I’ve owned every iPhone since the original one back in 2007. Each time that I get the latest version I do something many people consider crazy: I set it up as a new iPhone, rather than restoring a backup of my last device. My rationale is both simple and silly: I like the idea of this being a natural “reset” of my phone — a way to determine which apps I really want, or more to the point, need, on my device. It’s always far fewer than I think. And certainly less than I would have if I restored and deleted just the ones I thought I wouldn’t miss.
Anyway, I bring this up because this process, while in a way liberating, is also a pain. It takes a long time to re-download every app that I actually want. And, of course, even longer to log in to each of these apps. One by one.
And yet I was reminded this week that my process actually isn’t that much more laborious than the more traditional restore. A few weeks back I bought my wife the latest iPhone — she had been using an iPhone 8, and I wanted her to have the best camera to take pictures of our little girl — but she kept pushing off setting it up. When I asked her why, she noted that the restore process is incredibly slow and cumbersome.
Actually, that was my prim and proper translation of what she said. She really just said that it sucks. And I know she’s not alone in thinking that.
This sort of surprises me since I had heard the restore process had gotten a lot better in recent years as iCloud itself has gone from a laughing stock to quite good. And again, doing this all over-the-air sure sounds much easier than what I do each time with a full rebuild from scratch.
But as it turns out, restoring an iPhone does indeed still suck. While you can do everything via the cloud, there are still a whole slew of things that are no better than a clean install. And in some cases, actually worse.
This is a difficult situation. There is some data that gets lost if you don’t upgrade: health data, and passwords (if you don’t have iCloud Keychain turned on). So the best way is to do an iTunes backup and restore from that.
But the author points out the problem with the new phone that needed an iOS update in order to load the backup, because the phone he had backed up was on a later version of iOS. This is quite frustrating, and gets me every time I don’t get an iPhone on the very first day it’s released.
The whole process is needlessly complicated, especially since iTunes no longer manages apps, and you have to download them all, which can take more than an hour with my internet bandwidth.