iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro: 4 ways to set up your new phone

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The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are two fine-looking devices. 


Patrick Holland/CNET

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are two stellar phones. CNET’s Senior Associate Editor, Patrick Holland praised their new flat-edge design, performance and photo quality, and rightfully so. With the addition of 5G — a first for any Apple product — as well as new colors and a new MagSafe wireless charging accessory, the iPhone 12 lineup is sure to be a hit. 

It’s exciting to get a new phone, and when that box arrives at your door or you pick it up in the store, it’s natural to want to rip through the setup process without paying much attention to what’s being asked on the screen. However, it’s worth taking an extra minute or two to set up your new iPhone 12 exactly the way you want it. 

Apple provides several options for you to pick from during setup, ranging from setting the phone up as brand new — that is, no settings, messages, apps or accounts are transferred over — to restoring your device from an iCloud backup, with a few options in between. 

Below I walk you through three different methods to restore your phone from a recent backup of your current iPhone. If you’re moving over from Android, there’s even a tool for you. 

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You’re given quite a few different options when setting up your new phone. 


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Restore your iPhone 12 from an iCloud Backup

The easiest and quickest method to set up your new iPhone 12 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. 

Open the Settings app on your old phone, then tap on your name at the top of the screen. Next select iCloud > iCloud Backup > 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. 

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


Jason Cipriani/CNET

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 took a while, in my case, over an hour to transfer everything from my iPhone 11 Pro Max to the iPhone 12 Pro. 

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.

Read through our more thorough walk-through for more information. 

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Before you click Back up now, make sure to check the Encryption box. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use a Mac or PC to transfer your data to an iPhone 12

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 last year, 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, and, 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 with. 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

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. 

Follow along as we walk you through the entire process as well as cover 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 14.1 installed out of the box, we have you covered. From a roundup of all the features we could find, to some of the lesser-known hidden features, to the ability to completely customize your homescreen — we have you covered.

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