Retaining older versions of Apps during an iOS Restore

Q: Hello. I’m about to upgrade my iPhone 4, but I’m nervous about one app in particular. This app was downgraded (features removed) in the App Store, before being removed completely. I use this app almost daily and have not been able to find a suitable replacement.

If I upgrade my iPhone via iTunes on my computer, can I be assured that I will retain the version of the app that I am currently using? Thanks!

– Eric

A: The short answer is yes. In fact, this is one of the reasons to use iTunes to restore an iPhone rather than relying on iCloud.

When restoring your iPhone from your iTunes library, only the content that is already in your iTunes library is actually used to perform the restore, so the specific version of each app that is stored in your iTunes library is what gets transferred back onto your device. The same is also true for your media content such as music, videos, and books.

The key point to keep in mind is to ensure that all of this content is actually already in your iTunes library before trying to perform a restore. This should normally be the case if you’re regularly syncing with iTunes, but it’s always a good idea to double check this, especially if you’re about to wipe your existing iPhone. Our Guide to Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch has more information on this process.

By comparison, restoring from iCloud attempts to download your apps directly from iTunes in the Cloud. If an app has been updated, this often means you’ll get the new version, whether you want it or not. On the other hand, if an app has been pulled from the App Store, it will not be available to be downloaded onto your device at all, and you’ll see a message indicating that you should sync to iTunes to restore the missing items from your computer.

However, keep in mind that there are rare cases where an app may have been pulled from sale on the App Store, yet still be available for re-download by those who have already purchased it. You can usually confirm if this is the case by checking to see if the app is available for re-download from your purchase history via iTunes or the App Store app on your iPhone.

It’s also worth noting that restoring over USB from an iTunes backup is considerably faster than restoring over an Internet connection. Further, unless you’re an iTunes Match subscriber or only have purchased music on your device, you will need to sync with iTunes following an iCloud restore anyway to transfer back other items that are not handled by iTunes in the Cloud. This means that an iTunes based restore is usually the most efficient method anyway as long as you have your iTunes library available.

The bottom line is that as long as everything from your iPhone is in your iTunes library, restoring your content onto your a new iPhone from iTunes should be as simple as making sure your existing iPhone is backed up and choosing that backup when plugging your new iPhone into iTunes for the first time.

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