Pokemon Go is taking over the world (and maybe even making America great again). I, for one, welcome our cherub-cheeked electric mouse overlords.
Sure, the app needs a lot of work—check out our review to find out why—but it's still heaps fun to get out and play. You actually have to get up, leave your house, and visit real-world locations to replenish important items like Pokeballs, and of course, to catch wild Pokemon.
Unfortunately, Pokemon Go provides little in the way of guidance on the nuances of Pokemon catching, collecting, and evolving. In fact, it barely has a tutorial at all. If you're just starting out, see How to Get Started and Catch 'Em All for a primer on what every icon means, what items do, how to capture Pokemon, how gyms work, and other basics. But I've rounded up even more tips and tricks to help you become a Pokemon Master. Check out the slideshow for more.
1. Turn Off AR to Make Capturing Easier
Capturing Pokemon with AR on is part of the fun, especially when the pocket monsters pop up in inappropriate places, but it's way easier to capture Pokemon without worrying about aiming your phone camera. And strangers, for the most part, don't like having phones pointed at them. Why not turn off AR and relieve them of social anxiety? You can do that by tapping the AR toggle when you're capturing wild Pokemon. Pokemon will then sit perfectly still on a grassy field, though they will occasionally hop or gyrate to make capturing difficult. But at least this way you can focus on just the Pokemon, and not worry about reorienting the camera or suffering the death stares of real-life NPCs.
2. Summon Nearby Pokemon
While wandering around your neighborhood, you may notice the tab in the lower-right corner of your map with the Pokemon silhouettes. What could they be? It's Pikachu! No, not really. This tab shows you nearby wild Pokemon you can catch. Tap the tab, and you'll see a full list of creatures to kidnap. The footprints below each Pokemon let you know their proximity; the closer you get, the fewer footprints there are. Tap the Pokemon you want to encounter, and that will increase the chance you'll run into it. You can also track the Pokemon by watching to see if the number of footprints decreases. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can even go hunting and see if the footsteps increase or decrease depending on the direction you walk. That's what the game wants you to do.
So, if you're trying to fill out your Pokedex (or you just want to capture a certain type), and you see an empty silhouette in the lower-right tab, open it up, tap your desired target, and you'll run into it sooner.
3. CP Explained
CP simply means Combat Power, and it's the number above each wild Pokemon. It indicates their battle prowess, and as you gain more experience points (or XP) and level up as a Trainer, the CP of the Pokemon you find will become higher.
We're still learning about Combat Power, but here's what we know so far. In an individual Pokemon's stat screen, you'll see a semi-circle at the top. The part that's bold with a dot at the end indicates that Pokemon's current maximum Combat Point potential. Some Pokemon have higher maximum CP than others. For example, an intimidating, spiky Pinsir will likely be stronger than a tiny, wormy Caterpie. But, if you find a 50 CP Pikachu, that doesn't mean it's stronger than a 20 CP one. For efficiency's sake, though, you'll probably want to Power Up the 50 CP Pikachu with Candies.
Whether you Power Up or Evolve a Pokemon first is up to you. Some believe powering up a 'Mon before evolving it results in even higher CP, but there's no confirmation of that yet. But, your Pokemon's max CP rises along with your Trainer level, so don't neglect those curve balls (more on that shortly) and be sure to visit Pokestops whenever you can! Get dat XP!
Extra Note: It looks like your Pokemon's weight/size (XL or XS) could affect their stats, like CP, HP, and dodge speed. Again, there's a lot of rumor mongering and unconfirmed info out there at the moment, so that could be a bunch of Bouffalant hockey.
4. Check the Moves
You might catch a few different Staryus that are all around the same CP, but take a look at the two moves each Pokemon has when you catch it, and the power level of each move. If you catch a 98CP Staryu and a 105 CP Staryu, and the slightly weaker one has Water Gun and Psybeam, while the stronger one only knows how to Tackle and Body Slam, go for the better move set.
Next to each move you'll also see how much damage it does, along with a blue power meter for the second (more powerful) move, which indicates when your Pokemon's power move is ready to rock in a battle. Better moves, more power, better Pokemon. You can always make up some CP points later.
5. Can I Optimize Egg Hatching? And What's a Kilometer?!
While visiting Pokestops, you'll probably pick up some eggs, from which Pokemon hatch. But first, you need to incubate them, and then walk around. To do that, go to your Pokemon collection, and in the upper-right you'll see an Eggs tab. Tap that, choose an egg, then an incubator. Then you walk around and wait for the hatch.
Here's some advice: Don't waste your time incubating the 2K (kilometer) eggs unless you really want more low-level Pokemon (though that isn't a bad way to get a starter you missed or snag yourself a Pikachu). The 5K eggs can net you some decent ones like Cubone, Porygon, Machops, or Sandshrew. The 10K eggs get you more powerful, uncommon ones like Snorlax. Take a look at this handy infographic for a more in-depth egg breakdown, courtesy of Reddit.
You can even hatch eggs if you're on a bicycle, bus, or train. The app just registers that you're moving; it won't actually care that you're not walking. So, you can hop on your bike and keep the app open to not only get some exercise, but hatch some sweet Snorlax bros as well. Another great way to incubate and hatch eggs is to go for a run!
To pick up more incubators, you can either buy them outright in the real-money Shop or by getting lucky at Pokestops, though they are rare. You also gain more incubators and other more rare items as you level up. And remember: Pokestops replenish every 10 to 15 minutes, which is remarkably fast for a free-to-play mobile game!
By the way, 5 kilometers is about equal to 3.1 miles. Pokemon Go, not only does it bring us together, it educates.
6. Pokeball 101
When capturing wild Pokemon, you can throw a curveball to gain more XP. All you have to do is jiggle the ball! Jiggle it good! Basically, you tap the ball, hold it, and spin it around clock- or counterclockwise until it sparkles. Once it's shining up, toss it and boom! If you capture the critter you'll get a curveball XP bonus.
But wait, there's more: Where you throw the curveball depends on how you throw after the spin. Apparently, it helps to throw the ball in the opposite direction of the initial spin. So, if you're spinning it clockwise, you'll want to toss the ball to the left. How the ball moves after a spin seems pretty random to me, though.
Supposedly, if you botch a toss you can tap the Pokeball when it bounces or rolls away in order to retrieve it. But I've been tapping away and trying this out for a while, with no real indication that it works. But some people online have say it works for them. Huge, if true.
7. The Razz Berries Taste Like Razz Berries!
We explained in our primer that razz berries are items you can feed a Pokemon to slow it down before you capture it. More importantly, you can use razz berries in tandem with a stronger Pokeball (especially once you start leveling up and unlocking Great Balls and Ultra Balls) to catch particularly feisty or extremely rare Pokemon that cross your path.
One of the aspiring trainers right here in the PCMag Labs caught themselves a Dragonair doing just that. Feed the Pokemon a razz berry, take out a Great Ball, give it some good arc on your throw, and catching just got a whole lot easier.
8. Gain More XP! Faster!!
The best way to grind XP is to capture multiple low-level Pokemon, pay attention to the number of candy they require to evolve, and wait until you have enough Candy for multiple evolutions at the same time. By capturing the same type of Pokémon over and over you gain more Stardust and Candy. So, don't think ill of all those Doduos, Caterpies, and Weedles! They're potentially useful because you can transfer duplicates, which will earn you 1 candy of that Pokemon type. Then, use a Lucky Egg and evolve all of the Pokemon at the same time to gain double the amount of XP. Pidgeys are especially pretty good for this.
Some words of wisdom on Stardust and Candy, though: think carefully about what Pokemon you want to power up now, and which ones you want to save for after you evolve. The more you power up a Pokemon you eventually plan on evolving, the longer it'll take you to collect the 25, 50, or 100 candies you need to evolve that little guy and see the Pokemon's CP skyrocket anyway. Pro tip: evolve the Pokemon first, then power it up. Better to use your stardust on Pokemon that are finished evolving or only have one form to optimize your battle lineup, with a bunch of even stronger Pokemon waiting in the wings, piling up candies to take your squad to the next level once they evolve.
9. But, Wait! What the heck's a Lucky Egg?!
It's an egg that's lucky! Really, it's filled with happiness and most importantly, grants you double the amount of experience points you can gain for 30 minutes at a time. You can only buy these in the Shop, with Coins. If you've got a couple Pokemon you're almost ready to evolve, save up those candies until you've got a Lucky Egg, then evolve them all one after another while the Lucky Egg's dank XP aura is in the air to double down on that extra CP and XP.
10. How Do I Transfer?!
Tap a Pokemon in the menu, scroll down below its bio, and tap Transfer. You get 1 candy per transfer. But you better be sure you want that Pokemon transferred to Professor Willow, because once you do, that Pokemon goes bye-bye.
11. How Much XP You Get for Each Action
Capture a Pokemon: 100 XP
Nice: 10 XP
Great: 100 XP
Excellent: 100 XP
Curveball: 10 XP
Hatch a Pokemon:
2K: 200 XP
5K: 500 XP
10K: 1000 XP
Evolve a Pokemon: 500 XP
Register a new Pokemon in your Pokedex: 500 XP
Check a Pokestop: 50 XP or 100 XP (if six or more items)
Training at a Gym: Depends on success
Battle Pokemon at a Gym: Depends on success
So far it looks like the maximum level you can reach in Pokemon Go is 100. You gain numerous rewards for each level gain, including Potions, Incense, Revives, Egg Incubators, and, eventually, Super Potions, Razz Berries, Hyper Potions, Great Balls, and Ultra Balls. The elusive Master Ball has yet to be glimpsed, but if you fulfill your destiny of finding and beating the Elite 4, maybe you can be the chosen one who's granted the ultimate Pokemon power and enters Cerulean Cave to find your Mewtwo.
12. PCMag Talks Pokemon Go
In a Special Edition of Random Access, watch PCMag analysts Matthew Buzzi, Ajay Kumar, Rob Marvin, and Timothy Torres discuss everything about Pokemon Go. The foursome dole out tips, debunk some rumors, discuss business, and talk about how Niantic and Nintendo's mobile app phenomenon impacted the entire world this past week.