The ultimate Pokémon GO tips and tricks guide

Chris Stead 11 July 2016

AFRO (1)

Nintendo has struck gold with Pokémon GO, but how can you make the most of this augmented reality sensation? With these tips, that's how.

Pokémon GO is a video game for mobiles and tablets that follows the same core gameplay experience fans of the series have been enjoying on Nintendo handhelds and consoles for almost two decades. As a trainer, players must explore the world, discovering, battling and capturing little critters called Pokémon. These creatures can be trained, improved and then used in future combat against AI controlled characters or human players to progress deeper into the game. The series generally gets the perfect mix of story, exploration and turn-based strategy combat just right, with players needing to balance and maximise the strengths and weaknesses of each character to counter and defeat their opponent.

Going hunting?

Pokémon GO’s big gimmick, however, is that players are not exploring a fantasy landscape that exists solely within the screen, but instead the real world. Exploring your local streets, landmarks, buildings and parks will allow you to come across Pokémon to battle and capture, and all important gyms that can be used to train-up. So if you’re wondering why a bunch of people are standing around a random location furiously interacting with their phone, that’s why.

If you’ve yet to pick up the game, you can download it right now on iOS or on Android. And if you are already playing and looking for a tips guide, then enjoy the below. We'll keep updating with new tips!

Getting started

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These top tips are essential for any new trainer.

1. Battery saver

First things first; head into the settings for the app and make sure the Battery Saver option is selected.

2. Charge up

Make sure your phone is fully charged before you go on a lengthy expedition. The game is quite battery intensive If you’re going on an extended trip, make sure you bring your charging cables with you or a top-up device. Check out our guide for the best options.

3. Lay low when your battery is nearly dead

If you’re aware that you’re about to run out of battery, try not to engage in a battle or an attempt to capture a Pokémon, as having your phone die in the middle of such an activity is incredibly frustrating.

4. How to get Pikachu as you starter Pokémon

As soon as you begin the game, you should see three Pokémon appear in the world, and you can choose which one to capture in order to start your Pokémon collection. There is a fourth secret Pokémon as well, and it's the famous icon of the series, Pikachu. In order to get him, ignore your first three Pokémon and walk away until they disappear. Eventually they will pop up a second time, at which point you should walk away again. They will appear a third time; walk away again. The fourth time you walk away, when they reappear you will see Pikachu and can select him as you first Pokémon.

5. Take advantage of every Pokéstop

After you have captured your first Pokémon, you will notice a large number of blue icons on your map. These reference a Pokéstop. They usually tie into a significant landmark like a building or sculpture and by getting close to them, tapping on them and spinning the coin, you will receive some free items.

6. Head for popular Pokéstops

The number of free items that you get from a Pokéstop is directly tied into its popularity. So if you are wandering around your local streets and not getting much for your efforts, going to an area with more people – such as a local bus stop, cafe or park – will reward you with more free items. Pokéstops with a module attached (identified by a flurry of pink leaves) are not necessarily "popular", but it's safe to assume people in the area will be flocking to those spots.

7. Choose a unique nickname for each Pokémon

As soon as you capture a Pokemon, we recommend renaming it. You can do this by entering the Pokemon option of the menu and selecting the fresh recruit. Naming a Pokemon gives you a much stronger psychological connection to the beast and an ability to recall their journey in your game.

8. Curse words are fine, for now...

If you like using curse words in your names, get in quick. At this stage they're allowed, but we suspect than Nintendo will revoke that latitude in a future update once the fun police catch wind of it.

9. Get to know your Pokémon silhouettes

In the bottom-right corner of the map, you will see icons appear that reveal when a Pokémon is in the vicinity. However, if you have yet to catch that Pokémon, its identity is shrouded and you can only make out the shape. This can put you in a situation where you need to focus on one particular Pokémon over the other; so it’s a good idea to learn the various shapes. This allows you to make the right decision on who to go after.

10. Trade in Pokémon with lower CP for candy

Candy is the currency you can use to evolve your Pokemon into more powerful critters, and one key way of earning candy is to trade-in Pokemon to Professor Willow. Often you will catch a Pokemon you already have, which frees one up to be traded to the Professor, however, but careful which one you trade. They are unlikely to have the same stats, weight and attacks, so you want to make sure you keep the strongest version, and trade the weakest.

Tips for battling gyms in Pokemon GO

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Once you've got the grit to take on your closest gym, these tips can help lead you to victory.

11. Gyms don't become available until level 5

If you are wondering why you cannot take on gyms at first, it is probably because you haven’t reached the level threshold. You need to reach Level 5 before the gyms will appear at your map, at which time they populate just like a Pokéstop.

12. Don't go in expecting a traditional gym battle

Gym battles are not turn-based like traditional Pokémon games, so be careful not to spend too much thought on picking the right Pokémon and certainly don’t wait for your time to play. Just start tapping the screen as fast as you can. Even if you’re worried about your Pokémon dying, just stay the course and keep tapping in those initial GYM battles.

13. Try your best to dodge incoming attacks

You can attempt to dodge incoming attacks in Pokémon GO by swiping left or right. Enemy attacks are poorly signposted, so successfully avoiding an attack sometimes feels like sheer luck. We recommend looking out for the description of the enemy's next attack, it's the only way to tell they're about to strike.

14. Use your special attack at your own risk

A Pokémon's secondary and more powerful attack can be used by holding your finger down on the screen. While this deals more damage than your standard attack, it take longer to charge up and you can still be hit when the attack's animation plays out. This leaves you vulnerable to a flurry of the enemy's quicker standard attacks.

15. Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Before you attack a gym, make sure you check who is inside. Along the top of the screen you will see the name of the gym, its level and its occupants. The leader of the Pokémon will be indicated by a crown, and dots represent the rest. Scanning this information is a good way to know what best to do.

Be warned; when you first enter the gym the first Pokémon you see is the lowest-level occupant. So don’t judge the battles that are set to come by that first encounter

16. Team up for a takedown

Don’t be surprised if you discover another team is attacking the gym at the same time as you – you will see them on your screen as you are battling. In fact, this can work to your advantage as you can work together to take down each of the three Pokémon gyms leaders.

17. Reaping the rewards of your win

Inside the shop in the top right corner there is a shield icon; this can be tapped once every 20 hours. Upon doing so you will receive coins and dust, with the amount dependent on the number of Pokémon you have residing in gyms. Therefore, it is wise to resist the urge to hit the shield right on the 20-hour mark, and instead best to secure any local gyms first.

18. Is there any difference between the Pokémon Go teams?

When you first begin a gym battle you are asked to select a team. There is no obvious differences between the two beyond how your feel about the colour. However, be warned; once you select a team colour, it cannot be changed.

19. Is it worth changing the Pokémon in your attacking team?

The game will auto populate a team attacking gym with your six strongest Pokémon, however, you may want to swap out the lower critters for ones that are just out of the top six, but are a strong super effective type against the defending Pokémon. They can make the battle easier.

20. How much must the prestige of a gym go down before it is defeated?

Each Pokémon stationed at a gym is worth 2000 prestige, so as they are defeated it will be lowered by that much.

21. How many opponents are at a gym?

The level of a gym, which is located on its top, will show you how many Pokémon are inside. A level 3 gym will have three Pokémon, for example.

22. Which Pokémon are in the gym?

To tell who is in the gym, first click on it and the swipe in either direction. This will not only show the Pokémon inside, but their combat power.

23. How to become leader of a Pokémon Go gym

The Pokémon inside the gym that is the leader is the one with the highest combat power. So in order to become the leader in your team’s gym, add a Pokémon that has a higher CP than those already stationed there.

24. How does combat work at a gym?

Combat unfolds in real-time, and every tap you make on the screen counts as an attack. Therefore, you simply need to tap quicker than your opposition.

25. How do the blue bar special attacks work?

Every time you tap the screen and attack, you build up the blue bars. When you select a Pokémon, you will see next to its skill how many blue bars it needs to have filled until its special attack becomes available. So once you have filled those blue bars, simply hold down on the screen to unleash the special attack.

26. Should I swap out a Pokémon while in combat?

As well as dodge, attack and special attack, you can also sap out Pokémon during battle. However, this is frequently not worthwhile as the combat is in real-time, and while the swap is in process you will be losing health.

27. Keep at it

A gym may take more than one battle to be conquered. In fact, prepare to go back and fight multiple times until it is returned to a neutral state.

Tips on how gyms work

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28. Why can’t I battle for a Pokémon Go gym?

If you are unable to battle for gym, it is because you either have not reached level 5, or you are not within range.

29. Why can I only choose one Pokémon at the gym?

This is because your team already controls the gym, so you are not attacking and rather defending. In this case you can only select one Pokémon to add to the defence.

30. How do you take over a Pokémon Go gym?

You cannot take over an occupied gym until it’s become white. To make it white, you need to bring down its prestige through battling. Once you have brought down a gym’s prestige enough, the current team will be kicked out and you can take it over by placing a Pokémon inside.

31. Easiest way to lower a gym’s prestige.

When you click on the boxing glove icon while at a gym, you will initiate combat. First the game will auto-present you with a team of six Pokémon, who have the highest CP in your collection. While you have dodge and power moves at your disposal, the quickest way to earn a victory is often just to tap as quickly as possible.

32.Can I use a Pokémon when it is stationed at a gym?

No you cannot. When you have placed a Pokémon in a gym, it is removed from your roster and cannot be used in other fights, powered-up or evolved.

33. Maximise your gold with an unwanted Pokémon

If you have a second version of a Pokémon you are thinking of trading in for one candy, consider instead placing it in a gym. This way you can earn gold and stardust from the shop, and when it is defeated, you can trade it in for candy without having to worry about re-healing it.

Tips for defending a gym

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34. What happens when my defending Pokémon gets defeated ta a gym?

If your Pokémon is defeated at a gym while defending it from invaders, it will be returned to your roster, but with only one health.

35. Why can’t I add my Pokémon to a gym?

a. You are only allowed to add full-health Pokémon to the defence of a gym, so you will need to heal any damaged Pokémon before they can be a defender.

b. You already have a Pokémon in the gym, and one train can only have one Pokémon per gym.

c. A gym can only carry the same amount of Pokémon as its level, too, so it could be that the gym is already full.

36. How to increase the level of a gym?

If your team already owns a gym and you want to increase its level, you need to train your Pokémon. You do this by sending a single Pokémon – not six - up against the defending Pokémon. Each time you train you add more prestige, and once the prestige hits 2000 the gym levels-up.

37. What rewards does a Pokémon in a gym earn you?

You can claim rewards from the shop every 20-hours that are based on the number of Pokémon you have in a gym. You get 10 gold coins and 500 stardust for each Pokémon in a gym up to ten Pokémon. So the maximum you can collect in a 20-hour window is 100 gold coins and 5000 stardust.

38. Do I still get my gym reward for my Pokémon if it gets defeated?

No you don’t. You can only claim you rewards once every 20-hours, and if your Pokémon is defeated and removed from a gym in that window, when you go to collect from the shop you will have one less Pokémon’s worth of rewards. So timing this correctly is key.

39. What is the maximum level of a gym?

The biggest reported gym level thus far is 7, however we will update this as players get further into the game.

Tips for finding Pokémon in Pokémon Go

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40. Are there more Pokémon in active areas?

Areas with more active users will tend to have higher spawn rates of Pokémon. If you can, get together in a group and head somewhere that’s more densely populated for a better Poké-haul.

41. What other benefits are there to active locations?

More frequently visited location tend to have more Pokéstops, too, so you’ll be able to replenish your Pokéball supply faster. Plus, attaching a Lure to these stops gets more effective results for everyone around.

Tips for catching Pokémon in Pokémon GO

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A trainer is nothing without its Pokémon. That's why it's important to catch early and catch often. Here are a trainer's best tips for catching 'em all.

42. Don't let the game waste your incense

If you’re expending an incense, close the app and start again first for the same reason as the point above. There’s no point in using a valuable incense if no Pokémon are going to show up.

43. Keep an eye on Pokémon footprints

A list of nearby Pokémon will display in the lower right of you screen and if you tap on it, the proximity of the Pokémon to your location is defined by the number of footprints. The less the footprints, the close they are. As soon as there are no footprints, you can click on them to make them appear.

44. Rustling grass doesn't always mean wild Pokémon

You may be disappointed when rustling grass does not result in the discovering of a Wild Pokémon, but don’t give up. Search around the surrounding area as the rustling grass usually indicates that one is nearby, even if it is not in that exact location.

45. Catch 'em quick

The appearance of wild Pokémon is, at least in part, time-sensitive. If you see a Pokémon you want, don't waste any time catching it.

46. Take your time

When it is time to capture a Pokémon, you need to throw a Pokéball and score a direct hit. Each throw costs you one Pokéball, so missing is a big frustration (running out of Pokéballs when you're face to face with a Pokémon is even more of a pain). Be patient and take it slow.

47. You will master your ball throwing skills

If you have a problem at first scoring a direct hit with a Pokéball to capture a Pokémon, stick with it. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you get used to doing this and your success rate will soon rise to close to 100%.

48. Being stylish helps

If spin your Pokéball around with your finger before throwing, you can throw a curveball and gain additional experience points when the Pokémon is caught. Note: curving alters the trajectory of your throw, compensate by aiming to the left or right of the Pokémon (depending on the curve of your throw).

49. Does distance matter when catching a Pokémon?

Depth of field is a thing when you’re aiming your Pokéballs. For example, typically Zubats are further from the screen and require a bigger flicking motion to reach. Make sure to look consider the distance when you’re catching a Pokémon.

50. Shut it down

If you’re experiencing a curious lack of Pokémon, shut it down. Close the app and open it again. Extended use seems to cause an error where no Pokémon will appear, even in bustling areas.

Tips for healing Pokémon in Pokémon GO

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It's not all rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes your Pokémon will take serious damage. Here are some tips for getting your Pokémon fighting fit.

51. Taking damage is permanent

Damage done to a Pokémon during a gym battle is permanent; it does not regenerate, so be careful.

52. Three ways to heal

There are three main ways of healing a Pokémon that has received damage; you can use a purple potion from your items. You can power up a Pokémon, which will restore one hit point. Evolving a Pokémon will also restore its health.

53. Two ways to revive

There are two main ways of reviving a fallen Pokémon; you can use a yellow potion, which will bring the critter back up to half-health. Alternatively you can evolve them, which not only revives the Pokémon, but does so with full health.

54. Sacrifice your fallen Pokémon

If you don’t or can’t revive or evolve a fallen Pokémon, click on the Pokéball. You can then select the Pokémon and then scroll down till you see transfer. Hitting transfer will remove your dead Pokémon, and give you one Candy of that Pokémon’s type in return. Note: This is only a good tactic if you've got duplicates of the fallen Pokémon and they're not particularly strong. Transferring your Pokémon to Professor Willow is permanent and you can never retrieve them.

55. Levelling up gives you more item drops

The frequency at which potions are dropped is tied into your level, while you can also receive them as a reward for levelling-up. Potions and revives are also commonly found at Pokéstops.

Tips for levelling-up Pokémon in Pokémon GO

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If you want to truly be the best like no one ever was, levelling up your party is essential.

56. CP represents a Pokémon's power

The CP of a Pokémon refers to its Combat Power, which defines how strong it is in respect to other Pokémon.

57. How to increase CP

It is possible to increase the CP of a Pokémon by powering-up with stardust, candies and training, but it will max out when the semicircle above the Pokémon is all white.

58. Evolving your Pokémon to increase CP

When you evolve your Pokemon, it becomes a more powerful version of that critter and as such, the maximum CP is increased. This is shown by the white semi-circle becoming larger.

Tips for eggs in Pokémon GO

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59. Always have an egg in the incubator

As soon as you get an egg, make sure you put it in the incubator. If you tap on the Pokéball and then the Pokemon, you will see the Egg list in the top right. From here you can choose an incubator for the egg.

60. Prioritise 10km eggs

For an egg to crack open, you need to walk. Some eggs take 2km, some 5km and some 10km. The rarity of the Pokémon hatched depends on the distance travelled.

61. Speed up a hatch by taking a slow drive around your neighbourhood

You can cheat this by driving in a car at a low speed, like 20km/h. While this may not always be practical, if you plan on travelling at peak hour, leave the app open and let it accumulate while you are inching your way through traffic.

62. Be on the lookout for extra incubators

You may get lucky and find an incubator at a Pokestop, which allows you to work on getting two eggs to crack at once.

63. Careful cracking that egg

An incubator will only allow three attempts at cracking an egg before it breaks.

64. An easy way to incubate eggs

Plug in your phone while you’re at work or sleeping and keep it in the battery saver mode. Occasionally your phone will recalibrate your GPS and this adds incremental distances to your travel total. In an hour, it’s not much, but over five hours or more it could be a few hundred kilometres.

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