One of the most frustrating things about switching over to a new phone is that you lose so many of the finer details of data contained within your apps. The sets for your workout routines, your podcast playlist, even your saved maps on Google Maps. Yes, you still have access to your purchased apps in the Play Store, but how do you transfer apps with all their data intact?
Android’s Backup Feature Isn’t Perfect
First, we should get it out of the way that Android’s integrated Backup is getting better at backing up actual app data, but it’s not perfect. You’re covered when it comes to Gmail, Contacts, Drive and all the other Google apps because your data there is stored in the cloud, but you’ll need to double-check whether it saves data from third-party apps.
To do this, you first need to make sure “Backup and reset” is switched on. Go to “Settings -> Backup & reset,” then make sure “Back up my data” is switched on and that it’s saving to the relevant Gmail account.
Android 6.0 Onwards – Automatic App Backup
Since Android Marshmallow, there’s been a largely overlooked feature that expands the amount of app data that your phone can back up. Once you’ve set up ‘Backup and Restore’ on your phone, you can see if you have this feature by opening the Google Drive app, tap the menu icon at the top left -> Backups.
Select your phone backup from the list, then tap “App data” to see every app that Google’s responsible for backing up.
Any app in this list should have its data properly backed up, and should be restored in its entirety when you sign into your account and select the “Restore” option during setup.
If, however, your app that you want to transfer isn’t in the list, then read on…
If your app isn’t in the “Manage backup” list or if you don’t have access to the list in the first place, you’ll need to look for alternative ways to back up your Android app data. Fortunately, most apps have their own backup features.
Most games on the Play Store have the option to sync up with your Google account via an app called Google Play Games (you can identify these games via the green gamepad icon on the Play Store page). Once you have Google Play Games installed, open it and in its Settings get it to “Sign in to games automatically”. You can also go to your Android “Settings -> Accounts and Sync -> Google” and turn on the “Play Games Cloud Save” slider.
Certain games, like Angry Birds, have their own cloud-saving features independently of Google Play Games, so in those cases you need to look at backing up your game data on a by-game basis.
Chrome – bookmarks, passwords, etc.
To make sure that Chrome restores all your data on your new device, you first need to sign into Chrome on the device that has the settings you want. To do this, just go to Chrome’s settings, and tap “Sign in to Chrome.” You can even do this on a computer.
Then, when you open Chrome on your new Android phone, go to Settings and “Sign in” again to copy all your bookmarks, passwords and other data over. Firefox has similar functionality.
Whatsapp and other third-party apps
Just about every app worth its salt has a backup feature in its settings, which usually lets you back up its data as a file on your SD card or on Google Drive.
In Whatsapp, for example, go to Whatsapp’s “Settings -> Chats -> Chat backup” to choose how regularly you want your messages saved to Google Drive.
This method is handy if there are just a couple of apps beyond the Google ones you want to back up data from. It’s also handy because you can restore the data whenever you like, not just when you first set up your new phone (a limitation of Google’s method).
These are some of the best means for transferring Android apps (with all their data) over to a new device. Beyond that, the best apps for backing up your Android app data are Helium and Titanium Backup.
The problem with these two is that Helium hasn’t been updated in a while and isn’t as reliable as it once was, while Titanium requires a rooted phone to restore your data. Still, they could be worth a shot!
This article was first published in June 2012 and was updated in November 2018.