Windows 10 Mobile Tip: Getting Started with a New Phone

Posted on January 12, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows Phones with 0 Comments

Windows 10 Mobile Tip: Getting Started with a New Phone

Windows phone users may be few and far between, but we’re a proud bunch, and for good reason. And with Windows 10 Mobile and a new lineup of Lumia handsets, Microsoft is again making a great case for upgrading. So here are some of the ways in which you can get started with a new Windows 10 Mobile smart phone.

Note: For the most part, I’ll assume that the reader has some experience with Windows phones, and is in fact upgrading from a previous device. But this should be useful even to those who have never used a Windows phone before.

Choose the right phone

Given the cost of a new phone and the trade-offs between saving/spending money and having/not having certain features, this isn’t exactly a great topic for a short blurb. But I can provide a few bits of general advice.

Stick with Lumia. Yes, third-party hardware makers do make Windows phones, but as of today there are non worth bothering with. Stick with Microsoft’s Lumia lineup, which includes new devices like the Lumia 950 and 950 XL flagships, the low-end Lumia 550, and a handful of older but still worthwhile handsets such as the low-end Lumia 640 and 640 XL.

Go premium for better performance and functionality. Obviously, high-end devices like the Lumia 950 and 950 XL will offer better performance (and thus are at least somewhat future proof). But they also have superior cameras, which I think is important, and unique capabilities like Windows Hello sign-ins and Continuum (for connecting your phone to a screen, keyboard, and mouse, and using it like a stripped-down PC).

Consider an unlocked phone. If you can afford the up-front cost, consider getting an unlocked phone directly from Microsoft rather than getting the phone from your carrier. AT&T, for example, sells the Lumia 950 (but not the 950 XL or 550 for some reason), but that version is locked to AT&T. That means you can’t use the phone on other carriers, including internationally (where you will have to use AT&T’s expensive plans), at least not until it’s paid off.

Choose the right carrier. With Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft is working only with select, friendly carriers. In the US, that’s AT&T. (T-Mobile will soon be selling low-end a non-Lumia phone as well.) But the new Lumias will work on any GSM carrier. In the U.S. that’s AT&T and T-Mobile. (That said, some carrier features like Visual Voicemail may not work.)

Install the SIM card and microSD card before setting up the phone

All Windows 10 Mobile-based Lumias (and most Windows phones) provide microSD storage expansion, which is a must for most people. You should install the microSD (and the SIM card from your wireless carrier) before turning on the phone for the first time if possible. If not, you can do so later, but it’s nice to just have this set up from the get-go as you will have to move content (and apps) around otherwise.

Consider getting a case

Microsoft provides only a basic back case with the new Lumias in particular, but you can really ramp up the quality feel of the device (and, yes, the cost) by getting a third-party case. I’ve purchased three cases now from Mozo—one each for the Lumia 640 XL, 950, and 950 XL—and highly recommend them. Some of the cases for newer phones are hard to find, so you may want to order one before you even get the phone.

Perform the initial set up

Windows 10 Mobile’s out of box experience (OOBE) is pretty straightforward, and uses a wizard-like experience to step you through the process of initial setup. A few notes.

Connect to power. Be sure to power your phone during all this. The downloading in particular can be pretty battery intensive. Plus, it’s a new phone: You almost certainly need to charge it.

Connect to Wi-Fi. Be sure to set up your Windows phone near a good Wi-Fi connection. It will go much more quickly (and not eat up your data plan).

Express setup is OK for most people. On the “Get going fast” screen, Microsoft recommends the “Express” option, which enables a number of useful features. If you’re not sure about this, select “Customize” and step through each setting carefully. Having already done this long ago, I choose “Express.”


Microsoft account. If you are upgrading from a previous phone—that is, you want to restore a backup and get back your text messages, apps, settings, and data—you have to sign-in to the phone with your Microsoft account during Setup. Otherwise, you can sign-in later, which makes the initial setup go a bit more quickly. (You can then sign-in to your Microsoft account as needed–for example to download new apps or use Cortana.)


Remove the built-in apps you don’t need

Once you’ve arrived at the Start screen, it’s time to remove some crap. No, Microsoft doesn’t let you remove the apps it bundles with Windows 10 Mobile. But it does let you remove any and all apps that are preinstalled by the wireless carrier. In the case of AT&T, which I use, that’s a host of useless crap, like AT&T Address Book, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Locker, YPmobile, and many others. (The only one I keep? myAT&T.)


Update the built-in apps

Next, launch Store and choose Menu then Downloads and Updates, and then select “Check for updates.” Update any apps that appear in the list.


Note: You do not need to sign-in to a Microsoft account to update the new apps. You will, however, need to do so before you can download any new apps.

Update the OS and firmware

Despite what you may have heard about Windows phone, you will almost certainly have a fairly major Windows 10 Mobile software update waiting for you when you first get your new phone. So navigate to Settings, Update & Security, Phone Update and select Check for Updates.


If you do have an update, figure on an hour or more to make that happen. And then keep checking for new updates until there aren’t any more.

Set up a PIN (and/or Windows Hello) and customize other settings

At some point, you will be prompted to configure a PIN to protect your Windows phone. But if this doesn’t happen automatically, I usually wait until all the downloading/installing/rebooting is over to do it myself. PIN setup is in Settings, Sign-in Options, as are some other options like Windows Hello if your phone has compatible hardware.

While you’re in Settings, spend some time rooting around to customize the phone as you wish. The Personalization area is a good place to start: Here you can configure the Start screen and lock screen, among other things.


Renaming your phone is a good idea, too. Check out Windows 10 Mobile Tip: Name Your Phone.

(If you didn’t already, then) configure the microSD card

When you insert a microSD card in your Windows phone and restart it, you will be prompted to use it for new photos, music, videos, apps, and downloads. (This will happen right after initial Setup if you installed the card before turning on the phone for the first time.)


Do choose Yes here. But you should also navigate to Settings, System, Storage and perform a few housekeeping tasks. First, look at Save Locations and make sure that everything is configured for the SD card (or not, as you desire).


Then, you can also choose to move apps in internal storage to the SD card if you’re running out of space. To do so, choose This Device under Storage and then Apps & Games. Then, select apps one at a time–yep, really—and choose Move. Note that some apps cannot be moved.

Install apps and arrange Start screen

Once all the basics are done, you can head into the Store and start finding and downloading all the apps you need, and then arranging the Start screen with whatever layout and tiles you prefer. (Read Windows 10 Mobile Tip: Customize Start for more info.) By this time, you should pretty much be good to go with your new Windows phone.

But there’s always more to do: Configure Cortana, data usage tracking, Battery Saver, and more. So, more tips soon.


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