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If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, you should be wondering how simple (or taxing) transferring data from old to new will be.
Upgrading from an older model iPhone to the iPhone 6? Easy.
Jumping from Android to iOS or from iOS to Windows? You may lose key data if you’re not careful.
Here are four things that could disappear when you switch mobile platforms and how to avoid those losses.
1. Your media (photos, videos and music)
There is no magic switch you can flip that will migrate all of your media from one platform to another, but it’s not difficult to move this data yourself.
How to save your data: You have two options. The first is to use cloud-based storage.
Steve Friedberg, president of MMI Communications in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, has switched platforms twice in two years: first from iPhone to Android and then back to Apple when it unleashed the iPhone 6 Plus.
The transition was nearly seamless because Friedberg uses backup storage services like Dropbox and SugarSync to keep his information and files in the cloud, computer servers that host enormous amounts of data, including Friedberg’s media. When he purchased a new phone, Friedberg downloaded the storage app, signed in to his account and gained access to all his saved files.
Dropbox Basic accounts are free with 2 GB of storage, although you can earn up to 16 GB of additional space for completing tasks like getting friends to sign up for an account. Dropbox Pro gets you 1 terabyte (TB) of storage — that’s 1,000 GB — for $9.99 a month. SugarSync’s basic package comes with 60 GB of storage for $74.99 a year.
Your second option is to back up your phone’s data to your PC or Mac. If you have iTunes loaded on your computer, for example, you’re already backing up your data. Making the transfer is just a matter of finding the folder where that information is located and uploading it to the new phone.
If you use a Mac and are either leaving or going to Android, here’s one other thing to keep in mind: You’ll have to download Android File Transfer. It’s free. PC users don’t need the additional software to connect to an Android device.
Whether in the cloud or on your computer, you should back up your phone’s data anyway, even if you’re not thinking of jumping ship. That way, those memories can’t be lost if you lose your phone.
2. Your apps
One thing Friedberg lost in his second transition: his Swype keyboard app, which allows you to type in one continuous motion without lifting your finger. It’s the only app he paid for on Android, so when he switched back to iPhone, he paid $0.99 to buy the iOS version.
Typically, you will have to repurchase apps when you switch platforms — if you have any paid apps in the first place, says David Zimmerman, president of LC Technology International in Clearwater, Florida, a data recovery firm.
How to save your data: For free apps, just download them again on the new platform. Any user information is likely stored on the app-maker’s servers, so simply logging in should give you full access to what you had on your old phone.
If you paid for an app, Zimmerman says you can try contacting the developer and asking for a free method to download the app onto a different platform. Don’t count on this working, though.
3. Your text messages
Unlike a lot of information on your phone, text messages aren’t as easy to retrieve and download, Zimmerman says. That’s because while they’re saved when you back up your phone, their location is not always clearly labeled.
How to save your data: If you need to keep only a few key texts, you have two easy options. The first is to take screen shots of important texts. Then they’ll be stored as a photo with all of your other photos.
The second is to copy the texts and then paste them into an email to yourself or a word processing app that you know will transfer to your new phone.
If you have a lot of texts you want to save, Zimmerman suggests converting them into a file format you can easily read someplace other than your phone.
On an Android phone, you can convert your messages into a text file that can be saved and read on your phone or computer through the free SMS to Text app on Google Play.
On an iPhone, this process is a bit trickier.
Messages are saved when you back up your phone, but the file they’re in is not clearly labeled, and there is no free equivalent of SMS to Text in the iTunes App Store.
So either you have to buy a service like iMazing ($29.99), or follow the instructions on iphone-sms.com, which will walk you through how to back up and retrieve the messages on your PC or Mac. This service is supported through iOS 7, according to the website.
4. Your contacts
Do you know anyone’s phone number by heart anymore? Probably not, which means your contacts could be the most important data you’ll want to transfer.
When you switch platforms, you don’t want to have to type them all in again, especially on a tiny smartphone keyboard or screen.
How to save them: If you have a Gmail account, it’s easy. If you don’t have one, signing up for an email account is also easy — and free.
If you have an iPhone and are leaving the platform, plug your phone into your computer and open iTunes. Under the “Info” tab, check the “Sync Contacts” box. Select “Sync Google Contacts,” give the email address you want it synced with and you’re done.
When you get your new phone, you can sync the new phone with those contacts (Android will ask you when you turn on the phone if you want to sync the phone with a Google account) and your transfer is complete.
If you’re leaving Android, you’ll do essentially the same thing (though there are a lot more Android phone types than Apple phones, so it may be different for your device). On your phone, open your contacts, hit menu, then import/export. You can then export that information to a Gmail account, which will allow you to sync that account to your new phone.