The data on iPhones is split into two categories: app data and files. The former refers to files created through interaction with apps installed on the phone, such as app settings, saved files for games, and profiles. The latter refers to more personal files you create on your phone, such as pictures, videos, notes, music, etc.
iOS works a little differently from a PC, or even an Android-powered device. It is a closed system that hides a lot of stuff for the sake of simplicity. It includes how users interact with app data and other files on their iPhone. There is a stark contrast to the Android operating system which is far from being customer-friendly.
It was in 2016 when Apple finally listened to unanimous feedback that 16GB wasn’t enough for a smartphone. In an era where smartphones were capable of shooting HD videos, more storage was required.
Following up with a 32GB base model, Apple now offers a minimum of 64GB space across all its current iPhone models.
The point here is that storage space is very important for most people, and there comes a time when gaining access to app data and files becomes a need of the hour.
People with 16GB iPhones could free up space by uploading some of their data onto cloud services. Users can also back up data to prevent loss.
Let us explore some of the ways you can access your iPhone’s app data and files.
What You Need to Get Started
- iTunes (Download the latest version from here)
- A computer running Windows or the latest version of macOS
- An iPhone (or any other iOS device)
- A USB transfer cable
Access Files with iTunes
iTunes is the first choice of clients for transferring data in and out of Apple devices. Follow these steps to gain access:
- Download and install iTunes if you haven’t already.
- Launch iTunes and connect your iPhone to the computer
- Once iTunes is open, locate the small device icon at the top, and click on it.
Use the sidebar on the left of the screen and navigate to File Sharing.
You can now notice a list of apps that support File Sharing. The most common apps are Keynote, Numbers, and Pages. If the app you want doesn’t appear here, then it probably doesn’t support File Sharing. Therefore, it is impossible to retrieve data out of that particular app by using iTunes at least.
To copy files from the app to your computer, simply drag the file to a folder and wait for the transfer to complete. Similarly, you can transfer compatible files from the computer to your iPhone by clicking on “Add”. Make sure the file is compatible with the app, otherwise it won’t show up. Refer to the app’s user guide to learn more about compatible files.
Access Files Using the Files App
The Files app, introduced with iOS 11, is sort of like a file explorer. It gathers every user’s files from all locations, such as iCloud drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Adobe Creative Cloud, productivity apps, and more, in one place.
It provides users with the feature of browsing through files without individually checking each app. Because the Files app was introduced through a system update, it goes without saying that you need an iPhone since iOS 11.
- Locate the Files app in the app drawer and tap on it
- Tap on “Locations” and then on the “Edit” option located at the top right corner
- Turn on all the channels, including third-party apps from which you want to obtain data
- Confirm by tapping on “Done”
Click on “Recent” to show recently added content from all apps. However, the Files app doesn’t yet have a section that displays content in a common gallery. Similar to Finder’s tagging system on macOS, the Files app allows individual files to be tagged by color or by customer’s name.
As we have discussed earlier, the iPhone with iOS is more limited compared to a computer. Accessing app data that does not support File Sharing is impossible by using iTunes.
App Data Access via Backup
Although iTunes cannot access every app’s data, it is possible to backup data from your iPhone, and then use a third-party app to extract information. Here shows how to do it with iTunes:
- Open iTunes and connect it to your iPhone
- Click on the little device icon at the top to access the Settings menu
- Click on the “Summary” tab, and “Back Up Now” option will appear on the right
The backup folder’s location is different according to operating systems. In macOS, it is located under:
~/Library/Application Support/Mobile Sync/Backup/
On Windows 8/7/Vista:
On Windows 10:
Apple recommends that users should never move it to a different location, such as other folders, an external drive, or network drive.
It is also advised not to modify the backup by extracting its content. Although it is possible to view or access the content using a computer, the backup is stored in an unreadable format. It is where third-party apps enter. They have the ability to view backups in a readable format, which thus allowing you to locate and extract the files you want.
Another way to access app Data and files would be to back up on iCloud directly from the iPhone. Go into Settings > [your name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup. Turn on the feature and select what data you want to back up to your iCloud account.
It will enable you to view files, such as Photos, directly from a web-browser, but it requires an internet connection.
Jailbreaking is another powerful but risky method – one that provides root access. However, because jailbreaking opens up the possibility of downloading illegal apps, it is not a viable method for the majority of iPhone users. It is also certainly not part of the discussion here. Not to mention that Apple actively blocks new ways of jailbreaking with each new iOS update.