Getting a new iPhone is exciting. New camera! Faster performance! Longer battery life! That is, until it’s time to transfer all of your information from your old iPhone, and you realize you are out of iCloud storage or your phone hasn’t been backed up in weeks. Ugh.
Starting with iOS 12.4, you can forget all that iCloud nonsense and use the new, dead simple, transfer tool that moves your data directly from one iPhone to another. Keep in mind that using an iCloud backup to restore your phone is faster, but if you refuse to pay for storage or your phone hasn’t been backed up recently, this is the easiest way to get your new iPhone set up.
Using the new data migration tool is simple, just make sure to set aside some time for all of your photos, messages, and other important info to transfer.
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What you need
You’ll need two iPhones — your old one and the new one you’re setting up — both running iOS 12.4, and access to a Wi-Fi network.
Go to Settings > General > Software Update to make sure you’re running the latest version of iOS 12. If your new iPhone isn’t running iOS 12.4 yet, go through the setup process on the phone, but don’t select the option to restore from any backup source. Instead, select “Don’t transfer apps & data” and skip through the rest of the setup steps. Once you get to the home screen, update it to iOS 12.4 and then factory reset it. I know, it’s a hassle, but doing so will ensure you can transfer all of your data from your old iPhone.
By the time you’ve eventually finished setting up your new phone (step-by-step instructions below), it will essentially be a direct copy of your current phone. Apps will be in the same place on your home screens, settings will be the same, email accounts… everything.
Using the new transfer feature
With your old and new iPhones next to each other, you’re about to start the setup process on the new phone. Your old phone should display a prompt asking if you want to set up a new phone. Tap Continue and then point the old iPhone’s camera at your new phone’s screen.
Follow the prompts on your new phone, completing tasks like entering a passcode, setting up Face ID or Touch ID, and agreeing to Apple’s terms and conditions. Eventually, you’ll end up on a screen asking if you want to transfer data directly from one phone to the other, or if you want to restore from iCloud.
Select Transfer from iPhone and follow the prompts, after which your iPhones will take care of the rest. Make sure you leave the two phones near each other, otherwise the transfer can slow down or stall.
It will take some time for the transfer to complete, depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi network and the amount of data you’re transferring. Naturally, 2,000 photos will take longer to transfer than 500. If you have a lot of apps and photos, be prepared to be patient — it’s going to take a while. It took me about 25 minutes to transfer data, which is exactly what the amount of time the tool estimated it would take.
The default method is to use a wireless connection for the transfer. Alternatively, if you have a Lightning-to-USB 3 camera adapter and a spare Lightning USB cable, a wired transfer is possible and should be faster. But it’s not worth going out and buying the adapter just to save yourself a few minutes.
After the transfer is complete, your new phone will reboot and your apps will finish downloading. All of your photos, emails, contacts, appointments, and messages will be there.
The timing of this new feature is perfect, with September around the corner. That’s when Apple is expected to announce several new iPhones (we think Apple will announce the iPhone 11 on Sept. 10), and this will definitely eliminate one of the biggest potential headaches when upgrading devices.
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