Congratulations: You've unwrapped, purchased, or otherwise braved wait times to pick yourself up a brand-new iPad or iPad mini this holiday.
But before you get to playing with your new device, you'll probably want to set it up. Thanks to iOS'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 to your new iPad, activating it, transferring data from an older tablet or your computer, and some suggestions for exploring its new features.
Meet your iPad and iPad mini
Welcome to your iPad. Apple's tablet packs in all sorts of magic depending on what model you've received: If you have an iPad with Retina display, you're looking at a device with a 3.1 million pixel screen, dual-core A6X chip with quad-core graphics, a Lightning connector, LTE service, two cameras, and up to 64GB of storage; if you have an iPad mini, your device also has a Lightning connector, LTE service, cameras, and up to 64 GB of storage--but it runs a dual-core A5 chip.
Though the iPad mini is smaller and lighter than the iPad--weighing .7 pounds to the iPad's 1.5--they both sport the same buttons and ports. We'll walk you through these buttons, calling out differences where they appear.
The iPad and iPad mini both have a standard 3.5mm audio jack on the top of their casing to let you listen to music. You can use several types of headphones with the iPad, including the Apple earbuds, or alternatively you can use Bluetooth headphones. If you plug in headphones that have a built-in microphone, the iPad senses the mic and allows you to use it with apps that have audio-recor¬ding capabilities. Otherwise the iPad uses its built-in microphone to record sound.
The iPad and iPad mini's internal microphone is on the top center edge of the device, right above the front-facing camera. You can use it to record audio in any app that supports audio recording. Unless you're using an external microphone, you'll use this mic for video chatting, recording voice memos, talking to Siri, and more.
Press the On/Off button to turn the iPad's screen on or off. You can still receive email and notifications with it turned off, but the screen stays blank until you wake it by pressing this button or the Home button. To turn the device off, hold the On/Off button down until the screen dims and the red "slide to power off" slider appears. Slide your finger across the switch, and the iPad mini powers down. (To turn your device back on, press and hold this button again until the Apple logo appears.)
You can also decline or silence alerts and alarms with the On/Off button; press it once to silence an incoming alert.
Front-Facing FaceTime HD Camera
This 1.2-megapixel camera can shoot 1280-by-960-pixel stills and 720p HD video (1280 by 720 pixels). Apple designed the front-facing camera primarily for using FaceTime and snapping quick self-portraits.
The iPad and iPad mini don't have a tactile keyboard or many hardware buttons; instead, you use its LED-backlit Multi-Touch glass display to read books, surf the Web, compose email messages, navigate apps, and change settings. The screen is made from optical-quality glass, which makes it highly scratch resistant. It also has an oil-resistant oleophobic coating that makes it easy to wipe off smudges.
The iPad's screen is 9.7 inches with a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels--at 246 pixels per inch, Apple describes it as a Retina display, meaning that the pixels are too small to distinguish with the human eye. If you have an iPad mini, you're looking at a 7.9-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels (163 pixels per inch).
The only physical button on the face of the iPad and iPad mini, the Home button provides a variety of shortcuts for accessing apps and operating system features.
SINGLE-PRESS A single-press of the Home button can have several results, depending on what you're using the iPad mini for at the time: If the iPad is in sleep mode, pressing the Home button wakes it; if you're in an app, it returns you to the home screen; if you're on a subsequent home screen page, it returns you to the first page; and if you're on the first home screen page, it brings you into the iPad's Spotlight search mode.
SINGLE-PRESS AND HOLD Press and hold the Home button for at least two seconds to activate Siri.
DOUBLE-PRESS When the device is locked or in sleep mode, a double-press of the Home button wakes your device and brings up the Music controls. In active use, it brings up the multitasking bar, showcasing your active apps.
Speakers line the bottom edge of the iPad and iPad mini. The iPad has a single mono speaker to the right of the dock connector, while the iPad mini contains two small stereo speakers. They play anything that makes noise on your iPad, including music, video, or app sounds. You can also hook up the iPad mini to third-party speakers using the headphone jack, via Bluetooth, or via AirPlay, Apple's wireless audio and video feature.
The iPad and iPad mini use Apple's new Lightning dock connector to connect to your computer and other accessories. The connector is reversible, so you can plug it into your device in either direction. Unfortunately, if you have older iOS device accessories that sport a 30-pin dock connector, your iPad won't work with those times unless you get an adapter.
When plugged into its included power adapter, the iPad can charge while awake or asleep. Your device will also charge when plugged into newer Macs and PCs, though charging will take longer. Older computers without high-powered USB ports will only charge the iPad mini when it's in sleep mode; when awake, it displays a "Not charging" message in the status bar at the top of the screen.
The second of the iPad and iPad mini's two cameras is located along the back of the device, in the upper left corner. This 5-megapixel camera features a five-element lens, backside illumination, a hybrid IR filter, and an f/2.4 aperture; it shoots 1080p HD video and 2592-by-1936-pixel stills. You can use this camera for quick moviemaking and showing your FaceTime companion a wider view of your surroundings. (While you can certainly also take stills, we suggest using a smaller device--like your mobile phone or a portable camera--for such matters.)
SIM Card Tray (iPad and iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular models only)
Apple offers the iPad and iPad mini in two different colors, white and black, as well as in two different models: Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular. If you want to be able to connect to the Internet via cellular networks, you need to buy the latter. (You can tell them apart visually: The Wi-Fi + Cellular model has a black plastic stripe along the top back.)
The iPad and iPad mini's Wi-Fi + Cellular model can operate on multiple cellular Internet bands: various bands of the LTE cellular data standard, HSPA+, DC-HSDPA, GPRS, EDGE, CDMA-EvDO, and HSPA. Major U.S. partners for the iPad and iPad mini include AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. When purchasing a Wi-Fi + Cellular model, you must choose which provider you want, though you don't have to sign up for a contract plan. The iPad comes contract free, allowing you to pay for service month to month.
The iPad needs a micro-SIM card (the iPad mini needs a nano-SIM) to connect to a cellular provider. Without it, you won't be able to access cellular Internet, only Wi-Fi. This SIM card comes preinstalled, though if you go abroad you can also pick up a SIM from a supported cellular carrier.
If you need to install a SIM, or access your current SIM card, you can remove it by sticking one end of a paper clip into the hole next to the SIM card slot, visible on the left side of the device.
You can set the iPad and iPad mini's Side Switch--located on the right side of the tablet near the top--to lock the screen orientation or to act as a mute switch, depending on your preference.
To set this, go to Settings > General, and then tap Lock Rotation or Mute in the "Use Side Switch to" section. If you choose Lock Rotation, toggle the screen-rotation switch on the side of the iPad to expose the orange dot, and your iPad stays in either landscape or portrait view, regardless of how you're handling it. When the rotation lock is engaged, a small icon showing a lock with an arrow around it appears on the right side of the status bar near the battery icon. If you select Mute in the settings screen, the switch controls the iPad's Silent mode, which mutes alert noises. Be advised that you can still hear the audio from music and videos from the device's speaker when the iPad is in Silent mode.
Volume Up and Volume Down Buttons
Directly below the Side Switch is a rocker button for volume. Press the top of the rocker to increase volume and the bottom rocker to decrease volume. (In the Camera app, the top rocker also functions as a physical camera shutter button.) In the Settings app, you can choose whether these buttons affect only noises from an app, or whether they control systemwide sounds as well.
Transfer your data
Whether this is your first iPad or you've had tablets that came before, chances are you're going to want to load it up with some data. Here are the various ways to do so, depending on whether you're moving from an old iPad or your computer.
If you're upgrading from an older iPad
You're moving on up 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 on its last voyage, you have to decide if you want to transfer its apps, data, and settings to your new iPad. If you do, you'll need to make a backup (via iTunes or, if your old iPad is running iOS 5 or 6, via iCloud) of your information.
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 6 on your old iPad, and you've set up iCloud on it, you can also 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 iPad. 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 device.)
If this is your first iPad (or you're upgrading from another tablet)
Whether this is your very first iPad or you're moving from an Android, BlackBerry, or Windows tablet, it should be relatively painless to transfer information to your new device. Here are some suggestions for moving over mail, contacts, calendars, music, videos, and photos, as well as finding replacement apps for your currently used programs.
Mail, contacts, and calendars: If you're using a Gmail account or other POP or IMAP-based account for mail, it's already syncing to a central server, and you should be able to add that account to your new iPad 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. If you don't have an email account but want to make one, you can also create an iCloud account from the Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen in the Settings app.
Music, videos, and photos: Your new iPad uses iTunes to sync any music, TV, and movies from the program to your device; photos can also be synced from iPhoto, Aperture, or a photos folder. To sync any music or video you have on your computer, 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 things from the iTunes Store before, you can redownload those for free after you set up your new iPad by going to the Purchased tab in the iTunes app.
If you've purchased content 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 iPad (like the Kindle app for book purchases) that lets you access the information.
Apps and miscellany: If you're moving from another tablet with a different OS, you unfortunately can't port any of those apps to your iPad. On the upside, you may be able to find parallel versions on Apple's App Store (for instance, if you're using Dropbox on your smartphone or Android tablet, 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, and so on), you can poke around to see if there's any way of exporting that information; otherwise, you'll be out of luck.
Activate your iPad