As the smartphone market gets saturated, phone makers are ramping up their efforts to lure away each other’s customers. But when you come home from the store (or sign for that package), you’ll have to move your life from your old device to the new one. It’s not hard, if you pay attention. Here’s how.
We’ll be presenting four possible flows: Android to Android, Android to iPhone, iPhone to Android, and iPhone to iPhone. But because there’s really no such thing as pure Android, it’s possible that your Android smartphone maker — especially if it’s one of the bigger ones like Samsung, OnePlus, or Google — will have some proprietary means of moving your data.
Before we begin, the usual warnings apply. In all cases, be connected to (or know the SSID and password for) your local Wi-Fi. Make a fresh backup of your old phone’s data. Depending on which kind of migration you’re doing, know your Google or iCloud ID and password. Make sure that you’ve updated your old phone’s operating system as much as you can before you start (although if you’re moving from Android to an iPhone, stay away from Android Pie — see “iPhone 8.x to Android,” below). Finally, realize that the screens you see here may differ a little from what’s on your phone.
Android to Android
It shouldn’t be a surprise that anything having to do with Android is going to lean heavily on Google.
- When you turn on your new phone, the first few steps will be the normal Terms and Conditions kinds of screens. As you tap through, you’ll eventually be asked if you want to bring your data over to the new phone, and you’ll be asked to pick where the data should come from.
- Tap “A Backup from an Android Phone,” and you’ll be told to open the Google app on the other phone. Do so, and tap Next.
- You’ll be instructed to go to your old phone, launch the Google app (not the Chrome app; the Google app), and tell it to set up your device.
- Your old phone will show a Getting Started screen without much information. Tap Next to get started.
- The old phone and new phone both want to establish where you’re moving your account in case there’s more than one phone in Bluetooth range. Tap the correct device icon on each phone.
- Just to be sure, the phones will both show a screen with numbers and colored shapes to confirm that your data is going to the right place. Those screens are supposed to match. Tap Next on your old phone (notice there’s no place to tap on the new one).
- Enter your screen lock code on your old phone and approve the copy to your new phone. Presto — your account will appear on the new phone.
- Log in to your Google account on the new phone. It may take a few minutes to download everything, but eventually all your Gmail, Contacts, Calendars, Photos, and backups will appear. What will not appear are all your apps, so there’s one more step.
- Launch the Google Play Store. Tap the menu icon, then tap “My apps and games.” You’ll be shown a list of apps that were on your old phone. Pick the ones you want to migrate (you might not want to move brand-specific or carrier-specific apps from the old phone to the new), and download them. While you’re there, update the apps that came with the new phone, too.
When you turn on your new phone, you’ll eventually be asked if you want to bring your data over to the new phone, and where from.
Tap “A Backup from an Android Phone,” and you’ll be told to open the Google app on the other phone.
Go to your old phone, launch the Google app, and tell it to set up your device.
Your old phone will show a Getting Started screen. Tap Next to get started.
Both phones will make sure where you’re moving your account from and to.
Tap the correct device icon on each phone.
Just to be sure, the phones will both show a screen with numbers and colored shapes. Those screens are supposed to match.
Tap Next on the your old phone.
Enter your screen lock code on your old phone.
OK the copy to your new phone
Presto — your account will appear on the new phone. Eventually all your Gmail, Contacts, Calendars, Photos, and backups will appear.
Launch the Google Play Store and pick the apps you want to migrate.
iPhone to Android
Basically, moving from an iPhone to an Android phone entails backing everything up to Google Drive and downloading it to the new phone.
- On the new phone, the first few steps are the normal Terms and Conditions screens. As you tap through, you’ll eventually be asked if you want to bring your data over and you’ll see a screen that lets you pick where your old data will come from. Tap “An iPhone device.”
- Your phone will tell you to open Safari and navigate to android.com/switch. The tricky part here is that they don’t say explicitly that you’re supposed to do that on the iPhone. You are.
- If you don’t have Google Drive on your iPhone, go to the App Store and download it, then sign into your Google account (presuming you have one). If you don’t have a Google account yet, Google Drive will guide you through the process of setting one up. You’ll need a Google account to use Android.
- In Google Drive, tap the hamburger menu at the upper left of the screen, then tap the Settings gear in the menu that slides out from the left.
- Tap Backup.
- Tap on Contacts, Calendar events, and Photos & Videos and slide the toggle on for everything you want to back up to Google Drive. It’s probably all of the above.
- Tap Start Backup, and wait. Depending on how much stuff you have, it may take a while — like, hours — to back up everything to the cloud. You will probably want to connect your iPhone to power while this is happening.
- This is important: if your new Android phone has the same number as your iPhone (for example, if you’re swapping the SIM card), you need to turn off iMessage and FaceTime or you’ll never get another text message. In the iPhone’s Settings app, scroll down to Messages (it’s quite some distance down the page) and tap it. Slide the iMessage toggle to the left, turning it off. Go back to the Settings menu, tap on FaceTime (it’s right below Messages), and turn it off, too. (You can do all this during the backup, to save a bit of time.)
- Continue setting up your new Android phone, logging into Google with the same ID you used on the iPhone to back up that phone to Google Drive. Eventually, all your backed up data will appear, safe and sound. Your apps won’t be there, of course, but your iOS apps wouldn’t work on Android, anyway.
Android 8.x to iPhone
If you’re going to move from a newish Android phone to an iPhone, there is a serious wrinkle. Apple’s Android migration tool, Move to iOS, does not (at this writing) appear to work with phones running Android 9 Pie (the latest version of Android). We couldn’t get it to connect with iOS phones in our tests, and our experience seems to be echoed in support forums online. Previous versions — Android Oreo (8.x) — do work.
Given that Android Pie is quite new and migration tools are generally for older phones, this may not be a limiting factor for you. But you should certainly know before you start. There do appear to be third-party workarounds that use your PC as an intermediary (AnyTrans appears to be a favorite), but we did not test them. Another possibility, if you have an older Android phone handy, is to move your data to that phone according to the instructions above, then migrate to the new iPhone, as follows:
- After you pick location and language on the iPhone, you’re offered a Quick Start screen to migrate from another iOS device. That’s not what you’re doing, so tap Set Up Manually.
- Connect to the Wi-Fi network of your choice. (You can also do this over a cell network, if you prefer.)
- Set up Touch ID / Face ID, or just set a PIN. You can come back and do the biometrics later.
- You’ll then be asked if you want to migrate data to your iPhone, and from where. Tap Move Data from Android, and then tap Continue. A six- or 10-digit code will appear.
- On your Android phone, go to the Play Store and download the app Move to iOS. Open it, tap Continue, and accept the Terms and Conditions. A Find Your Code screen will appear. Tap Next, in the upper right corner.
- Enter the code from your iPhone onto your Android phone. The phones will pair.
- The Android app will ask what data you want to move. Tap to select, and tap Next.
- The data will transfer. Continue setting up your iPhone.
- Once you enter or set up your Apple IDs, you’ll be offered the opportunity to download iOS versions of your Android apps, which is a nice touch.
iPhone to iPhone
This is pretty simple, which you’d expect.
- Put a new iPhone near an older one, and a screen will pop up on the older phone, offering to set up the new one.
- The new phone will display a pattern on its screen; take a photo of the pattern with the old phone, which pairs the phones. The old phone will now direct you to finish setup on the new device.
- Enter the passcode of the old phone. You’ll be offered the option of setting up a biometric ID, and your iCloud ID will copy over.
- You can then restore from an iCloud or iTunes backup, or continue to set up the phone as new. Note that you’re already signed into iCloud and iTunes; that’s what transferred over from your old phone. Pick the option that works best for you, and you’re all good.
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