We wrote previously that the Verizon iPhone couldn’t restore from an AT&T backup due to the differences in firmware.  We’ve seen a huge spike in traffic for that post and it said, “you’re stuck.”  That wasn’t the ideal solution but, at that time, we didn’t know of any alternatives.  After talking with one of our readers (thanks, Matt), we dug into the issue a little bit more.  If your old AT&T iPhone was running a newer version of iOS than your new Verizon iPhone, it’s still impossible to automatically restore it from your previous backup… but we’ve found a solution for your top two requests: SMS and App Data.

Everyone we’ve talked to only cared about their text messages and the non-transferrable App Data from games (or other apps).  Text messages can be very personal — we like to peruse through the chat history for fun — and we’d rather not lose them.  We’ve probably spent hours perfecting different games on our iPhones, so losing the App Data is definitely out of the question.  We can easily transfer all of our Photos, Music, Apps, Books, etc. with iTunes… so we don’t need to worry about those.  That covers everything we would lose by setting up a new phone.  We’re offering this solution since Apple hasn’t given us an easier option, but this solution is by no means the “way it should be.”  It’s tedious, requires a Jailbreak and is very complicated.  Be warned.  Continue reading this guide and check out the last section for other solutions that may require less effort.

We’re going to start by jailbreaking both devices so we have access to the root file system where the App Data and SMS database are stored.  If you’re not comfortable with the jailbreaking scene (it’s actually quite harmless), you can always restore your device to factory settings when you’re done.  We’ll cover that at the end.  If you’re already jailbroken, just skip to the iPhone Explorer section. Assuming you’re ready to go here’s a systematic guide to get fully functional:

The Jailbreak

  • Be certain that you’ve backed everything up (photos, music, books, etc.)
  • Go ahead and setup the new iPhone with all of your apps, music, books, etc.
    • For the SMS, we’re just overwriting a database file
    • We’re just moving App Data, not the actual apps… they need to be re-installed
  • Close out of all your apps
    • Double-tap the home button, then press and hold each app until you see the minus symbol
    • Tap the minus symbol to close the app, please close all of the apps
  • Make sure that both devices are fully up-to-date
    • AT&T iPhones should be running 4.3.3
    • Verizon iPhones should be running 4.2.8
  • On both devices, head over to JailbreakMe.com
    • Tap “Free”
    • Tap “Install”

In a matter of seconds, you’re jailbroken.  It’s literally the easiest jailbreak we’ve ever seen.  Mad props to @comex for the liberation.  Now that both devices are jailbroken, we need to make sure that we get access to the root file system on the devices.

Root Access

  • Tap the newly added “Cydia” icon on both devices
  • Tap “User” and let Cydia finish updating itself
  • Reboot both devices

That will enable root access to the iPhones’ file systems.  We’re not going to turn on AFP or SSH or any other potentially vulnerable solutions, we’re just going to download a free piece of software called iPhone Explorer from Macroplant.  It works for both Mac and PC; did we mention it’s completely free?

iPhone Explorer

  • Make sure you’ve downloaded and installed iPhone Explorer, open the application
  • Connect your old iPhone
  • You should see a folder call “Root”
    • If you don’t, make sure you’ve rebooted your device
    • Still not working?  Make sure the device is jailbroken by looking for Cydia on the home screen

Now you should have access to the root folder of the iPhone.  We’ll walk you through the steps to copy data from the old device to the new one, starting with SMS (since it’s easier).

SMS Transfer

  • With the old iPhone plugged in, navigate to the SMS folder:
    • iPhone -> Root -> var -> mobile -> Library -> SMS
    • Check the image to the right if you need help
  • Drag the file called “sms.db” to your desktop
  • Unplug the old iPhone and plug in the new iPhone
  • With the new iPhone plugged in, navigate to the SMS folder again
    • iPhone -> Root -> var -> mobile -> Library -> SMS
  • Drag the “sms.db” file from your desktop and write it to the new iPhone

You may not *have* to reboot your phone at this point, but we highly recommend it to avoid any potential confusion (in the phone).  After the reboot, you should have all of your old messages on the new device.  Now we can move onto the complicated part of this guide: moving your App Data.

App Data Transfer

  • With the old iPhone plugged in, navigate to the Applications folder:
    • iPhone -> Root -> var -> mobile -> Applications
  • Copy the entire Application folder to your desktop
    • This makes it quicker and easier to navigate
  • Plug in the new iPhone
  • With the new iPhone plugged in, navigate to the Applications folder:
    • iPhone -> Root -> var -> mobile -> Applications
  • Find the app you want to transfer in your desktop folder and on the new iPhone
    • This can be extremely difficult since the App folder is a random string of numbers
    • The string of numbers is unique to each application on each device, they will not match
    • If you look inside each folder, you’ll find the name off the app
  • Once you’ve located the correct App folder in both locations, copy the “Documents” and “Library” folders from your desktop to the new iPhone
    • Do not copy the whole folder as it will not link up properly on the new device
    • Do not copy anything but the “Documents” and “Library” folder because it will take forever
  • Click through any prompts that come up
  • Rinse and repeat for each app you’d like to transfer

Once you finish moving your App Data, please reboot your device and test the apps.  I specifically used a game called “Cut the Rope” in my testing and ended up with the exact same progress on both devices after the transfer.  Obviously, they will not stay in sync but my App Data made its way from my old device to my new device.

The Un-Jailbreak

  •  Make sure you run a backup of your newly configured iPhone
    • Double check the backup
  • Restore your iPhone in iTunes
  • Set it up with the new backup you just created

Restoring the iPhone gets rid of the Jailbreak, keeping you away from any possible problems, harm or disease.

Other Solutions

If you don’t want to Jailbreak your device and go through these extremely complicated steps, we’ve come up with a few alternatives for you:

  • Wait for iOS 5 to come out (probably in September)
    • It’s likely that the AT&T and Verizon iPhones will be running the same OS at that point, eliminating the restore problems we’re seeing right now
  • Sign up as an iOS developer from Apple so you can install iOS 5 now
    • We haven’t been able to verify this, but it sounds like a possibility to us
    • Running beta software on your primary device is never a good idea, this should be a last resort
  • Take your Verizon phone back and stick with AT&T
    • Yeah, we went there… Verizon’s data speeds are super slow anyway, right?

That’s it for this guide.  If you have any questions about the process, add a comment or email us from the sidebar on the right (it’s the little envelop button).