Did you get a new iPad, iPad mini, iPhone or iPod touch for Christmas? We take you through everything you'll need to know to get started.

Unboxing and first steps

You’ve just got back from the Apple Store, or you’ve torn open your flagship Christmas present, and there’s a thrillingly unblemished iPad, iPad mini, iPhone or iPod touch sitting in its box in front of you. 

What are you waiting for? Open the box and get stuck in. You’ll find a power/syncing cable and detachable plug, and your first job is to plug your device into the mains and give the battery a charge.

If you’ve bought an iPhone or a cellular-equipped iPad, you’ll need a SIM card and data plan to get mobile internet access. (Check your provider is sending you the right type of SIM: the iPhone 5 uses a super-slim nano-SIM, while earlier models use a micro-SIM, and the iPad can’t use the same SIM as the iPhone. State the device you’re using when you sign up for a data plan and you should be fine.) Use the metal spike provided to poke the hole next to the SIM slot, remove the tray when it pops out, and insert your SIM card. Put the tray back into the device.

Switch on your device (press the Home button below the screen, or the sleep/wake button top right) and follow the instructions. You’ll need to pick a language and location, enter an Apple ID if you’ve got one (if not, we discuss how to set one up later), decide whether you want location services (this is useful for mapping apps and such like, but will run down your battery more quickly) and log on to a local Wi-Fi network if you wish. Just select your network and type in the password, and it will remember this in future. Choose to set up as a new iPhone, assuming this is your first Apple device.

We’d suggest ticking yes for Siri, Find My iPhone and iCloud backup, but these decisions can all be changed later on.

Know your symbols

Signal Strength On an iPhone or cellular-equipped iPad, these bars indicate the current 3G and 4G/LTE strength as well as the mobile reception. From one bar to five

Wi-Fi Strength You’ll see this symbol if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. The stronger the signal, the more bars you’ll see

Bluetooth Turn on Bluetooth, and you’ll see this icon. By default the symbol is grey, but it’ll turn blue if you connect to a Bluetooth device

VPN his icon appears when you connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Use a VPN to securely access your corporate network

Airplane Mode Turn on Airplane Mode in the Settings menu to switch off all phone, internet and Bluetooth connections. You will still be able to access your email and the web over Wi-Fi and use other features

Processing Icon When your iPhone or iPad is trying to make a network connection, it says “Searching…” in the upper-left corner. This circle appears if it is looking for items to sync to iCloud over your network, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth

Call Forwarding This icon appears next to the network type or Wi-Fi signal-strength icon whenever an iPhone’s call forwarding is active. Switch on call forwarding in the iPhone’s Settings, Phone menu

Battery Status The battery status icon in the upper-right corner of the screen shows how much charge your device’s battery has left. When the battery is charging, you’ll see a small lightning bolt

Orientation Lock You can lock your display in portrait mode. On an iPhone, double-click the Home button and scroll to the left in the multitasking bar. iPads have a dedicated switch above the volume controls

TTY If you have turned on your TTY (teletype machine) setting, this symbol will appear on the upper-right side of your screen, to the left of the battery symbol. 

Play Button If you’re playing an audio track in iTunes, this triangle will appear to the left of the battery icon

Alarm Clock When you’ve set an alarm in the Clock app, this clock appears to the right of the time at the top of your device’s screen

Lock When your Apple device is locked, the padlock icon appears at the top of the screen – where the time is usually displayed 

Location Services When an app such as Apple Maps is using Location Services, this purple pointer will appear to the left of the battery icon. Location Services can reduce battery life, so use them sparingly. But they can be among the most helpful of the iPhone’s functions

Get to know the Home screen

When you first turn on your device, you’ll be taken to the Home screen. Here, you’ll see an assortment of icons grouped into rows. The Home screen is where your apps live.

The Dock: The grey translucent bar along the bottom is called the Dock. If you swipe left and right, you’ll notice the icons in the Dock don’t change from one page to the next. The Dock is for the most frequently used apps: up to six on iPad, and four on iPhone.

Spotlight: From the first (or left-most) page of your Home screen, swipe right one more time to reach Spotlight. (Or press your Home button again.) To search, just type your query in the text box at the top.

Open and close an app: To open an app, all you have to do is tap its icon. Once it’s open, you can return to the Home screen at any time by pressing the Home button.

Rearrange and delete apps: To rearrange your icons, tap and hold any icon on the Home screen. After a few seconds, all your app icons, including the one you’re holding, will start to wiggle, and a small black X will appear in each icon’s top-left corner. Once they do this, you can rearrange the order of apps on the Home screen, drag one on to another to form a folder, or even drag apps into or out of the Dock. If you’ve installed an app you don’t want any more, tap the X to delete it (you can’t delete the apps that came pre-installed on your device). When you’re finished, press the Home button, and your icons will stop wiggling.

The multitasking bar: Quickly double-press the Home button to bring up the multitasking bar below the Dock. This shows the apps run most recently. To switch to a different app, tap its icon.

Multitasking shortcuts: You can swipe right on the multitasking bar to access useful further controls: lock the rotation, adjust brightness, control music, adjust volume and access the Music app.