Pokemon Go is a lot of fun, but some things about it are really non-obvious. Below we've compiled the 10 most important things we wish we'd learned sooner. Read up on these things and you'll get a jump start as a new Pokemon Go Trainer on your way to catch them all.
1. How Pokemon Spawn
One of the most impenetrable aspects of Pokemon Go is also one of the most fundamental. The whole game is about catching Pokemon, and yet when you first play it it can be incredibly non-obvious how to do that. Past the first few days, the tracker system delivered by Niantec has been garbage - but even beyond tracking it is important to understand where an how Pokemon spawn. Pokemon only spawn at certain exact locations. If you are not near one of these locations, you can literally run a marathon and never see a single Pokemon. For more on tracking Pokemon, check out our guide.
2. Pokestop respawn time
Pokestops are a huge part of Pokemon Go, because its going to take a lot of Pokeballs to "catch 'em all". It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that Pokestops are on an extremely short five minute timer. This means there is no need to make a long loop through a group of them. In fact, you can often fill your backpack by just sitting in a spot with two Pokestops close together and spamming them for 20-30 minutes. Pokestops near a restaurant you like are a great fit for this type of Pokestop-spamming.
Pro Tip You don't need to pop the "bubble" around items you get at a Pokestop. If you hit the "X", all of those items will automatically go into your backpack.
3. Trainer level effects Pokemon max CP
If you've looked around a bit, you've probably heard from other sources that the initial Pokemon you find in Pokemon Go are crap. I can not emphasize just how much this is the case. As your Trainer level goes up, the CP of Pokemon you find goes up substantially. Before about level 18 you'll likely have a pretty hard time getting a Pokemon above 1000 CP even with plenty of expensive Power Ups and Evolutions. After about level 18, you will just find Pokemon that strong. While this obviously means that you shouldn't go crazy upgrading your early mons, it also means that 2nd and 3rd evo Pokemon (as well as Pokemon with few or no evolutions) can be worth tracking down at higher Trainer levels even if you already have them.
Pro Tip It is even possible to increase the CP of a Pokemon you engage by running away and leveling up and then re-engaging them.
4. Special rules for "walking" credit
In Pokemon Go it is necessary to do a lot of walking. That's just the nature of the beast if you want to hunt down all those mons, but it is also a requirement for "incubating" Pokemon eggs. You might think that it would be as simple as say... walking, but in fact just like most things in Niantec's curious implementation of this game concept, the truth is a bit more abstract. The Pokemon Go game client regularly pings back to the Niantec servers every few seconds to establish your position. This position is used to fetch data for things that are near you like Pokemon, Pokestops, and Gyms, but it is also the way Niantec defines movement for egg incubation. This causes a bunch of weird side effects. First of all, if you walk slowly in a path that crosses back on itself, the game will interpret you as standing still and give you no credit towards incubation. To prevent "hyper-incubating", Niantec also implements a speed check that will eliminate credit for distance traveled if you are moving faster than a certain rate. This can cause a second artifact where poor GPS signal causes your avatar to bounce around at what the game determines to be "too fast", causing you to accrue no credit for incubation. It also means that if you are riding a bike, or even running at a decent clip you may not be getting credit for incubation. Your best bet is to turn on WiFi for optimum location detection, and then walk at a reasonable pace in a straight line.
Pro Tip Sometimes when you are inside a building, the game won't register any movement when you walk. Turning off WiFi in this case can sometimes cause some random motion that gives you at least some credit for movement. Some lazy Poke-hackers have even devised ways to spin or vibrate their device in poor GPS environments to gain slow incremental credit towards egg incubation.
Pro Tip You won't find us recommending playing Pokemon Go while driving, but playing as a passenger can be fairly doable. Besides just hitting Pokestops, grabbing Pokemon, and even tossing defenders in passing Gyms you can also usually get some walking credit if you are going through parking lots, especially if the route is curvy enough that your straight line speed is pretty slow. Please Trainers, do everyone a solid and double fist with the drivers phone rather than letting them drive distracted.
5. Catching Common Pokemon helps level up later
After playing Pokemon Go for a week or two, you might be pretty damn tired of Ratattas and Pidgeys. These are very common Pokemon, and in truth even the best of them will usually not stand out once you have more rare and powerful alternatives when it comes to Gym battles - but they can be very useful for leveling up. Unwanted Pokemon can be "transferred" to the Professor via the lower left menu on the info screen you see when you tap on them. Doing so will award you 1 candy, to add to the 3 you get for catching them. These candies add up, and for some common Pokemon evolution costs as little as 12 candies. As you climb the levels you'll occasionally get a "Lucky Egg" which gives you bonus experience for 30 minutes. If you horde the candies you acquire, you can go on an evolution spree for common Pokemon and rack up a ton of experience in a short period of time - without spending precious Stardust.
Pro Tip When you are getting ready to use a Lucky Egg, count out the number of common Pokemon you have and make sure it is enough to match the number of evolutions you have candies for. If you are like me and purge unwanted acquisitions quickly, you might need to stock up on a few before you pop the Egg.
Pro Tip I haven't crunched the numbers on every mon, but the general wisdom when evo-spamming is to only perform the first evolution. The second evolution tends to cost a lot more candy, without generating an equivalent amount of experience.
6. No point to attack Gyms early
Professor Oak might have led you to believe you were ready to start attacking Gyms at level 5, but that dude lied to you. In the current meta, your Pokemon will not be very competitive till they are 600 CP plus for teams of six. For the 1x1 "training" attacks you'll need something in the 1000 to 1500 CP plus range. You just flat can't catch or evolve Pokemon this strong until you are in the high teen Trainer levels. By the time you hit Trainer level 20, these types of powerful Pokemon will be much easier to find, catch, and evolve - so there is no really reason to bang your head against the Gym wall early on. The combat will also seem impossible, when really the fact is that your Pokemon are just plain too weak to compete. Wait till you level up, and you'll feel much less frustrated.
Pro Tip Since you won't be fighting much, feel free to throw away a lot of Potions and Revives. If you don't, your bag will eventually fill up with them and you won't have enough stock of precious Pokeballs to catch more Pokemon.
Pro Tip Even though you aren't attacking, keep an eye out for friendly Gyms with space open. You can often ninja a low CP Pokemon into these gyms even if only for a few minutes. That will be long enough for you to hop over to the Shop and collect your 10 coins for the day, which is the most you can usually hope for at low levels.
7. Implications of Team choice
In something of a cruel joke, Pokemon Go slaps you with a semi-important decision early on in the game with basically no context. At Trainer Level 5 you'll be prompted to choose a "Team" the first time you interact with a Gym. Each team captain give a brief intro on the creed for their Team.... which is all a bunch of meaningless nonsense that has no effect on the game or you as the player. However, your choice will be permanent, and there are two fairly significant implications. First - populations of the teams are not even. Blue (Mystic) tends to be the most popular with Red (Valor) typically not too far behind. Yellow (Instinct) is in a fairly distant third place. Having more Trainers on your team means more Gyms your team will own. Competition for Gym spots will be higher, but the likelihood your team can hold a Gym for longer than a day also goes up. Fewer Trainers on your team means a lot fewer Gyms you'll see that your team owns, and turnover of these Gyms will also be higher. As a silver lining, when you do find a Gym your team owns the odds it has open spots will be a lot higher, allowing you to at least nab some easy coins. A second obvious implication of team choice is the ability to play with friends. If you have friends that already play the game (and believe me, chances are you do) - its a really good idea to try and be on the same team. If not, you'll never be able to team up to defend a Gym, and in the long run this can be a downer when you are hanging out in a place near a Gym and are forced to compete rather than teaming up.
Pro Tip It is still possible to team up to attack Gym with Trainers from another team if neither of you are on the Team that holds the Gym. Even in Pokemon Go, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
8. Horde dust
Stardust is an extremely scarce resource, and should be used very sparingly. Early on, you may feel that it is burning a hole in your pocket as you constantly find your Pokemon outmatched at Gyms, and you feel like you don't have anything else to spend it on. Be patient. As mentioned earlier, as your Trainer levels up you'll find more powerful Pokemon without needing to spend any Stardust. Stardust should be reserved for only fairly rare and powerful Pokemon that you want to invest in, or Pokemon that you already find at a high level which you want to give a small bump. The math is usually pretty easy to do with an online calculator, so make sure that the Pokemon you are wanting to invest in will be worth it days and weeks down the road... especially if you are going to spend days or weeks worth of Stardust to upgrade them.
9. Pokestop hotspots
In Pokemon Go, not all locations are created equal. In fact, if you don't live in a historic section of a densely populated urban area, you might not realize the insane density of Pokestops that exist in some areas. Spots with four, five, or even more Pokestops overlapping exist. Since Pokestops "respawn" fairly fast, it can be well worth the effort to travel to one of these locations and set up camp until your bags are brimming with Pokeballs and other consumables. It is also quite often the case that other Trainers in your area will load these locations up with Pokestop Lures, making them an excellent place to fill all those empty balls with Pokemon. Downtown or historic districts of urban areas are a good place to start, but other odd places like churches and strip malls can also sometimes have a clustering. Compare notes with friends and other Trainers you meet, and also take a look online as there are fan made Pokestop maps for many locations.
10. Pikachu and Eevee tricks
Last, and certainly not least, are a few Easter Eggs that Niantec included for more devotes Pokemon fans. I was lucky enough to be informed by some other trainers, but the first trick is over after five minutes of playing - so you have to know before you've basically even started. At the beginning of the game, the professor will prompt you to try and catch your starter Pokemon, and the standard three (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle) will pop up. If you walk away from these three, clones will pop up a few feet away. After 4-5 refusals, the pot will be sweetened with a fourth option - the iconic Pikachu. As we've explained early, pretty much any of these choices will be fairly worthless in the long run - but nabbing Pikachu early can be very useful for folks who live in an area where they are rare. The other starters tend to be fairly easy to find, so an early Pikachu will net you the 500 experience bonus earlier and put you one step closer to catching them all.
The second Easter Egg Niantec snuck in relates to your super evolvable Pokemon pal Eevee. Normally, evolving Eevee can result in one of three random evolutions: Vaporeon (Water), Flareon (Fire), or Jolteon (Electric). However, by choosing a specific name for your Eevee, you can control which form it will evolve into. You can only use the trick once though, and then subsequent evolutions will go back to being random. Still, it can give you a little more control over your first evolution and an early leg up since the Eevee evolutions fair pretty well in Gym battles (as long as they have sufficient CP).
Pro Tip Eevee evolutions are not created equal. If you are looking for the general best choice for using this trick, choose Vaporeon. Vaporeon has a higher CP multiplier when evolving than the other forms, so it is the best bet to have the most powerful Pokemon. If you don't care about a little extra power, Jolteon is the next best choice due to the Electric type - which has slightly fewer common counters than the other two choices.
Well that's it for now. If you learn these tips and tricks you'll have a good leg up as you get started in Pokemon Go. Do you see any that we've missed? Leave a comment and let us know! Keeping trying to catch 'em all Trainers!