Unless you've been hiding under a Snorlax-sized rock over the past year, there's a good chance you've caught Pokémon Go fever. Niantic Labs' mobile monster-catching simulator has successfully turned the real world into a Pokemon playground, where millions of fans are discovering that being outside is actually pretty darn fun.
While Pokémon Go is pretty easy to get into, there are plenty of tricks and hidden features you'll need to know about before you become the very best (like no one ever was). The game has gotten some significant updates since it first launched in Summer 2016, so if you're just jumping back in, there are a whole bunch of new mechanics to master. Whether you're looking to dominate your local gym, evolve your Pokémon or just want to know what the heck a Pokéstop is, here are our tips for getting started.
Pokéstops and Lures
When you first fire up the game, you'll likely see a whole bunch of blue cubes on your map. These are Pokéstops: landmarks where you can get Pokéballs, potions and other key items just by walking up to them, tapping on them and spinning the icon that appears. You'll also gain experience points (XP) for dropping by Pokéstops, and can revisit them for rewards pretty often.
You'll likely find the most Pokéstops in urban areas filled with notable landmarks, such as New York's Central Park. You can even use Yelp to find Pokéstops, and there are some third-party map tools out there that help you find Pokémon in your area. If a Pokéstop is glowing with pink hearts around it, that means that someone has dropped a Lure Module, which is a special item that attracts wild Pokemon for 30 minutes. You should always check out Lures for potentially big catches.
Master the Curveball
Catching monsters is as simple as flicking a Pokéball out them, but you can get more out of your captures by throwing a curveball. To throw one, drag the Pokéball to the middle of the screen, spin it until it starts shining and flick it to the left or right; if it hits, you'll get a nice XP bonus.
Start with Pikachu
While you'll be given the classic choice of Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle when you first start Pokémon Go, you can actually skip all three in favor of series mascot Pikachu. In order to start out with the game's lovable electric rodent, simply walk away from the three starters once you're asked to catch them. By the fourth time, you should see Pikachu show up (Thanks for the tip, Polygon).
Incubate those Eggs
Pokéballs aren't the only way to add more Pokémon to your collection -- you can also hatch some using the eggs you'll occasionally collect from Pokéstops. To use them, open up your Pokémon collection and hit the Eggs tab on the top right. Then, pick an egg you want to incubate. From there, you'll just need to walk the distance assigned to the egg to make it hatch. Exercise!
Don't Ignore Duplicates
Just because you already have a Pidgey doesn't mean you should ignore the next eight you stumble across. Catching duplicates still nets you XP, as well as stardust and Pokémon-specific candy -- both of which are necessary for powering up and evolving your Pokémon.
Transfer Your Pokémon
While catching duplicates is helpful, you should get rid of them afterwards in order to save precious storage space. Simply open your collection, tap a Pokémon you want to get rid of and select Transfer -- you'll be rewarded with some sweet Pokémon-specific candy that you can use towards evolving that character. If you want to Transfer a whole bunch of Pokémon at once, simply hold your finger on any Pokémon for a few seconds and then highlight all of the cute little monsters you want to get rid of.
Power Up and Evolve
Training and evolving Pokémon works quite differently in Go than it does in the core game. To raise your Pokémon's CP (combat power), you'll need monster-specific candy (for example, Charmander needs Charmander candy) as well as some stardust. To evolve your Pokémon, you'll just need a whole bunch of candy.
Bring a Buddy
If there's a specific Pokémon you're looking to level up, you can bring them with you as your buddy. To do this, tap your player icon from the home screen, select Buddy, and pick the Pokémon you want to join you on your journey. You'll get a piece of candy for that Pokémon for every 3 kilometers you walk, making it an easy way to level up your favorite Pokémon by simply strolling around.
Choose Your Eevee-lution
Just like in the original games, adorable Foxling Eevee can evolve into one of five Pokémon (Flareon, Vaporeon, Jolteon, Umbreon and Espeon) in Pokémon Go. While this is done seemingly at random, you can control the evolution by giving your Eevee a special name before you evolve it. The name Rainer gets you Vaporeon, Pyro gets you Flareon and Sparky gets you Jolteon. Following the latest update, naming your Eevee "Sakura" will turn it into an Espeon and "Tamao" will lead to an Umbreon. Happy evolving!
Use Your Lucky Eggs Wisely
Whether you buy them with Pokécoins or earn them by reaching levels 9 and 14, you'll eventually earn Lucky Eggs, which double your XP gain for 30 minutes. To maximize that time, you should save your Lucky Eggs for when you have a ton of Pokémon to evolve. You'll gain lots of XP at once, and won't have to run around chasing Pokéstops in order to do so. For more on this method, check out our quick level-up guide.
Battling and Gyms
Once you hit level 5, it's time to join a team and start battling. Gyms are impossible to miss -- just look for a huge, tower-like structure with a Pokémon atop of it. Before your first fight, you'll be prompted to join Team Instinct (Yellow), Team Valor (Red) or Team Mystic (Blue). Teams don't affect gameplay -- it's just a matter of picking a color so that you can mark your territory.
The game's gym system has been massively overhauled as of Summer 2017, ditching the Prestige system that allowed teams to make gyms near-impossible to conquer by enemy players. Gyms now contain six permanent slots that can be occupied by a team's Pokémon, and these Pokémon will lose their motivation and become easier to defeat if players don't keep them happy with berries.
Fight it Out
Before you head into battle, you'll want to scout your local gym and make sure your Pokémon are prepared. Tapping on a gym will show the current gym leader and their faction, as well as the CP level of their main Pokémon.
The fighting itself is pretty simple: you tap your opponent's Pokémon to do damage, and swipe left or right to avoid attacks. When the blue bar at the bottom fills up, you can hold down on the screen to unleash a special move. The fight ends as soon as one player is out of Pokémon. If you defeat all of an enemy team's Pokémon at a gym, your team will now have control over it.
Get Ready to Raid
Pokémon Go recently added Raid Battles, which are massive co-operative missions that let you team up with up to 20 other Trainers in your area. If one of your local gyms has a big Egg on top of it with a countdown timer on it, you'll know that a Raid Battle is coming. Participating in Raid Battles requires a Raid Pass. You can get one free Raid Pass per day by swinging by a gym, though they're also available for purchase in the game's store. If you and your fellow trainers beat the Raid Boss within a five-minute time limit, you'll have an opportunity to catch a super-powerful Pokémon.
Customize Your Style
What's the point of winning gym battles if you don't look good doing it? To customize your avatar, tap on your player icon from the game's home screen and select Style. You can outfit your trainer with all kinds of cool clothing and accessories, though you'll have to spend Pokécoins to do so.
Manage Your Inventory
Your bag can store up to 350 items by default, and it'll fill up quick. But instead of dropping real money on Pokécoins to buy extra storage space, you can keep your inventory clean by deleting stuff you don't need from the Items menu. You probably don't need all 300 of those Pokéballs you've amassed, so clear some out in order to make space for Eggs, Incense, Potions and other key items.
Play in Your Pocket
Don't feel like walking around staring at your phone? If you select Settings > Battery Saver, you can turn your phone upside down and activate a black screen saver that will save you some juice. You'll still get a buzz if Pokémon are nearby, so long as you have vibration toggled on.
Get a Portable Battery Pack
Seriously, just do it. Pokémon Go will devour even the strongest of smartphone batteries, especially if you plan on going on a multi-mile walking adventure. If you need suggestions, check out our best picks for portable chargers.
Take Some Photos
Pokémon Go's camera feature turns the game into a pretty cool real-world version of Pokémon Snap. Once you've tapped on a Pokémon and entered the capture phase, just select the camera icon at the bottom right of the screen. It won't make your Pokémon any stronger, but it'll let you brag to your friends about that one time you found a Venonat on the bus.