Your biggest Pokémon Go questions, answered (update)


Pokémon Go is now available on Android and iOS to a select group of users. Among those with access are Australians, New Zealanders, people in Japan and North American beta testers, all of whom are coming together to teach the Pokémon Go-less how to play the game before they get their hands on it.

Some of us on staff are currently playing Pokémon Go for ourselves, and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned thus far with those less fortunate. Follow along below for the answers to some of the most pressing Pokémon Go questions — and let us know in the comments if you have any others.

[Update: If you happen to be in the “what’s a Pokémon” stage of your investigation, we’ve made an additional guide: Six Pokémon Go tips for the ultimate beginner. Read that, then come back here!]

pokemon go

Pokémon Go isn’t about catching ’em all — it’s about catching them together

How do I log into the game?

There are two options for logging into Pokémon Go. The easier method is to use an existing Google account. Otherwise, players can either sign in with or sign up for a Pokémon Trainer Club account, which comes with added privileges. These include a subscription to a monthly newsletter, which sometimes offers download codes for rare Pokémon.

Can I name and customize my trainer?

You sure can! Nicknames must only be spelled with letters and numbers, and if you have a common name, you may already be out of luck: There are no duplicates allowed. (To whoever already took the name “Allegra,” we’ve got our eye on you.)

Naming aside, there are several skin tones, hair colors and outfits to choose from. The selection is slightly less varied than what’s available inPokémon X and Y, for reference.

Do I get a starter Pokémon?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Once your trainer has a name, Professor Willow — this game’s leading Pokémon scholar — will walk you through catching Pokémon. He doesn’t outright give you a starter, instead directing you to the open map around you, where a Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle appear out of nowhere. Trainers can choose which of the three they want to catch and, at the conclusion of the world’s easiest battle, whoever they picked will now be theirs.

There’s a secret fourth starter Pokémon, however. If Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle aren’t quite your speed, there’s a way to choose Pikachu instead. The method, which involves walking away from the initial trio multiple times, is a little bit complicated, but if Pikachu’s your favorite, it may be worth the effort. Check out our breakdown on what you have to do to start the game with Pikachu for more.

This is the biggest change from the recent beta, which some of us tried and didn’t quite love late last month. In that version of the game, testers embarked upon their Pokémon journeys unaccompanied.

Sweet! Can I name my Pokémon?

Yep. No worries if you forget to do so once you catch one; you can always go into the Pokémon section of the menu and edit your monsters’ names.

How do I get more Pokémon?

Catching is something that isn’t especially well-explained in Pokémon Go. As you traverse the real world, as represented on the in-game map, you’ll occasionally run into tufts of rustling grass. There’s also a handy meter indicating which Pokémon are nearby on the lower right-hand corner of the map.

By default, this part of the screen shows the three closest Pokémon to your physical location; clicking on it will reveal a wider look at the available Pokémon to catch. Each one has anywhere from one to three footprints underneath it, with one indicating that it’s especially close to you and three meaning that you’ll have to keep walking to find it.

Keep moving for awhile in the direction of the rustling grass; once you get close enough, a Pokémon will appear on the map, and clicking on it will initiate a battle.

Battles aren’t between two Pokémon, though. They’re between a Pokémon and your ability to swipe a Poké Ball in their direction. When you engage a Poké Ball, a colored ring will appear around the opponent. These change in size after each capture attempt. Throwing a Ball during a smaller window seems to be more effective, based on our time with the game, but that’s a part we’re still trying to figure out.

For more on the particulars of Pokémon catching, check out our explainer.

Where can I find a Clefairy, or a Pidgey, or a Horsea, or …

The point of Pokémon Go is to travel around, exploring different geographic areas to find appropriate Pokémon. In a small town, expect to find a lot of normal- and grass-types. Going near water will attract water Pokémon. Playing at night brings out more nocturnal creatures, like Clefairy and Gastly.

In our, oh, 12 hours with the final build of the game, we haven’t been able to explore too many diverse places yet. It remains to be seen if iconic landmarks bring rarer finds.

pokemon go

Are there items to help me find, catch and train Pokémon?

There are a variety of items to purchase that aid capturing and upgrading monsters. These can be found in the shop, and include a number of Poké Balls, as well as the following:

  • Incense: “Incense with a mysterious fragrance that lures wild Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes.”
  • Lucky Egg: “A Lucky Egg that’s filled with happiness! Earns double XP for 30 minutes.”
  • Egg Incubator: “A device that incubates an Egg as you walk until it is ready to hatch. Breaks after three uses.”
  • Lure Module: “A module that attracts Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 minutes. Other people around the PokéStop can also benefit from the effect.”

Each of these items cost Pokémon Coins (or PokéCoins) which, unsurprisingly, must be bought for real money. Take a look below to see how much the game is selling PokéCoins for.

pokemon go coins

Okay. Now, back up: The heck is a PokéStop?

These are notable locations in the vicinity. They’re represented by a blue marker on the map. Clicking on the marker shows a picture of the building, monument, park or what have you. Swiping that picture will often net you a handful of items, like some Poké Balls or a Pokémon Egg that, when hatched, could add a new Pokémon to your collection.

You should be able to locate them easily in-game, but for those who intend to travel across the land, searching far and wide for international Pokémon, some fans have already created maps to help you plan your journey. The location data for PokéStops has been culled from Ingress, Niantic Labs’ previous game, meaning those familiar with its map will know where to look for those landmarks.

PokéStops are also some of the best places to look for Pokémon. When you discover one with swirling pink flowers around it, that means another local Pokémon Go player has attached a Lure Module to it. That’s your signal to start heading toward that particular PokéStop, as several Pokémon are bound to spawn around it left and right.

Do those include gyms? There are gym battles, right?

Pokémon Go does include gym battles, but battling is one of its biggest changes from the Pokémon games many of us know and love. Gyms are interspersed around the world, just like PokéStops. Trainers have to be at level five in order to face other trainers, but these battles are typically one-on-one against another trainer’s team.

Every Pokémon has a combat power, which varies and can be increased using items. Battles are determined by whoever has the greater combat power, but you won’t be selecting one of four moves to use against an opponent. Attacks are doled out by tapping a monster and swiping to dodge enemies’ moves.

Can I fight my friends’ Pokémon?

Nope. The only battling currently available in Pokémon Go is during gym battles.

How do I make my Pokémon stronger, then?

Pretty much just through items. There are various power-up items you can purchase for your Pokémon to increase its combat power. As for evolution, that also requires the use of specialized items. Experience can still be obtained by fighting wild Pokémon, which is how you can increase the trainer’s personal level as well.

What about trading?

Not currently offered, although Niantic apparently has plans to add the feature in a future update. You can transfer a Pokémon to Professor Willow, but that’s the same as releasing it back into the wild.

Can we talk about Professor Willow for a second?


Is it just me, or is he … really attractive?

It’s not just you. Look at him!

professor willow

Man. Ahem. Anyway. What other incentives do I have to play, gym battling and Pokémon-catching aside?

There are medals you can earn for completing certain achievements, like catching a number of Pokémon of a certain type, or walking a set distance. Other than having something to brag about, though, these medals don’t offer you much.

There’s also the opportunity to run your own gym or join another player’s team later on in the game for something more competitive and social. You’ll have to wait until you’re level five to take part in either of those activities, however. Once you get there, though, you’ll be able to fight on behalf of one of three teams in order to prove your Pokémon mastery at other trainers’ gyms around the world. To figure out which team suits you best, check out our breakdown of what defines each one.

In the future, an add-on called the Pokémon Go Plus could add new depth to the gameplay as well. This peripheral costs $34.99 and enables players to visit PokéStops and catch Pokémon without looking at their phones. We don’t know too much about it quite yet, but we’ll continue to share what we do know about the Pokémon Go Plusin a separate guide.

How much battery does this game drain?

So, in our experience, Pokémon Go hasn’t been a major battery hog. Others are reporting that it’s killing their phones, however. That makes sense, considering you need to have your screen on the entire time that the app is running.

There is a battery saving option in the settings, which could help some. A Pokémon Gofansite already has its own set of tips as well. Niantic Labs’ website also mentions that the developer is working to fix any battery life issues players are experiencing.

What about data?

Again, tough to really say. You do need to have a stable online connection at all times in order to play the game, along with having your GPS signal turned on. As such, expect Pokémon Go to use a bit of data when you’re not on Wi-Fi. Again, we haven’t found the amount it uses to be terrible, but that’s subjective. We’ll report back with more on the data usage as soon as possible.

Your mileage may vary with Pokémon Go in every respect. We’ll keep you posted on when the game is more wildly available. For now, read our earlier impressions or watch a 45-minute demo of the game’s beta build from E3 2016.

Update: Pokémon Go is now available to download on Android. We also added more information on how to level up and evolve your Pokémon.

Update #2: The game’s now out on iOS in the United States, although its launch day has been plagued with server issues. We’ve also added more information on locating gyms and PokéStops above.

Update #3: We’ve added a ton of info on starter Pokémon options, best ways to find Pokémon, what it takes to compete at a gym and more.

Update #4: This time, we’ve updated our FAQ to include information on catching Pokémon, choosing a team, battery life fixes and the Pokémon Go Plus peripheral.

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