How to switch from a Windows phone to iPhone

If you've been using a Windows phone for a while, you no doubt have a considerable amount of data stored on your device, including contacts, calendars, email, messages, favorite apps, music, photos and more. There's no automated Switch to iOS app for your Windows phone the way there is for Android, but there are cloud services like OneDrive, and iOS apps like Office, Outlook, Skype, and more than making it easier than ever before.

First step: You need iTunes


itunes on Windows (Image credit: iMore)

With Apple's iCloud service, iTunes — the company's all-in-one media player, manager, and sync service — may not be needed anywhere near as much as before. There might still be occasions when you want to transfer big files, make local backups, or troubleshoot problems. Then iTunes, clunky as it is, is invaluable. Mac owners will find it pre-installed, but for Windows navigate yourself to the link below to get started.

Download iTunes for Windows

Moving over your contacts, calendars and email

Outlook on iPhone

Our phones have quickly become our main communications tools, beyond just calling relatives. Managing both work and personal lives in our pockets is very much a thing and moving your contacts, calendars and email to your new iPhone will be a top priority.

Fortunately, Apple makes it pretty easy. Assuming you've been using your Microsoft account to keep these three entities, you'll be able to import to your iPhone with ease. Before you proceed, it's a good idea to make sure you've backed up your Windows phone first.

  1. Launch the Settings app on your new iPhone.
  2. Tap Accounts & Passwords.

  1. Tap Add account.
  2. Select the account your current Mail, calendars, and contacts are on.
  3. Follow the instructions to log in with your account credentials.

Once the account has been added, make sure you've enabled syncing for all of the data you want transferred to your iPhone.

  1. If you're not already in your new account screen, tap Accounts in the upper left corner to go back to the Accounts screen.
  2. Tap your new Account.

  1. Tap the Mail switch to turn on and sync your email data. When it's on, the switch is green.
  2. Tap the Contacts switch to turn on and sync your contacts data. When it's on, the switch is green.
  3. Tap the Calendars switch to turn on and sync your calendar data. When it's on, the switch is green.
  4. Tap the Notes switch to turn on and sync your iPhone's Notes content, which will appear in your email account under Notes.

Your Microsoft account will pull in your email, your contacts and your calendar to the relevant stock apps on the iPhone.

You also have the option of using the Microsoft Outlook app on your iPhone to manage your Outlook email and calendars. It's considered by many to be the best mail client on iOS, so it's worth checking out.

Download Outlook for iOS

Moving over your photos and videos

Dropbox on iPhone

Our recommendation would be to avoid transferring your photo library from your old phone to your new one. Not least because on Windows Mobile you may have been using a microSD card to store them on, something not supported on the iPhone without needing extra peripherals and apps. (Apple uses the iCloud Photo Library service instead — for a price.)

You can opt to start fresh, or better still, backup all your photos to your computer and your favorite online service, and then go from there.

The best option is to use the cloud. If you've been using Windows 10 Mobile then there's a strong chance you had your phone set to auto-upload your photo library to OneDrive. If you didn't have it set this way, there's still time to do so and upload your entire photo library to Microsoft's cloud. You can also upload your iPhone photos to OneDrive, so you don't have to switch from what you're familiar and comfortable with.

With this, you just need to install the OneDrive app from the App Store and you'll have instant access to all your photos wherever you are.

Download OneDrive for iOS

Or, if you use Dropbox, the other big, cross-platform popular option, same applies. Make sure everything has uploaded then grab the Dropbox app for iPhone and you'll be set.

Download Dropbox for iOS

With no expandable physical storage on the iPhone, we strongly recommend the cloud route if you want to have easy access to all of the photos you've been collecting on your Windows phone. You'll be snapping a ton with the iPhone camera so don't fill up that storage with gigabytes of old stuff.

If you can't or simply don't want to use the cloud, you can still make the transfer using a good, old-fashioned cable. If you're using a Windows 10 PC getting your photos off your phone is straightforward. You can either go through the Phone Companion app, which then imports from your Windows phone into the Photos app, or you can just navigate to your phone in File Explorer, find the folder and drag and drop.

On a Mac, it's a little more difficult. To move photos from your computer to your iPhone requires iTunes. With your iPhone connected via the USB-to-Lightning cable you'll be able to select items to sync between the phone and the computer.

What about my Microsoft apps?

Skype on iPhone

Microsoft is a big supporter of cross-platform apps and services. As such, all the most popular apps are available to use on iPhone. And they're pretty good too, for the most part. We've already linked up OneDrive and Outlook above, the list below will help you find some of the other big ones.

You can find a complete list of all Microsoft apps for iPhone here:

Download Microsoft apps at the App Store

Moving over your music and video content

Spotify on iPhone

The iPhone and iTunes are heavily invested in music, and you'll be well looked after. If you have a physical collection on your computer that you synced to your old Windows phone, simply fire up iTunes and start syncing it to your phone.

If you used a third-party service such as Spotify or Deezer to get your aural fix, there are of course apps available for all these in the App Store.

Adding all the rest

Instagram on iPhone

Instagram on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

The iOS App Store is the place to find apps. You can get almost every Google app available. (Which were notably absent from the Windows Store...)

Equally apps like:

There are also hundreds of thousands of games, including all the major mobile titles, so hit the App Store and download away!

This is just the beginning

Hopefully, these tips help you to get started with your new iPhone without having to start again from scratch. With the prevalence of the cloud and Microsoft's strong support for iOS, with a little work you'll be up and running in no time with all your personal communications, media and app needs!

Updated October 2017: Updated account setup for iOS 11.

Richard Devine

Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy. Follow him on Twitter and Google+