How to transfer your WhatsApp chats to a new phone

Don't leave your conversations behind when you switch devices.
Hand holding phone with WhatsApp open. WhatsApp will help you move your messages between phones.
WhatsApp will help you move your messages between phones. Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

Billions of people currently use WhatsApp to chat on mobile, and with good reasons. The app is packed with features, offers end-to-end encryption for users, and provides a rich experience on multiple platforms.

If you’ve invested a lot of your messaging time into WhatsApp, then you’re not going to want to leave behind those chats when you upgrade to a new handset. Thankfully, WhatsApp has you well covered here, and the migration process isn’t difficult.

There’s even provision for making the typically difficult jump from Android to iOS or vice versa. The process of moving chats is different in each case, but no matter which devices are involved, it won’t take more than a few minutes.

Android to Android

WhatsApp can restore messages from a Google Drive backup.
WhatsApp can restore messages from a Google Drive backup. Credit: WhatsApp/David Nield.

You shouldn’t have much trouble restoring your WhatsApp messages on a new Android phone if your old phone is an Android device too. On your old phone, first make sure everything is backed up to Google Drive: Tap the three dots (top right), then Settings and Chats, then Chat backup. Hopefully you won’t need this backup, but you’ll be glad to have it if something goes terribly wrong.

Then, install WhatsApp on your new phone. Once you’ve signed in with your existing phone number, the app should recognize you have chats on another device that you might want to move over. Tap Transfer from the old device when you see the prompt to do this, follow the instructions, and you’ll get a QR code on screen.

You then need to go back to WhatsApp on your old phone, which will be ready to scan the QR code on your new phone. Once you’ve scanned it, accept the invitation to link the devices together, and you’ll see a progress bar on screen.  When you see the confirmation that the transfer is complete, tap Done and you’re ready to go on your new phone.

You don’t have to use this direct transfer method, but it does mean your chats don’t need to go to Google Drive and back. You can also restore a WhatsApp backup from Google Drive: This option automatically appears if you install (or reinstall) WhatsApp on an Android device, and log in with a phone number associated with an existing backup. Just tap Restore to bring your chats back.

iOS to iOS

There's a direct iPhone-to-iPhone option, no iCloud required.
There’s a direct iPhone-to-iPhone option, no iCloud required. Credit: WhatsApp/David Nield

As with Android-to-Android transfers, you don’t necessarily need a chat backup if you’re jumping from one iPhone to another, but we’d recommend that you set one up anyway.  On your old iPhone, open WhatsApp and choose Settings, Chats, and Chat Backup. Backups on iOS make use of Apple’s iCloud storage service.

Go back to the Chats screen, then choose Transfer Chats to iPhone and Start, and a QR code is shown on screen. Now you can turn your attention to your new iPhone, where you should install the WhatsApp app and set it up using your existing phone number. When that number is recognized, you’ll be prompted to carry on with the chat transfer process you’ve already initiated, so tap Continue to accept.

Scan the QR code that pops up on your old iPhone using your new iPhone. That gives WhatsApp all the information it needs to beam your conversations between devices, and you’ll see a progress bar shown on screen while this happens. When the transfer is complete, tap Next to carry on using WhatsApp on your new iPhone.

Should that not work as intended, you can restore a WhatsApp backup on iOS instead. The restore option only appears when you first install WhatsApp though (so you might need to uninstall and reinstall it): When you’ve registered your existing phone number, select the Restore Chat History message that appears on screen.

Android to iOS

The Move to iOS app includes a WhatsApp option.
The Move to iOS app includes a WhatsApp option. Credit: Apple

If you’re going from Android to iOS, then the only way to move your WhatsApp chats over is to use the Move to iOS app for Android. It takes care of transferring data across a whole range of apps, including WhatsApp—it can also move across all of your Google contacts and calendars as well, for example.

Load up the Move to iOS app and just follow the instructions on screen—you’ll need to enter the code displayed on your new iPhone to confirm that you want to link the devices. The important screen is the transfer data screen, where you want to make sure that the WhatsApp option is selected, alongside any other types of data you need to move across.

The Move to iOS app will take care of signing you out on Android, and when you get the confirmation that the data has been sent over, you can go ahead and install and open up WhatsApp for iOS. As long as you log in using the same phone number you’ve been using, you should see a prompt to finish the transfer of conversations.

There’s no way to restore WhatsApp messages from a Google Drive backup (on Android) to WhatsApp on an iPhone—the Move to iOS app is the only option. You can, if you want, export individual chats from Android to an email archive (via Chats, Chat history, and Export chat in Settings), and start fresh on the iPhone.

iOS to Android

Android can copy data over from iOS, via a cable.
Android can copy data over from iOS, via a cable. Credit: Google

If you’re heading the other way, from an iPhone to an Android device, compatibility issues still create hurdles. WhatsApp on Android can’t read WhatsApp backups in iCloud, so you can’t simply sign in on a new phone and restore a backup. You can export chats to email (Chats then Export Chat in Settings), but again these can’t be restored on an iPhone.

What you can do is use the more general iOS-to-Android transfer solution that Google has built into Android, which covers a host of apps, including WhatsApp. However, you must do this when you start up your new Android phone for the first time, during the initial setup—there’s no option to do it later.

As you go through the initial setup process, connecting to Wi-Fi and so on, you’ll see a prompt to copy data from another phone: Make sure you choose Next here and not Don’t copy. Follow the instructions on screen, making sure WhatsApp is selected as one of the entries in the Apps section (it should be by default).

You’ll then need to connect your two phones with a cable: USB-C to USB-C or USB-C to Lightning. The transfer utility will then take care of the process of moving all your apps and conversations over, though you’ll still need to log in using your existing phone number when you open WhatsApp on Android for the first time.