that your iPhone can sync from your media collection automatically, choosing a random selection of what it thinks you'll like. But unless you don't have much music, or somehow discovered a magic 2TB iPhone that holds everything in the universe (and please, tell us if you did), you'll want to fiddle with the settings. Choose the playlists, photo albums, and videos you want to sync by going into iTunes, clicking your iPhone under "Devices" on the left, and then clicking Music along the top row of choices. Check the box next to Music, but then also check Selected playlists, albums, and genres; this way you can choose from your collection below. Do the same for movies, TV shows, and anything else you want to sync. One other option is iTunes Match, which (for £22 per year) lets you store all of your music in the cloud by matching it to the same tracks on Apple's servers; that makes the syncing process even simpler.

Get some apps – especially free ones

The App Store contains over one million apps now, and many of the best ones are free. We've covered this extensively, so let us steer you in the right direction. If you want freebies, then check out our article on the Top 25 must-have free iPhone apps. For an expansive overview of great free and also paid-for apps, check out our series of articles on the best iPhone apps which covers news apps, along with the best reference apps, productivity apps, utilities, communication apps, iPhone games, and hobby apps. After that, the sky is the limit with Apple's App Store; Apple makes plenty of helpful suggestions to get you to buy more apps (of course), and you can track which ones are actually popular now using the various Top Paid and Top Free lists (overall and by category).

Shop for media the right way

Apple wants you to buy music, videos, and digital books a la carte from the iTunes Store – and in some cases, that's the best way to go. But there are alternatives that can save you money. For example, Amazon MP3 sells unprotected music tracks often at a substantial discount over iTunes; pay particular attention to daily deals and album sales. If you already have some Kindle books, you may want to continue buying from Amazon instead of iBooks just for the larger selection, although there's not as much in the way of money savings there. Finally, take a close look at streaming options; you may find all the new music you want with the likes of Spotify Premium, and especially for video, streaming with the likes of Netflix saves money.

Keep an eye on battery life

After a few days, you should have a clearer picture of how long the iPhone lasts on a full charge, depending on what you do and how it's set up. You should see several days of standby battery life. If it's draining before the day is out, even without much use, there's a lot you can do to fix that. Try disabling notifications and location services wherever possible, and reduce the frequency of checking for email, Facebook, and Twitter updates, for starters. Reception also plays a role; if you're in an area with spotty cellular coverage (even inside some large office buildings), your iPhone will strain to pick up signal, which hits the battery much harder. Check out our 7 handy tips to conserve iPhone battery life article for more details.

Got a favourite iPhone tip for new owners? Let us know what it is in the comments below.