Transitioning to a new iPhone is made simple by iCloud backups, iTunes, and a few clicks or taps. Apple ensures it is easy to move from a fully loaded and setup device to a completely fresh iPhone with the same information, using their backup options. Most laypeople, almost always choose to restore new iPhones from their backups; however, more technically inclined concerned people tend to start with a fresh iPhone and do not restore from backup to prevent carrying over any unwanted information.
Earlier this week Christian highlighted two methods for upgrading to a new device and retaining your Activity and Health data. Method #1: use a third-party app to import your Health data, but it lacks Activity logs. Method #2: backing up your old device to iCloud or iTunes and restoring from backup, as I’ve described above.
But, what if you want both your Activity and Health data, but a fresh setup too? Step inside to learn how to install both, yet only, your previous device’s Activity and Health data on your new iPhone.
Editor’s update [September 18, 2016]
When iOS 10 and watchOS 3 launched alongside iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2, we personally tested the new Decipher tool for upgrade compatibility. The process, again, worked flawlessly. The following article has been updated in the necessary locations, to ensure the tutorial is correct.
A big change to the tool, is a new ability to save and transfer many additional datasets, not offered by a standard iPhone backup file. Transferring Health, Fitness, and Watch Data is free. Additional licensing is available for SMS/iMessage, Contacts, Voicemail, Voice Memo, Camera Roll Photos and Videos, Safari Bookmarks, Accessibility Preferences, Notes, Call History, Home screen icon layout, all apps.
How does the process work?
Unfortunately, with the addition of the Activity and Health Apps, when transitioning to a new iPhone, things can be a little more complicated without a backup. All of those Activity Rings you worked so hard to close and medals you’ve won, will be completely deleted if you start with a fresh iPhone and choose to not restore from backup. Apple does not provide a way to sync this information via an iCloud account. Instead, only an encrypted backup will maintain the integrity of any health-related information, for security reasons.
To reiterate, the method described below will allow you to move Activity and Health apps information to a new device, but no other information. Essentially, this is Method #3, in addition to the previous two. If you want to move all of your device information from one device to the next, or only your Health data, consult Christian’s article for both options.
Activity app data storage details
The process outlined in the article works because of a specific way the Activity and Health apps information is stored. All Activity.app data is calculated by Apple Watch, but stored on the iPhone. The Activity.app data, therefore is not stored directly on the Apple Watch. Apple Watch only temporarily stores Activity data until it can offload it to the iPhone. The only way to get Activity.app and Health.app data on your new iPhone, is restoring from an encrypted iCloud or iTunes backup file. Simply, pairing your Apple Watch with your new iPhone, doesn’t give your new iPhone the activity data, because the data is not stored on Apple Watch.
How to transfer only health-related data
The following process uses the Decipher Activity Transfer tool, which was just launched by Decipher Tools, and will take about 10-15 minutes. I personally confirm it worked amazingly well when moving from my iPhone 6s to iPhone 7. To most easily perform the transfer, I recommend watching the Decipher Tools tutorial video through once, then start the video over and do the process while following the video. This is a fairly lengthy process, but the steps are very simple.
According to the developer, the described process will work with any version of iOS 8.2+ or watchOS 1+. If you are looking for a personal benchmark, I upgraded my existing devices before switching to my iPhone 7. I moved from an iPhone 6s on iOS 10.0.1 and Apple Watch Sport on watchOS 3 to the new iPhone 7, which shipped with iOS 10.0 (note the downgraded iOS version). My iTunes was updated to 126.96.36.199 (most recent).
Step 1: Download the Decipher Activity Transfer tool (OS X, Windows)
Step 2: Ensure your old iPhone is running iOS 8.2 or higher
Step 3: Go to the Apple Watch app, and unpair the Watch with your old iPhone, which takes a backup of the existing Apple Watch information and stores it on iPhone
Step 4: Open iTunes and make a backup of the old iPhone, ensuring that you use an encrypted iPhone backup, which also backs up, the private activity data.
Step 5: Unplug your old iPhone from iTunes. It will no longer be needed.
Step 6: Start the Decipher Activity Transfer tool. It is useful to know, the transfer tool doesn’t actually manipulate the original iPhone backup file. Instead, the tool clones the original file, then manipulates the cloned file, ensuring you always have the unaltered initial file.
Step 7: Select your backup file. It should be the option listed at the top, which is timestamped to ensure you choose the most recent.
Step 8: The tool then scans the file to ensure it is not corrupt.
Step 8b: When clicking “Customize It!,” you will be presented with a list of possible backup items. For this tutorial, we are covering the free transfer of Health, Fitness, and Watch Data, which is selected by default. To proceed with the free tool, select “Clean It!” in the bottom right corner.
Step 9: The tool then goes through a “cleaning” process, where it drops all non related files, except Activity.app and Health.app data.
Step 10: You receive a finished cleaning message, then click Next. The following screen explains how to then install the backup file on your new iPhone.
Step 11: Plug in your new, fresh iPhone and open iTunes. If you need to activate carrier settings on the new device, it is okay to do so. The new iPhone splash screen will load on iTunes and select: Restore from this backup. Choose the backup file listed as the “Decipher Cleaned >name of previous iPhone<” version. This is the file from the Activity Transfer Tool with only the health-related data. You can confirm, by checking the time stamp below the selection box.
Step 12: iPhone will reboot and show you the “Hello” welcome screen. If it is still plugged into your computer, iTunes will reload the same new iPhone splash screen, because it cannot tell the health data has been installed.
Step 13: Follow the setup steps on either iTunes or iPhone to setup the device. At this point, whenever asked, always response “Set up as new iPhone.” It is the only way to ensure you retain the health data that was injected in Step 11.
Step 14: When you get to the iPhone Home screen, you will notice there is a fresh install of iOS 10.0.x. No previous apps are there, no setting information, no pictures, nothing. However, if you open the Health.app, it will show your previous steps. My re-instated Health.app screen shot is below:
Step 15: Grab your Apple Watch and pair Apple Watch with your new device. You will want to restore Apple Watch from backup. This will take a few minutes. If necessary, take a look at our post about setting up an Apple Watch, which includes instructions on pairing and restoring.
Step 16: After Apple Watch is done pairing with your new iPhone, the Activity.app now appears on the new iPhone’s Home screen. Opening the app, you will notice, all of your previous Activity Rings and medals are included on the new device! My verification screenshot is included below. As you can see, all of the data before today was successfully installed.
About Decipher Activity Transfer tool
The Decipher Activity Transfer tool was programmed as a response to concern from iPhone and Apple Watch users who prefer to start with a fresh iPhone, but still wanted to carry their Activity.app and Health.app data. Kelly Wilkerson, @kheffner, contacted me via Twitter and mentioned she could assist and allow iDownloadBlog to exclusively announce the new tool. With a Master in CS from Harvard and teaching experience at Harvard and Arizona State University, she has a background and credentials capable of producing this useful tool.
The selective backup file
Activity Transfer tool creates a selective backup file that only contains data from Activity.app and Health.app. Wilkerson expanded on this process, to give readers a better understanding of what the program is actually doing to the backup file. She explains, the iOS boot sequence and Setup Assistant are able to differentiate between system settings files and individual app data, which is stored in a container-like fashion that compartmentalizes data in the backup.
With the compartmentalization, the Activity Transfer tool is able to take an “all or nothing” approach to the information. Essentially, the tool grabs the health related containers of information in both Activity.app and Health.app, then merely drops everything else in the backup. Because the data in the containers is insular, read ‘sandboxed,’ this does not cause issue for any other operating functionality of the iOS backup. As Wilkerson explains, “we drop absolutely every other configuration file from the backup. The things we do keep: we keep the entire module of [health related] data, rather than cherry picking files within.”
Due to the compartmentalized approach to the native iOS file and the Activity Transfer Tool maintaining the integrity of that file structure, the tool absolutely does not add or modify settings in the information that is retained. According to Wilkerson, this can be verified by looking at:
- The timestamps of the files in the cloned backup. The tool uses the original files from the backup, which retains the timestamp.
- Doing a diff command-line on each file in the cloned backup with the original version ensures they remain unaltered.
- Health information in iOS requires an encrypted backup. Decipher Activity Transfer tool never asks for the backup password, because it isn’t needed for simply dropping files. New files or changes cannot be added or made because the file itself is encrypted with keys, to which the tool never gains access.
The Decipher Tool team
Wilkerson is a part of the Decipher Tools team, which creates products enabled for iOS devices, enabling users to manage their iOS data. Other software tools include repairing corrupt iTunes backups, saving text messages/voicemails to a computer, and recovering deleted text messages. The founders also developed iPhone apps for The Smithsonian, Paper Magazine, and the rock band R.E.M.