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Getting a New iPhone? Here's the Easiest Way to Transfer Your Data

If you're waiting for your new iPhone SE or green iPhone 13, take note of how to transfer all your information without losing a thing.

There are some steps you'll need to take before switching iPhones.
Patrick Holland/CNET

It's tempting to start using your new iPhone as soon as it's out of the box, but you really shouldn't rush the setup process. It doesn't matter if your new iPhone is the green iPhone 13 or the latest iteration of the iPhone SE (both of which were announced at Apple's "Peek Performance" event), you need to take the time to ensure your iPhone is set up to your liking. This included making sure you get your old phone ready for the switch and preparing your current device for a data transfer. Apple has several options for transferring data from iPhone to iPhone, depending on your situation.

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For instance, you can set it up as brand new: You'd be starting from scratch with no settings, messages, photos, apps or accounts transferred over. There's also the option to move everything from your current phone to an iPhone 13 -- even if you're currently an Android user. We'll explain the four different methods for restoring your phone from a recent backup of your current iPhone

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You've got several options when it comes to setting up your new iPhone.

Patrick Holland/CNET

1. Restore a recent iCloud backup to your new iPhone

The easiest and quickest method to set up your new iPhone is to restore from a recent iCloud backup. As you walk through the initial setup process, tap Restore from iCloud Backup, sign in with your Apple ID and then pick the most recent backup of your old iPhone. 

If the backup is more than a day or two old, I suggest (and your new phone might actually suggest this as well) you take an extra few minutes to create a new backup. To do so, open the Settings app on your old phone and search iCloud Backup (click the icon), then select Back Up Now

Once that finishes, go back to your new iPhone and select the backup you just created as what you want to use to restore from. 

Your phone will then restore your settings and preferences, and you'll be able to start using it in about 15 minutes while it finishes downloading your installed apps. 

Once everything is restored, you'll need to sign back into any accounts you added to your phone, as well as go through your apps and make sure you're still signed in. 

Read more: These are the best iPhone 13 cases, best AirPods Pro accessories, and best MagSafe chargers.

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Apple's data transfer tool lets you skip iCloud backups. 

Patrick Holland/CNET

2. Use Apple's direct transfer method

During the setup process, you'll be asked if you want to directly transfer apps and information from your old iPhone to your new one. This feature was first rolled out with iOS 12.4, so if it's been a few years since you've upgraded phones, it'll be the first time you've seen the option. 

The tool is straightforward to use. Make sure you have both phones, preferably plugged in and charging to ensure they don't run out of battery, a Wi-Fi connection and enough time for the process to finish -- it could take over an hour. 

The more information you have on your phone, like photos in your camera roll, the longer it will take. When the transfer starts, the phones will show you a time estimate. Every time I've used this tool, that estimate has been accurate within a couple of minutes. It's worth taking the time if you don't use Apple's iCloud service to back up your phone.

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3. Use a Mac or PC to transfer your data to an iPhone

The method I personally use with every new iPhone is to restore from an encrypted backup using a Mac or PC. Not only does this process transfer all of your apps, settings and preferences, but it also means you don't have to sign into the countless apps you have on your phone. 

Before you can use this method, you'll need to create an encrypted backup of your current iPhone. I know that may sound intimidating or overly complicated, but it only means you have to check an extra box and enter a password. 

On a Mac, you'll use Finder to back up your old iPhone. We outlined the steps when Apple killed iTunes. Just make sure to check the Encrypt backup box and enter a password you'll remember when prompted. Let your Mac go to work, creating a backup file. It will let you know when it's done. 

On a PC, you'll need to use iTunes (it's not completely dead) to create a backup. That process is explained here. Again, you'll need to make sure the Encrypt backup box is checked and enter a password. 

To restore your new phone, open Finder or iTunes, and connect your phone to your computer. Click Trust when prompted, and then follow the prompts, selecting the backup you just created as what you want to use to restore the phone. You will need to enter the backup's password before the process begins -- so make sure you don't forget it! 

Once it's done, your new phone will be an exact copy of your old phone and you won't have to spend any time signing into apps or random accounts. 

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Apple made an Android app called Move To iOS that makes moving your messages, photos, videos and more from an Android phone to an iPhone easy.

Patrick Holland/CNET

4. Android user? This app is your answer

Apple doesn't have many Android apps listed in Google's Play Store, but Move to iOS is one of them. This free app will connect your Android phone to a new iPhone and allow you to transfer the most important information from one phone to the other. 

Here's the entire step-by-step process as well as some caveats, like the fact that it won't transfer any locally stored music or PDF files. 

No matter the process you used to set up your new phone, you're sure to be giddy with excitement as you explore what it can do. And because it comes with iOS 15 (now iOS 15.4) installed out of the box, we have you covered from a review of all the features we could find to some of the best hidden tricks.