Upgrading To A New Phone

I got the new Pixel 4 XL and am in the process of copying over all of my data and apps and other stuff.

Apple and Google make it so easy these days to sync a new phone with an old phone that it is easy to think you are done once the sync is over.

But that is unfortunately not the case.

The biggest “gotcha” that I worry about is moving all of my two-factor codes over from my old phone to my new phone. For that reason, I keep my old phone around for a few weeks just to make sure I’ve got it all moved over to my new phone.

And then there is the hassle of logging into all of my apps and signing into them all over again. I have and use a lot of apps on my phone so that takes me several hours over the course of a few days to do that. And that is another reason to keep my old phone around for a while to make sure I’ve got everything.

Increasingly Apple and Google and other providers want you to trade in your older phone for a discount on a new one. While that is an attractive offer, it encourages wiping and sending the old phone back.

And I don’t think that’s a smart thing to do until you are sure you’ve got everything you need off of your older phone.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Ben Liscio

    I used the google authenticator app for years and had this same issue. I recently switched to Authy which solves this problem when you enable their backup feature: Use our backup feature incase you lose your phone. We encrypt your data, and only decrypt on the devices using a password only you know. (and must not forget!)

  2. William Mougayar

    Although there is some value in keeping a secondary phone or device for 2FA. That way, you’re not totally screwed if you lose your smartphone or if it gets hacked.

    1. jason wright

      I have two phones for this very reason. Having just one phone is risky.

  3. Harvey Beck

    FWIW, I upgraded a few weeks ago from the iPhone X to the 11 Pro by backing up to and restoring from a password-protected file on my Mac. With the exception of entering my Apple ID password, I don’t think I had to re-enter anything else. Waybetter than the restore from iCloud.

  4. Jeff Kleban

    Try using a password manager like keeper. That solves the problem of logging into apps. You can also store your 2FA seed keys (which should always have handy). Then all you need offline is the master PW and the seed key for the 2FA of the password manager.

    1. scottythebody


  5. Jeff J

    A couple of thoughts:I typically carry both an Android and an iPione, currently the Galaxy Fold and the iPhone 11 Pro. We have a Dev shop and develop healthcare apps for both platforms, so I argue I need to understand how both platforms are similar and how they differ. But I’m also technophile and I love getting a new device to learn.Both device carry the same apps and data, so that when I transition to a new Android or iPhone I have the secondary phone as backup. You just need a G Voice account and the cheapest Google Fi plan, the other phone carries your main line.I also make sure to do iPhone backups from my MacBook Pro, usually you have less to clean up afterwards.

  6. kenberger

    Of course, this lack of ease of porting to a new phone is most definitely a feature and not a bug, for security purposes. Otherwise it would be somewhat easy for someone to clone your phone and impersonate it. These extra hoops can make a huge difference.With the Google pixel trade-in program (only available in the US), they do give you a several week overlap to send the old one back, which should address the other concern you’re talking about. Or a better strategy for many people is simply to eBay or OfferUp the old one whenever you’re ready, you’ll almost certainly get a much better price that way too (albeit with slightly more hassle).

    1. jason wright

      “…(only available in the US)…”. Confirmed.

  7. Richard

    Just upgraded to the new iPhone 11 – it was seamless – it took minutes. The transition to the new phone was revolutionary. The phone is amazing – charges in minutes. The battery life is multiples of previous versions. The speaker is excellent. FaceTime verification works flawlessly. Lastly the Apple creditcard hooked into Apple Pay let’s you purchase from retailer (Starbucks), online (23andme) faster than amazon prime.Don’t buy into the any review that states the latest iPhone isn’t the beat phone ever. If you can afford it – stay with Apple. You would be a fool not to.

  8. sigmaalgebra

    The problem is quite general. Operating systems that want to do everything for users have to think of nearly everything and make it easy, and that is difficult! In simple terms, they can’t do it yet.Generally the problem is part of system management which is a PAIN.A startup opportunity? Not so easy: Mostly a solution, even just progress, needs work, at least cooperation, from the vendors of operating systems and applications. Bummer.Generally older approaches remain easier.I have a fairly good solution to this problem in my desktop computing — essentially all such data is just in ordinary files in directories in the standard Windows file system. I do backups of such data just via standard software that copies MY (that is, not of the operating system or some applications) files and directories. So, I have full control of all such data, e.g., URLs, user IDs, passwords, etc.For installed instances of the Windows operating system, I back up those via some Windows software and some from Western Digital. Backup? Yes. Restore? It’s supposed to work! Moving to a new computer? So far, hopeless.I DO very much wish Firefox would let me save/restore just as text files, say, key-value pairs, JSON, XML, or some such, all the data, especially on what Web sites get to write cookies. Otherwise, I have a relatively easy time moving over my data. If I install a new version of Firefox, do lose my settings for, say, controlling cookies? I can’t find where Firefox says so have to trust that I do keep my settings.Moving over applications software? For my software, that’s easy. For the purchased software, I have to do reinstalls and some of those are pains.Moving over a relational database and its data? That for the advanced course!Yes, it can be a riot, although some time ago I quit laughing, to read about the many dreams of great progress in computing when there is an old mess of mud wrestling for lots of unavoidable stuff.Most of the problem is poor overall system design and, then, in particular, the standard one in computing — poor documentation.The computer industry has serious problems with documentation, i.e., describing their work precisely. Sadly roughly the only precise specification is the code itself. The documentation work would be easier if the system design work were easier and better.

  9. jason wright

    Please post your impressions of the phone in due course. The reviews i’ve read of the smaller version have not been kind.

    1. JJ Donovan

      I am VERY interested in the review here on avc.com. For myself, I assessed the purchase of the new iPhone over the Pixel 4. I had a Pixel 3, but the battery life, the random changes to the features, (answer dialog box vanished last week and I had to put the setting back) the overheating and from last year, the lack of ability to use it in “Semi-cold” temperatures, (Iceland) scared me from making another Pixel purchase. I love Google and everything I have is there as a paying customer for Email, photos, drive, etc. To stick with the Pixel should have been easy for me, but I could not afford any more phone issues and “risk it” with the Pixel 4. Thanks for all that you do.JJD – Back in the Apple EcoSystem

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I bought the Pixel for my son last year and he’s totally loving it. But I *think* it was the Pixel 3 XL.

  10. obarthelemy

    A lot of OEMs provide a brand-specific moving tool that does more than Android’s basic tool. I’m using Xiaomi’s Mi Mover since I’m on Xiaomi, it also moves logins and app data not just the app itself. I think this post describes a good any-OEM method and PC app: https://www.wondershare.com… Apparently, there’s an app for that ;-pYou’re making things harder for yourself by using phones with no SD card. Before I got wed to Xiaomi, I was doing full backup to SD, move SD to new phone, restore. That’s incredibly fast and easy. And then I had a media SD with all my entertainment for those long flights, which got either copied for the new phone, or if in a hurry straight up moved to it.Also, I’m keeping a safety phone around at all times, both in case I lose/break my main one and for those 2FA codes. A Redmi is $80; if you’re concerned about security you can keep it in airplane mode even when using 2FA.And finally, because I’m paranoid about failures more than about hackers, I also put my 2FA codes in my tablet.

    1. jason wright

      2FA and airplane mode – good idea.

  11. Guy Lepage

    Increasingly Apple and Google and other providers want you to trade in your older phone for a discount on a new one.Quite a few folks I know, myself included, have always wiped their phones upon every purchase. I did the “sync” once and it just brings all the unwanted data with you. Something most I know do not want to have. It’s pretty painless to wipe and reset up an entirely new phone with Apple. Has always been actually.

  12. Rob Michlowitz

    This is why I stopped using the Google Authenticator app and use Authy for 2FA. Authy backs up to the cloud and allows multiple devices to share the 2FA tokens. The last phone I had to replace had total failure of the graphics chip, but I could still use my iPad to log into my Google account for the new phone. Let the apps reinstall, and logged in to the Authy app to download all my 2FA tokens.

    1. Michal Mocny

      I admit the convenience sounds tempting, but — doesn’t that turn a cloud service into your hardware device which you “have” — which essentially defeats the whole point of 2FA? It’s equivalent to Google+OAuth or FB Connect to login to all services, except trusting Authy.Nevermind, looks like it’s just cloud backup, and totally encrypted server side. Explained here: https://authy.com/blog/how-…Thanks for the note!

  13. Daniel Olshansky

    I’ve been using 1Password’s 2FA feature and loving it. My ephemeral OTP password is available on my desktop and there’s no issue transferring it when I get a new phone.

    1. Jay Rolette

      +100, highly recommended

  14. awaldstein

    An Iphone user so to me, this is super simple process.Not better or worse, just a choice.

  15. Adam Parish

    I agree. I just upgraded to the Pixel 4 and it took me an hour to setup Google Authenticator and restore my digital wallets.

  16. Steve Borza

    OTP codes and FIDO U2F Codes (Bluink Key) are not exported for security reasons… If it was easy to export the seeds or private keys, it would probably be easy to steal them! Yes, push 2FA might seem easier, but it is certainly less secure… All of these end-point solutions for 2FA certainly make it difficult when moving to a new phone, which is why Bluink has taken a Federated Sign-On approach. Log-in from your phone using eID-Me public key authentication (FIDO U2F like) and all your application can federated to the Identity Provider (IdP)… You have ONE identity to recover on a new phone, and your federated log-ins are all enabled! That is the better way and it is possible today! see eID-Me.com to learn more 😉

  17. Douglas Crets

    Exactly right. I just went through this with the iPhone 11. I regret trading in my wiped phone, because not all of the two-factor codes transferred over, if any, now that I think of it. I have to start the whole process over.

  18. sigmaalgebra

    Youse guys have really got me: You all just LOVE smartphones with the only question which one, when, with what aps, security approaches, networking options, etc.In my recent move, I got a cell phone, $15 variety, in case of emergencies and actually used it once. Since I didn’t renew it, I suspect it’s dead. Good riddance.I REALLY like computing. That’s what I do for every waking hour possible. I have my main computing, a laptop and a server. I want as much of my data and information as possible on that main computing.I use the computing for as much as possible of all the reading, writing, data, communications, etc. as I can for my startup, routine communications, entertainment, etc.Since I can’t use a mobile device for my main computing, I don’t want a mobile device for anything important.Phone Calls. I want to make/receive those only at my office desk with my main computing.E.g., if I get a voice message, then I want a copy on my computer, not just on some mobile device, and, thus, available and backed up like all my other data.E-Mail. To send/receive e-mail, that’s often darned important, and, thus, I want that well integrated with all my other important data with my main computing.Here’s some more I have with my main computing:Screen. My main computing has nicely large screens; I’d like much larger screens; no way do I want a smaller screen.Keyboard. I want good keyboards and work to have those. No way do I want a worse keyboard. What mobile devices have for keyboards is just awful. Same for a pointing device.Software Tools. Most important are my programmable text editor, my command line scripting language, and my TeX based word processing. For each I have about 200 macros.Applications. I have a good collection of applications, e.g., old copies of Microsoft’s still darned useful PhotoDraw, Microsoft Office 2003 (intend to up grade to Office 2007 to get a copy of Outlook with better e-mail security!), Western Digital’s software for backup/restore operating systems, and much more.Backup/Restore. For my data, that is, not operating system data, I good means of backup and restore based on very carefully worked out options to Robocopy.Writing Software. In addition I write software, easily, routinely, in compiled languages, from old Fortran (to call some powerful optimization software) to Microsoft’s latest .NET, with TCP/IP sockets, SQL, etc.Also, the software for my startup is based on .NET.On a mobile device, I’d have to give up on all that.I don’t see how I’d want to use the best smartphone there is even for free.

  19. scottythebody

    You don’t have to go through this.1Password and some other password managers have MFA support that synchronises across devices. Others have backup and restore features (via iCloud, for example). Sure, there are security trade-offs for synching your MFA seeds, but the convenience and availability (protects from lost phone problem) is worth it for me.For my. most sensitive authentication tokens, I don’t synch them. But for most of them it’s totally fine.

  20. kenberger

    My fav new feature is Recorder. Elegant, simple but a game-changer:Record meetings and it transcribes everything in real-time– with NO server calls, totally stays on device. Search your transcription library easily later. Also has a mode to give you real-time close captions, for example if you can’t hear well in certain environments (or are even deaf), then keep this on the table and you can read what another person is saying to you.https://www.xda-developers….

  21. Chris Lu

    So true! I wanted to use my Apple Care to fix a cracked screen and they require you to stay at the Apple Store.

  22. Susan Rubinsky

    The last time I bought a new phone — this was, perhaps, four years ago I just logged into my google account and everything automatically updated and activated without my having to do anything. This included, installing and activating all my apps. But I was upgrading from one Droid to another. It was so simple, it only took minutes.

  23. Jose Paul Martin

    I’m still using iPhone 6S – probably the best selling iPhone ever. I just don’t see the need to upgrade, and fortunately, which is why I still like Apple – they’re supporting it. Just upgraded to iOS 13.Fred, I think if you use 1Password / Authy instead of Google Authenticator – you don’t have to worry about the issue you have.

  24. OurielOhayon

    And restoring private keys/seed in your crypto wallet. oh boythat said iOS has a slight better shortcut if you restore an encrypted backup via iTunes/Finder. it saves the step of login to every app. but won t save1. app specific 2FA2. private keys wallet3. bluetooth pairing4. offline files stored5. pairing to watch and others6. banking apps that use secure enclave and more7. apple/google pay repairinga REAL pita

  25. Josh Rosenblum

    Consider not storing your OTP keys on-device. I keep Yubikeys with all my OTP keys on them, including at least one NFC-enabled Yubikey. Yubikey supports this with their own Authenticator app on Windows, Linux, and Android that can read the seeds from the external key.* It’s much simpler to create backups — just store the OTP seed on as many Yubikeys as you want. I keep an NFC-enabled key on my physical keychain and backups in laptops or even in secure location like a home safe or vault.* Your OTP keys are now independent of a single phone. This makes migration to a new phone easier, but it also means you can use your OTP keys on any trusted device via USB or NFC. This is particularly important when you think about a phone that’s out of battery or otherwise inoperable.