On the iCloud Backup Restore Process

A couple of days ago, Bradley Chambers lamented about the painful process of restoring iCloud backups when the target device is running an earlier version of iOS than the backup was created with:

Teacher just bought iPad Air 2, but won’t restore from iCloud until she updates, wipes, and restores again (9.1 vs 9.1.2 backup). Major fail

On Christmas Day, my grandmother was gifted an iPad Air to replace her ageing iPad 2 and had run into some problem setting it up. As the family Apple technician, I stopped by to see if I could help. The problem? She wasn’t able to restore from her iCloud backup because her iPad 2 had been running a newer version of iOS than the iPad Air had shipped with.

Her initial thought was simply that she couldn’t restore and would have to start again, or worse – use both iPads at the same time. The only solution to this was to perform the following rigmarole:

  • Set up the iPad as a new device
  • Update the iPad to the latest release of iOS
  • Reset the device back to factory settings
  • Repeat the initial setup process and restore from iCloud

This is one of the biggest pain points in the backup restoration process and can ruin the whole experience of setting up a new device, yet it’s a problem that’s persisted since the introduction of iCloud backups. Whenever Apple releases a new update to iOS, those yet-to-be-sold iPads and iPhones on the shelves don’t magically update – they’re stuck at the version they were shipped with from the factory. If you’ve ever purchased a new iPad or iPhone soon after an iOS update is available, you’ll have likely experience this too if you decided to try and restore from an iCloud backup.

A simple solution that Rick Stawarz and I discussed on Twitter would be to have the initial setup perform a software update as soon as a wireless network has been selected. It’s somewhat surprising this isn’t part of the setup process since this would avoid any problems that may arise when trying to restore an iCloud backup while also ensuring that the device is fully up to date.

Seems like a win-win.