Four reasons I don’t restore a backup to new iPhones

I was showing my new iPhone 6 to a friend the other day and he was surprised to see that I had so few apps on my handset. I currently have 29, which barely takes up two home screens.

“Wait,” he said, “haven’t you used iOS since like forever? You had to have bought more apps than that.” He’s right, of course. You should have seen his jaw drop when I explained that I don’t restore backups after purchasing an new [company]Apple[/company] iPhone; I always set them up as new handsets.

kevins iphone 6 usage

Everyone’s iPhone use is different, of course, and my strategy won’t work for everyone, but I stopped restoring backups to handsets a long time ago. Here’s why.

1.  A new phone seems to run better with a “clean” install. Every year I hear more than a few people complaining about how crashy iOS is on their new iPhone. This year was no exception, and I’m not even counting the iOS 8.0.1 update that really gunked up the works for some people. I really haven’t had any crashes on my iPhone 6 save for one or two apps that I know haven’t yet been updated for the new software version.

I used to have iOS stability problems with new iPhones in the past, though. This could be coincidental, but as soon as I started setting up the devices as new handsets — that is, not restoring any apps or data — the problems seemed to go away. I realized this a few years back when trying to troubleshoot a particularly unstable new iPhone, figuring that if I started from scratch, I could isolate the problem. Of course, you end up having some manual work as a result. I actually find that to be a positive, not a negative, because…

2. You get a yearly opportunity to weed out unnecessary apps. A “new” iPhone doesn’t come with any of the apps I previously purchased and downloaded; that’s not a bad thing. I take the opportunity to figure out which apps I really want on my iPhone, only re-installing them as needed. That explains why after a few weeks with my new iPhone 6, I only have 29 apps installed. I’ll surely add more over time, some new and some that I previously bought. Instead of pages and pages of folders and apps, though, I have a clutter-free environment on my iPhone.

iPhone 6 thin

Apple keeps track of every app you’ve bought, so you don’t have to. That’s handy and gives me a nice repository to work with — it’s the Purchased section of the iTunes App Store on an iPhone. And because of that repository, you don’t have to pay twice for the same app. Setting up IDs and passwords in these apps is still a manual process that nobody enjoys. I recommend a password manager app to help with that. I use 1Password and there are others to choose from.

3. What about my gazillion photos? I take as many photos as the next person with an iPhone, so yes, there’s a challenge when it comes to managing digital images when moving to a new handset. But this isn’t 2002, when we needed to use USB cables and clunky software to move data to a mobile device. It’s 2014 and the cloud is all around us.

dropboxScreen Shot 2012-02-27 at 6.54.41 AM

There are numerous options to automatically backup photos to online storage these days. You could use Dropbox, for example, to save your images right after you snap the shutter. I use Google Plus, mainly because of the unlimited storage features; all of my pictures and videos float right up to the cloud as a result. Of course, you could use Apple’s iCloud storage in a similar fashion. I simply chose Google’s because I tend to use its ecosystem the most and because it’s free.

4. But I have documents, music and other data too! Again, I’m cloud-centric and have been for a while, so I don’t store much in the way of local data. I really don’t want to because it’s too limiting. I want all of my data available on all of my devices, regardless of the software platform they run on. That means keeping everything online somewhere.

While I can appreciate the Handoff feature of iOS 8 where you start a document on one device and pick it up on another, it keeps me locked into using certain devices. I switch between iOS, Android and Windows Phone for my handsets and tablets. And my computing needs are shared by a MacBook and several Chromebooks. I realize that not everyone uses an array of devices the way I do, but it’s pretty liberating, provided I can get at the data on any device I want. Again, that means cloud storage.

ios 8 handoff

It works for music too, which I have spread out between iTunes, [company]Google[/company] Play and the [company]Amazon[/company] MP3 store. After installing the music apps, I simply sign in and choose which tracks or albums I want on my iPhone. They get downloaded with no muss or fuss. And most music apps let me stream songs from my library in the sky as well, so I only download the tunes I know I’ll want to hear over and over again.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Some people don’t want to recreate playlists, home screen folders or other things they worked to hard to create in the first place. But I find that there are some advantages to starting from scratch with each new iPhone; perhaps you will too.