Restoring from iCloud anno 2015

Having an Apple Watch makes me use my iPhone less. I filter and handle notifications on my Watch, and only go to my iPhone to act upon things that really require my attention, or when I purposefully want to browse the web.

Since I now use the iPhone to do something purposeful, either productive or recreational, I love the idea of it having a bigger screen, so I can do the stuff I still use my iPhone for even better or easier. I love the way my iPad works, but it’s not as portable as the iPhone and lacks (in my case) 3G connectivity. If only Apple has an iPhone like device with a bigger screen…

Long story short: I’m currently restoring my iPhone 6 to a new iPhone 6 Plus. (Or hopefully, Apple’s iCloud services are being wonky at the moment…talk about perfect timing.)

Backup and restore

While waiting on things to settle down, I started thinking about how things have changed since I last moved to a new device.

In the first iterations of iOS migrating from iPhone to iPhone meant backing up your device via iTunes, encrypted to preserve passwords, and then restoring that backup to your new device. After the initial restore process finished your iPhone would reboot and it would then start syncing all your apps, media and data to the device. It was easy compared to other smartphones at the time, but it wasn’t foolproof.
iTunes could offer you a corrupt backup making restoring data impossible, your apps would stop syncing halfway through or even if everything synced changes were that all your apps would be in a random order.

Fast forward to 2011 and Apple introduced iCloud backup. iOS devices are now backed up automatically on a daily basis (as long as you have enough storage), and moving from one device to the next is theoretically a single process: make a final backup, shut down the old device, boot the new one, enter your credentials and restore your last backup. No more need to connect to iTunes, it’s an easy over the air process. Theoretically.

There are some caveats though, backups can only be restored to a device that runs at least the same iOS version (with no update option in between), restoring means entering dozens of passwords, and a full restore can take hours. But the device is useable as a phone in the meanwhile, so that’s handy.
As a concept, I’m a big fan of iCloud backup. I’ve used it to move across multiple phones, upgrades and/or repairs it has never truly let me down.

But now, anno 2015, things are a bit more complicated. With iOS 8 Apple introduced Health, iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Drive. They’ve also introduced the Apple Watch. These are all features that are tightly integrated with the iPhone, and in case of the Watch, even depend on the iPhone to function. So before I decided to move to my new iPhone 6 Plus, I wanted to make sure these new technologies would be migrated without any data loss.

So here’s my approach:

iCloud Photos and Drive

iCloud Photos and Drive live in the cloud, so moving to a new device is basically a matter of enabling those services. But before I started the process of backing up my iPhone and restoring the new one, I verified that all photos and files were uploaded, and that they had downloaded to at least one Mac. Just to make sure.


You can back up the data stored in the Health app to iCloud. Your data is encrypted as it goes between iCloud and your device, and while it’s stored in iCloud.
If you’re not using iCloud, you can back up your health data with iTunes if you select “Encrypt iPhone backup” in the Summary tab. – Apple

I’m going the iCloud round so I should be good. It’s a pity I can’t verify this backup until I have restored it to a new device. On that new device you can check wither anything has downloaded by going into Settings > General  > Usage > Manage Storage and see if Health has any meaningful space used. (mine is around 50MB, surprisingly).

Apple Watch

Apple Watch content backs up automatically to your companion iPhone, so you can restore your Apple Watch from a backup. When you back up your iPhone to iCloud or iTunes, your iPhone backup will also include your Apple Watch data. – Apple

Apple Watch requires a backup and restore if you want to connect it to a new iPhone. But compared to the hassles we had to go to to get our iPods to sync to a migrated Mac, the process for an Apple Watch is fairly easy:

  • Unpair (which automatically backups your Watch to the iPhone)
  • Create an iCloud Backup for that iPhone
  • Restore the backup on the new Phone
  • Re-pair your Watch.

Verifying the existence of that backup on both devices is possible by, again, looking at Settings > General  > Usage > Manage Storage > Apple Watch, which will show me the backup file. (around 50kb for me)

Other data

There’s a couple of other things I need to verify, but that haven’t been any trouble in previous restores. All the syncing stuff like contacts, keychain,… is rock solid these days, so that should work.

Furthermore I rely on 1Password for both password and 2FA-storage, so I’m looking forward to testing out the integration of the 1Password extension in so many third party apps. I wonder how they’ll handle 2FA codes, I haven’t seen their extension pop-up in those screens. But either way it should remove a lot of hassle for re-authenticating services like Dropbox or FeedWrangler.

And finally there’s TestFlight. Those apps don’t install from the App Store but from within the TestFlight app so I wonder if they’ll reappear after restoring an iPhone, I’d guess not.

Fingers crossed. Only 25 minutes remaining now.

Apple Watch Tips

Swipe up on the face and you’ll get the option to delete it. Note that you’re not actually deleting that face from your Watch, you’re simply removing it from the list of quick-access watch faces.- Shawn Blanc

Some pretty cool tricks and tricks collected by Shawn Blanc.

I didn’t know you could delete the default ones. Makes switching between two watch faces much easier. (I use the Solar one from time to time)

Apple Watch Review


After reading through many reviews of the Apple Watch, and wearing one for a month I still haven’t completely figured out what the device is and what it’s going to be in the future.

So to start defining what it is for me, I’m going to steal from Apple’s definition of the Apple Watch:

  • Timekeeping
  • New Ways to Connect
  • Health and Fitness


Although skeuomorphism is apparently a thing of the past, I prefer a classic watch face over a digital one. Getting updated on new information with a quick glance is what the Watch is all about, and I am quicker on reading the time in a graphic way, than with digits.

This is why I’m using the Utility watch face on my 42mm Sport. This face gives me three complications, which are in clockwise Activity, Timer and Weather.
I like how the weather complication gives you a complete forecast in a single sentence. E.g. 20° Mostly Clouded. it’s short and to the point.

I used to have Calendar appointments at the bottom, but after hearing Gruber talk about how he forced himself to use Glances more, I replaced Calendar with Weather and I use the glance to get up to date information on my next appointments. Aside from Calendar I only use a couple more glances: Heartbeat, OmniFocus, Now Playing, Shazam, Vigil, Knock.

For me the Watch is a way to get notified or act, so glances are remotes to quickly get information or perform a task. If IMDB ever releases a Glance with a search field, it would also be a good fit for the above list. I’m still not entirely sure if I like the way Glances behave though. There’s always a slight delay while swiping across glances, and with anything above 6-10 glances the interface becomes impossible to navigate. I kinda forget in which order glances are sorted.

There’s one other annoyance with the Watch as a time piece: although the battery is far exceeding my expectations (I end my days with +/- 25% battery left), I’d really enjoy keeping the watch on at night and use it as an alarm clock. I’ve tried the alarm a few times for short power-naps and being awoken by gentle taps on the wrist is a lot nicer then a beeping sound.
But you have to charge the device sometime.. I wonder if and when sleeptracking becomes available how they’re going to implement it. Maybe I need a day and night watch?


Notifications on my wrist are superb. My job requires me to be connected for large parts of the day, and I get plenty of notifications via email, Zendesk and Vigil that I need to see.
I’ve seen plenty of people complain about notification overload after wearing the Watch, but I think the blame lies mostly on their end, there are plenty of options to configure what and who can reach you on your iPhone or Watch.

What I like about notifications on my wrist is that they’re a lower cognitive load than my iPhone.
By which I mean: when a notification arrives on the Watch I can do basically one of three things: ignore, respond, act.
I ask myself two questions when a notification arrives: is it urgent? is it important? If the answer for either of these two is no, I just continue doing what I was doing and the Watch goes back to sleep. It takes a second of my attention. Not even enough time to really distract me from my current task. And if the answers are yes, I’m required to shift focus so no harm done.

Compared to the iPhone: I feel a buzz, take my iPhone out of my pocket, activate the screen if it’s black again, and read the message.
The Watch offers a glance, the iPhone requires a physical action before you can even access the notification.

The Watch also limits the ways you can act on a notification which makes it easier and more logical to defer tasks. It allows for a quick reply on a message, but anything that takes more than that is a real task that should be planned in.
As a GTD fan I love this direct implementation of the three D’s: DO (less than two minutes), DEFER (I’ll act when I’m on my iPhone or Mac), DELETE (ignore).

Do I love being this connected 24/7? Yes and no. It’s a big part of my life and job, so without the Watch my iPhone would be the recipient for all this information. But the Watch improves the way I handle that flow. I can do less so I’m not as tempted to go down the rabbit hole and quickly do this or that while I’m working on another task. If the action can’t be done on the Watch and nothing is burning, I leave it be until I can act, and have the time to act.

When I had my Pebble I hated the email notifications on my wrist. Why? Because Pebble lacked an Archive button. I could see an email, decide upon acting or not, but I couldn’t archive these mails. On the Watch I can delete any passive email in less than a second. When I open my inbox on a more productive device later on, what’s left are tasks.
The face that the state of notifications now moves between devices and that the Watch allows you to purge that inbox on the fly makes it a great GTD device.

I’ve written about the concept of last active device a couple of times. And the Apple Watch delivers on this idea. Ever noticed that your iPhone doesn’t actively display a notification when you’re  wearing a Watch? Or vice versa that your Watch remains silent while you’re browsing on your iPhone? I hope iOS 9 and OS X 11 expand on this idea and also consider the Mac and iPad for this kind of notification filtering.

You may notice I see notifications as a big part of the connected story of the Apple Watch. This is contrasted to how Apple is pushing their Friends button as the Watch’s biggest selling point when talking about communication. But since I live in Belgium and know exactly four other people with an Apple Watch this function is extremely limited for me.

I like the taptic communications and quick drawings I can send to my girlfriend, but I don’t see me sending flowers or messages to the other three people (since they’re colleagues and aren’t that close to me).
But for intimate personal communications the taptic feedback is truly great. Draw a quick Q to let my girlfriend know I’m still in line at the local burger joint (Quick), or a ZZZ to discretely tell her I’d like to go home. Or a heart after she lets me know how boring her meeting is.
It’s an extremely limited way to communicate. The Q example only works because it’s a reference we both get. But the easy of use and closeness make it a perfect way to communicate between people this close to each other.


Third time is the charm, so I kept the best for last. If all the Apple Watch showed was the three activity rings with a clock on top it would still be a great device.
Ever since Apple released the M7 chip, and Pedometer++ was created by David Smith I’ve been tracking my steps and pushing myself to get 10.000 daily steps. With a daily average of 9300 steps since I started tracking data I can honestly say that Apple’s first push into Health really changed the way I move.
The Apple Watch is a perfect extension on this. The gamification of fitness tracking and the simplicity of the three circles works for me. Just as inbox zero is something I force myself to reach every day and love LifeSum for reminding me to drink water, I find that these three circles trigger me to move or stand. Call me a sheep or easily influenced, but when that Watch alerts me at ten before the hour, I stand up and walk to earn that extra hour.

There’s one annoyance in the current implementation though. Apple tracks activities per day. So when I woke up after 12 o’clock on the day after a wedding party, I had less than twelve hours left that day, which makes it impossible to complete the blue circle.
Similar, when I got home at 3AM last night after a nice bbq my Watch had already started counting calories and steps for the next day instead of counting them for that day until I went to bed.
What I’d love is a toggle that allows me to change the way Apple tracks a day.
A day currently runs for 24 hours starting at midnight.
For me a day equals a concurrent series of hours awake. So If I wake up at 1PM and go to sleep at 2AM that day runs between these hours.

In conclusion

While discussing the Watch with my girlfriend she told me she found it annoying that the Activity app on the Watch only shows the current circles, and that she needed her phone to see yesterdays score.
I quickly responded without thinking: the Watch is about what’s now, and what’s happening in the near future.

And I think that sums up the device for me. The Apple Watch serves you what’s important now in a glanceable way.

Coming in the future

To me, this week’s I/O keynote made me more convinced than ever that Google is turning into the Microsoft of old: a company whose ambitions are boundless, who wants its fingers in every single pie, and who wants to do it all on its own. A company whose coolest stuff is always in the form of demos coming in the future, not products that are actually shipping now. – John Gruber


It’s time for Apple to go back to basics again and radically simplify its product lines. Now that the technologies have matured, iPhones should ship with universal network support, (…) Similarly, there should be one iPad — the cellular + Wi-Fi model (…) And every aluminum or steel Apple Watch should ship with a Sport Band. – 9to5Mac

Add to this great list: remove the non retina MacBook Pro. Also scrap any 16GB iOS model so that there are only two choices. 64 or 128GB. 

The Apple Phenomenon

There was a time when you would hear that Apple’s success was the result of a herd mentality fuelled by chic early adopters, fools who were soon parted from their money. The only fool today would be someone who still believed that this explained the Apple phenomenon. – Stephen Fry