Help me restore app data (only) to a clean iPhone 5S running iOS 7.1
March 21, 2014 12:26 PM   Subscribe

After a complicated chain of circumstances involving a SIM migration, a grandfathered prepaid data plan that transferred from an iPhone 3G to a 4 to the current 5S, and many hours (no exaggeration) at the AT&T store while their employees talked to level 2 tech support, I was left with:
  • A working iPhone 5S on AT&T, now getting LTE data but restored to factory settings.
  • A recent encrypted backup from the phone, just before the wipe.
It is not an option to restore the entire phone from the backup. Help me restore just the user data for selected apps.

I've migrated to a new nano SIM but restoring a backup to the phone immediately drops it off the data network. (There's no good explanation, probably because what used to be an AT&T loophole is now official but migrating from loophole to official status is not supported?) I'm stuck with "restore to factory settings" followed by a manual re-installation of all my apps, music, etc.

The damage is surprisingly light: most apps had stuff squirreled away in iCloud or elsewhere online; I offloaded all photos and videos before the wipe; calendars, mail, podcasts and music came back correctly; I don't care very much about the lost text message conversations; and I'm resigned to losing all my progress on Angry Birds etc. The serious damage boils down to two apps (so far): Growth (tracking my daughter's height / weight over the first two years - I neglected to export this, shame on me) and my notes in Vesper (which famously lacks sync). I'd like to get the data back for these apps.

I've discovered a variety of applications that read backups (even encrypted ones). iPhone backup extractor worked well enough; this one (same name) looked pretty awful but got the job sort-of done; there were many others that I didn't try. It worries me that the extracted files seem to differ between the two programs. But in any case, now what?

1. I have these SQLite databases extracted from the last backup. Can I put these back into the apps on my phone again? How?

2. Alternatively, is there a different way to do a partial restore, where I only restore selected app data from a backup to my phone without fiddling with anything else, especially settings and carrier profiles?

3. Failing that, how do I export from the SQLite databases to plain text in a non-soul crushing way? (I have a factory-unlocked phone, but it isn't jailbroken. I'm not interested in jailbreaking the phone - if it comes to that, I'd rather have the data in plain text to re-input by hand.)

Hope me, Metafilter!
posted by RedOrGreen to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
Did you backup the phone to a computer or just iCLoud? Have you tried restoring just those 2 apps by plugging into the computer?
posted by eatcake at 1:42 PM on March 21, 2014

I had this almost exact same thing happen to me after upgrading to the 5s with At&T.

I'm interested to see what your solutions are because I have been told (by Apple) that I must do a factory wipe and I can NOT bring back anything on to the device except my contacts.

Thanks so much for posting this question. I thought I was the only one with data and corruption issues.

I haven't wiped my phone back to factory settings because I'm just not ready to lose all of that data yet. I'll keep an eye here. good to know I might have options after all.
posted by jbenben at 1:55 PM on March 21, 2014

You can restore to an earlier backup from before you had the problem if you can pinpoint when your problem started. You will of course be missing any changes you've made since then but it is better than starting over.

You can also backup the phone as it is now, restore for the purpose of doing an export of the data from those 2 apps, wipe it and and then restore it.
posted by ridogi at 2:59 PM on March 21, 2014

jbenben: I'm just not ready to lose all of that data yet. I'll keep an eye here. good to know I might have options after all.

Jbenben, I'm very sorry to hear that you're having similar problems. As I said, my damage was very limited - most apps now store user data in the cloud so stuff like SimpleNote and even Plants vs Zombies 2 (but not Plants vs Zombies 1) restored to their last-used state once I signed back in.

ridogi: You can also backup the phone as it is now, restore for the purpose of doing an export of the data from those 2 apps, wipe it and and then restore it.

Yes, alas, a full restore, export, and then a wipe to factory settings and a full re-install of everything is a possible track that I don't particularly want to take. I do have a spare 4S that I might restore to, just to export my Vesper notes out, but that's a terrible last resort. (And your first option is a no-go, because the problem is apparently tied to the APN settings I've used since 3G days.

For future reference:
  • iPhone Backup Extractor at SuperCrazyAwesome is nice, but did not parse my encrypted backups. If I had un-encrypted backups, this would have been the way to go.
  • iPhone Backup Extractor (a different one) is clunky as all hell, but did parse my encrypted backups. The extraction was incomplete and massively buggy when using the free version, but mostly enough for my needs.
  • The developer of Growth was super responsive and amazingly helpful - I mailed him the Growth SQLite database extracted from the last backup and he emailed me a file that I could read back into the Growth app. That was fantastic!
At this point, Vesper is the one app left that is really hurting. Also, other people might care about the lost text message conversations - I could have recovered them with the Backup Extractor, I think.

I would really welcome any ideas from people about how to read back app data into the apps, or how to read SQLite databases and export plain text easily.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:07 PM on March 23, 2014

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