“Welcome to the Dark Side”. I’m sure you’ve already pulled your shiny new iPhone out of the box, and if there’s one thing Apple knows how to do, is give you an awesome unboxing experience. I’m sure you’re already proud of what you bought and how long it took you to get it.

Now the reason why I welcome all my friends to the Dark Side with their new Apple products is because we live in a polarized world. If you were to judge an iPhone by what you read in most publications, you’ve got the buggiest most scratch friendly phone in the market. Still, once you lift your face from the computer screen and look around, you’ll notice that more than half of your friends own an iPhone for a reason. Or as Darth Vader wisely said it once: “Luke, it is your destiny”.

Now if this is your second or third iPhone, you’ll feel right at home since well, only the outside has changed really. This article is targeted more to those who have just purchased their first device and are still wondering where to start. On the other hand though, I’m also going through some of the tips and accessories I’ve used to keep my iPhone looking like new, so feel free to join us while we go through some basics.

Setting Up – Yes, get iCloud

I’d waste your time if I intended to walk you through the set-up process of the iPhone. It’s all just straight forward and all you have to do is follow each of the steps. Now during the process you’ll notice that the device will ask you for either your Apple ID or give you the option to create one. If you’ve owned an iPod in the past, you can use the same account that you had to purchase music in the past. The advantage is that the iTunes Store will remember all your past purchases and will give you the option to download them wirelessly on your new iPhone.

Now the crowned jewel of the iPhone is what comes next. When prompted to get iCloud or skip, I can’t stress enough just how important it is that you get it. iCloud is really one of the features that makes the iPhone an iPhone. You get push email, calendar, contacts and reminders synchronization along with the option to sync your photos with various devices and even documents. Another great feature is the “Find my iPhone” service where you can call on your iPhone after being misplaced, or help police officers claim it for you if stolen.

My favorite feature in iCloud is the back-up services. Apple seriously figured it out. With other platforms, restoring your new device to look like the old one is hit or miss. With iOS, restoring from iCloud will make your new device look like an exact clone of your previous device. Yeah, it’s that good.

Tweaking some critical settings

Once you’ve finished setting up, moving around is simple and straight forward. Probably one of the things I do recommend that you do from the start is setting up your FaceTime and iMessage services. If you have an iPad or an iPod Touch, you can actually sync your messages and your ability to be called on FaceTime between devices. The way I do it is that on the iPhone I add my Apple ID aside from my phone number. On my iPad or iPod Touch, I add my phone number aside from my Apple ID that’s already there. That way, when you get called, all two or three devices will ring depending on how you get contacted.

Must have apps

When it comes to apps, things get subjective. Your needs may vary significantly to mine. I’ll give you my top five basic and free apps, and I’m sure you can take it from there:

1. Google Maps: Don’t let Apple’s advertising fool you; their iOS 6 Maps service sucks. It caps-lock SUCKS! Don’t waste your time with it and stick to what works. Google Maps is free, and it’s simply awesome. Let that be the first app you download.

2. Whatsapp: This app actually costs a dollar, but at the moment it’s free. This cross platform messenger is really your best companion. If your friends still do the Flintstones thing with a BlackBerry, or if they’ve moved-on to a Windows Phone or Android device, you’ll be able to communicate with them through this app.

3. Pandora: Surely you can buy all the music you can eat with iTunes, but why buy when you can get it streamed to you for free. There are some downsides to the service, but for the free price tag that its worth, get it.

4. SoundHound: One of the coolest features of this app is not only that you can discover what song is playing on the radio by using your phone, but you can also get the lyrics of whatever it is that you’re currently playing. It also gives you direct links to purchase the song you found on the iTunes Store, so it’s actually a good companion.

5. Google Search: Your relationship with Siri will either be of love or hate. There are times when I’m happy with her, and there are times when I simply become unfaithful and hit Google’s Voice Search. It’s great that not only Android users get to have all the fun.

Must have accessories

As I said in my iPhone 5 After The Buzz recently, I don’t believe in using cases. For me, slapping a case on my iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III is like buying a BMW and getting seat covers at the dealership to protect the leather. Really, what’s the point of leather seats if you’ll be worried about using them? Now I know that’s not your story, and I won’t lie to you, I heard so many stories of the iPhone 5 that I did buy some cases as a precaution.

The first case I recommend is from Amazon Basics. It’ll allow your iPhone to continue looking like an iPhone and not like the tasteless tank I usually see on some people’s pockets lately. It’s cheap, it includes a screen protector and a cleaning cloth for those that care about those things, and it just looks great.

The second accessory that I actually do use with my device is this Sleeve. Neoprene is the best material you can buy to avoid your device from getting sweat or even get scratched in your pocket due to all the lint inside. This Sleeve from Shocksock is a good value, fits great and is washable.

Finally, if you’re an audiophile, the ear pods will disappoint you. These Bose headphones provide some amazing sound, include music controls for your iPhone, are a great fit for working out and last an eternity.

Tips and Tricks

Probably your next question for me is if I’ve ever smashed an iPhone since I don’t use a case. The answer is no, but I did smash my Galaxy Nexus once. If you plan on keeping that iPhone throughout your 2-year contract, I do recommend that you get Apple Care+. If you didn’t buy the service upon purchase, you can do so during the first thirty days. I know $100 is not cheap, but neither was the phone you just chose to buy. The advantage with Apple Care+ is that you get 2 years of warranty, and you can swap your wires and headphones as many times as you want and get new ones for free. Now the best thing about how Apple’s Genius services work is that they don’t repair your phone if something goes wrong with it. They give you a brand-spanking new phone. If the issue is covered by your warranty, you’ll get a free replacement as many times as you need one. If the issue is your fault, say you smashed the phone or got it wet, you get two incidents covered by the warranty for $50. Yup, if you got your phone wet at the beach, they’ll give you a new one for $50. It is a good value if you consider that for any other competing device that you purchase, if you get it wet, you’ll have to buy a new one and with a carrier penalty most likely.

The Bottom Line

Surely a ton of people will either be happy for your new purchase or will walk up to you and complain about it. The funny thing is that all the people that I know that complain about it, have never really owned one. There’s a reason why the iPhone has been the best selling smartphone in history, and I’m sure so many millions of people can’t all be wrong.

The iPhone 5 will be my fourth iPhone so far, and even if I do carry a Galaxy S III as my second phone, I’ve always carried an iPhone. There’s just so much about the device that makes it feel like home for me, and I’m sure you’ll learn why during your first weeks of using it.

Enjoy Luke, and may the Force be with you.

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