12 ‘Pokémon GO’ Tips to Become the Very Best(ish)

Pokémon GO Krabby in an alley
Finding Pokemon in an alley | Mark Knapp/Entertainment Cheat Sheet

It took no time at all for Pokémon GO to become a phenomenon, much in the same way that the original Pokémon games became a phenomenon. People are playing Pokémon GO everywhere, and it’s making a load of money. A big part of this phenomenon is that the game is largely social, as friends go hunting for Pokémon together, or strangers might buddy up in their search or taking on of a gym.

Whether you love or hate Pokémon GO, it’s here to stay for at least a little while (assuming the rampant server problems don’t drive people away). And if you’re going to play the game, you might as well “be the very best, like no one ever was,” or at least follow these simple tips to improve in the game quicker and with less headache. So, let the adventure begin.

(Note: The sheer number of glitches, bugs, and misunderstandings around this game may lead to some of these tips not working out or being 100% accurate. Our first recommendation is not to spend any actual money in the game until all of the major kinks have been worked out by the developers.)

1. Check your eggs regularly

Hopefully you already know that you can collect fertilized eggs with soon-to-be Pokémon inside. You can find them by clicking the on-screen Pokéball, going to Pokémon, and then swiping over to Eggs. From there you can click an egg and begin incubation. The game will track your distance and apply it toward the incubation goal. But, don’t assume every step you take will count. Pokémon GO doesn’t track anything if the game isn’t running in the foreground on your phone. Also, don’t go too fast, as the game will try to prevent you from hatching all your eggs on a speedy car or train ride. The real clincher is that the game might also just be bugging out. If you’re going on a 30-kilometer hike with the hopes of hatching a bunch of your eggs, you better regularly return to the egg page and make sure your distance is actually being tracked — don’t assume that seeing your avatar moving on the map means your distance is being counted.

2. Beware the spinning Pokéball

While you play, you will probably regularly spot the white, spinning Pokéball in the upper-left corner of your screen. When you see this, your game is communicating with the servers. That’s good and all, but sometimes you might notice that the ball has been present in the corner for a long time even though you’re not doing much. After you catch a Pokémon, use items, fight a gym, or really do anything active, you can expect to see that spinning Pokéball. But if you see it there for too long, be wary. You might be in the middle of server connectivity issues. Try fully closing the game and relaunching it to see if that fixes it. Just don’t continue trying to catch Pokémon or using special items that might be lost to the void of a glitch.

3. Track Pokémon in the wild

In the bottom-right corner of the main map screen, you can see what Pokémon are nearby. By clicking on that little display, you can expand the list. There are footstep markers to show general distance, with one footstep being quite close, two footsteps being a slight walk away, and three footsteps still being within striking distance, but you might need to spend a few minutes hiking to find them. You can take the tracking one step further though by clicking on one of these Pokémon displayed to actively track that specific one. Walk around, and if the number of footprints decreases as you go, you know you’re going in the right direction. [Update 8/1/2016: The footsteps feature has been removed from Pokémon GO, after it had erroneously been displaying all Pokémon as 3 footsteps away.)

4. Don’t evolve or power up your Pokémon (yet)

This might sound like bad advice, since the point of the game is to get all the Pokémon and make them stronger so you can claim leadership of Pokémon gyms (unless your reason is just to catch Pokémon and enjoy time outside with your friends). Evolving and leveling your Pokémon might give you an immediate boost to your squad’s total combat power, but you’re going to cash in candies and stardust to do so, and in the end, you’d have been better off saving those. Why? Because as you continue leveling up your trainer (not your Pokémon) and exploring, you’ll encounter stronger and stronger Pokémon in all evolutionary stages. So, while you could spend a ton of candies evolving and powering up your Pidgey, you might also just play until you find a super powerful Pidgeot, and then all the candies you didn’t just waste on a weak Pidgey can now go to making that powerful Pidgeot even more powerful.

5. Use a common Pokémon to level up fast

You’ll probably notice that your area seems to have an insane number of the same few Pokémon, and at first it’ll probably annoy the hell out of you (and allow you to relate to the parody video above). However, this is a blessing in disguise. These common Pokémon can be caught in such handfuls, and often have a very low threshold for evolution. What does this mean? You’ll find yourself with a load of candies for that Pokémon and be able to evolve a ton of them. Since evolving a Pokémon is worth 500xp, it’s a great way to level up your character. Don’t be mad if you’re catching Pidgey all day. Save them up and evolve a ton of them at once — if you have a lucky egg, you can double each evolution to 1000xp.

6. Don’t go into Pokéstops

The tips in Pokémon GO
Pokémon GO doesn’t have great tips | Mark Knapp/Entertainment Cheat Sheet

All around the internet are stories of people going into stores, restaurants, and military bases to catch Pokémon or access Pokéstops. The thing is, you don’t actually have to be in most locations swipe the Pokéstop. Just being close is enough in most cases. So, if you see a business with a sign posted saying Pokémon GO players need to be customers to enter, take comfort in knowing that you don’t need to enter at all.

7. Save a bit of time at Pokéstops

When you actually do go to Pokéstops, you can save yourself some time by not playing into the little bubble popping game offered by Pokémon GO. All the little items that float out when you spin the Pokéstop can be collected by simply hitting the X at the bottom of the screen. It can already take annoyingly long for a Pokéstop to load, so don’t waste any more time collecting the items it gives you.

8. Don’t throw curveballs

If you didn’t know, Pokémon GO lets you throw your Pokéball as a curveball by twirling it around a little bit before throwing. If you catch a Pokémon with a curveball, you get an extra 10xp. Sounds good, right? Except the game often fails to count a throw that is obviously shimmering and curving through the air. You’re better off saving your time and catching the Pokémon with an easy and accurate throw, and you’re less likely to drop your phone with unnecessary swiping on the screen.

9. Keep it simple on weak Pokémon

Another tip for throwing for non-experts is to go for the easy XP bonus on weak Pokémon. You’re more likely to catch a Pokémon if you wait until the circle around them is at its smallest, and when you really want a specific or strong Pokémon, that’s the timing you should go for. However, it’s really hard to land a throw that gives you an XP bonus when the circle is small because you have to hit the Pokémon within that circle, which requires some crazy depth accuracy. If a Pokémon is weak, you’re likely going to have no trouble capturing it regardless of your timing, so you’re better off just throwing your Pokéball when the ring is at its largest so you can get the easy XP bonus of a nice throw.

10. Transfer weak duplicate Pokémon immediately

Unless you’re hanging onto a bunch of one Pokémon for the mass evolution XP trick, there’s not much sense in hanging onto a bunch of the same weak Pokémon. To save yourself some time and clutter, you can actually transfer them to the Professor for a candy immediately after you catch them. Scroll down on the screen that appears after you catch them and press the transfer button. If you don’t do it at this point, you will have to tap your way into the Pokémon menu, find the Pokémon, tap it, wait for the menu to load, and then transfer it (this is a headache when you’re doing it for 20 Pokémon in a row.).

11. Catch Pokémon at the same time as friends

Pokemon GO
Pokemon GO | Remko de Waal/AFP/Getty Images

Playing with friends is great, unless one of them is a thieving jerk. If you and your friends see a few Pokémon on the map at the same time, all of you should target the same Pokémon at the same time, and make sure no one catches it until you’re all ready to throw Pokéballs. If someone captures the Pokémon before someone else has initiated the catching game, it may be removed from the map, and on one else will be able to catch it. But if you all try to catch it at the same time, you all can.

12. Save all your rare items for now

Pokemon GO items menu
Mark Knapp/Entertainment Cheat Sheet

I’ve said it at least a dozen times and I’ll say it again, Pokémon GO is a buggy mess. A lot of things go wrong. Pokémon you appear to catch might not be caught because the game freezes. Distance you travel might not get counted because the game was confused. That’s already a headache, but what would be even more of a headache is you using a special item only for the game to bug out and see it go to waste. When trying to confirm the mass evolution trick with double XP from a lucky egg, my game ran into the spinning Pokéball glitch. After numerous failed attempts to relaunch the game, I tried evolving a few Pokémon only to find I was getting the normal 500xp. Fortunately, this was because the lucky egg never activated and had returned to my backpack. In the end, I just didn’t get as much XP from the trick as I’d intended to, but others might not be so lucky.

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