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Get started with the iPhone 5c and 5s

Congratulations, you’ve snagged yourself a brand-new iPhone 5c or 5s. But before you get to playing with your new device, you’ll probably want to get to know it and set it up. Thanks to iOS 7’s step-by-step activation process, Apple’s made it pretty simple to get started; but just in case you need some extra help, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for activating your new iPhone, transferring data from your old phone, and some suggestions for exploring its new features.

Transfer your data

You’ve moved to the latest and greatest in the iOS world, and to do so, you’re leaving your old device behind. But before you send it off with a fond farewell, you have to decide whether you want to transfer its data to your iPhone 5c or 5s. Here are the various ways to do so, depending on whether you’re moving from an old iPhone, a different smartphone, or a feature phone.

Upgrade from an older iPhone

If you’re upgrading from an older iPhone, you can transfer all its apps, data, and settings to your iPhone 5c or 5s. (To add your music and video, you'll still have to sync your new phone with iTunes.) But to do so, you’ll need to make a backup (via iTunes or, if you’re running iOS 5 or later, via iCloud) of your information. You can then restore that backup onto your new phone during the setup process.

Click Back Up Now to make a backup of your old iPhone to iCloud or to your computer.

Make a backup using iTunes: If your old device is running iOS 4 or earlier, an iTunes backup is the way to go. To update your backup (or to create a new one) connect your old device to the computer you normally sync it with via USB, open iTunes, select the device from the Devices menu, and in the Summary field, click Back Up Now.

Make a backup using iCloud: If you’re running iOS 5 or later on your old device and you have an iCloud account, you can alternatively take advantage of iCloud Backups to save your data. Your device will automatically make an iCloud backup once a day while locked, plugged in, and connected to a Wi-Fi network, but you can manually force a backup whenever you’re on Wi-Fi by opening the Settings app on your device. Navigate to iCloud > Storage & Backup, and make sure the iCloud Backup switch is toggled on. From there, you just have to tap on Back Up Now to start the process. (You should note that iCloud backups can sometimes take significantly longer than iTunes backups, so it may not be the best option if you’re in a hurry to set up your new phone.)

Upgrade from another smartphone

Moving from an Android, BlackBerry, or Windows smartphone to the iPhone 5c or 5s? Depending on how you’ve set your information up, it should be relatively painless to transfer it to your new device.

Mail, contacts, and calendars: If you’re using a Gmail account or other POP or IMAP-based account for mail on your smartphone, it’s already syncing to a central server, and you should be able to add that account to your new iPhone with few issues. Apple’s iOS has automatic setup for those using Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, Aol, or Hotmail; you’ll also be able to manually set up a POP or IMAP account for mail, LDAP or CardDAV for contacts, or CalDAV for calendars. You can alternatively use Apple’s free iCloud service to set up a new email account.

Music, videos, and photos: Your new iPhone uses iTunes to sync any local music, TV, movies, and photos from your computer to the device. If you’ve been syncing that information with your smartphone, it’s easy enough sync that data with your Apple device—you just have to know where the content is located on your smartphone and get it over to your computer. Once you’ve done that, add it to iTunes; to sync your photos, add them to iPhoto or Aperture (on a Mac) or place them in your Pictures folder (on a PC).

If you’ve purchased content through your smartphone that hasn’t been copied to your computer (say, if you’re using Amazon Cloud Drive), you should be able to download it to your desktop system, or, at the very least, install an app on the iPhone (like the Kindle app for book purchases) that lets you access the information.

Apps and miscellany: Unfortunately, you can’t port any Windows or Android apps from your old device to your iPhone. On the upside, you may be able to find parallel versions of those apps on Apple’s App Store (for instance, if you’re using Dropbox on your smartphone, you can download the company’s iOS app and continue to access your Dropbox data). If you have apps with valuable information you don’t want to lose (notes apps, to-do lists, etc), you can poke around to see if there’s any way of exporting that information; otherwise, you’ll be out of luck.

SMS and MMS logs, while not transferrable, are in theory rescuable, depending on what kind of smartphone you own, but it requires a lot of legwork on your end. You won’t be able to add them to your new iPhone, however; you’ll simply be saving them to your computer. There are a variety of different programs available for exporting messages from your smartphones—SMS Backup & Restore for Android appears to be one popular option. As I haven’t used it, I can’t personally recommend it, but you can always search Google to bring up more options.

If you’re upgrading from a feature phone

Yes, it’s finally time to toss that Razr aside for something a little more full-featured. But what about your contacts and your photos? If you’re on a phone with a nano-SIM card, it’s easy enough to rescue the first; for the second, you’ll need Bluetooth support or a connection cable for your device.

You can transfer your contacts one of two ways. If your old device uses a nano-SIM card, you can copy all your contacts to its SIM; once you’ve set up your iPhone 5, you can copy those contacts by swapping out your iPhone’s card with your old nano-SIM and heading to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Import SIM Contacts. Once the import has completed, eject your old SIM and put the one that came with the iPhone 5c or 5s back in its tray. (If you’re worried about doing this yourself, you can always head down to your nearest Apple Store—any employee should be able to do it for you.)

If your phone has a SIM card that doesn’t fit in your new iPhone, but it comes with a USB cable for connecting it to your computer, you may be able to transfer your contacts (and your photos) by exporting them through software. (This, obviously, depends on your phone; check its manual or do a Google search for specific transfer information.)

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