Boyfriend gave me his iPhone 3GS, do I have to repurchase apps?


New Member
Jul 26, 2012
Hi, I am new here. I have searched for my 'problem' but can't find anything to help. My bf has just got the new iPhone 4S. His old 3gs he is giving to me. We are both newbies, even though he has owned his 3gs for ages. I have volunteered, because I have a macbook and am the lesser derbrain of the two of us, to register and transfer for him. I have read I must sync his 3gs with the sim .. er what? and then go onto iTunes and register the 4S when the synced sim is fitted .. er hello? I presume all apps he has paid for will be transferred. Also the apps on his 3gs, some of them I would want, can I keep them or do I have to buy them again?

Hoping this is straight forward and look forward to much needed help.


Oct 23, 2007
Louisville, KY
iPhones don't store anything on the SIM. The 4S has a different size SIM card anyway, so you wouldn't be able to do any SIM card shuffling.

What all do you want to transfer, and what do you want to keep on the 3GS?

If you want an exact duplication from the 3GS to the 4S, that is either doable, or straightforward, depending on if he ever synced his 3GS to a computer, and whether it's on the latest version of iOS.
  • If he has hooked it up to a different computer and set it up before, iTunes will want to erase it if you hook it up to yours. If he happens to have that computer that he set it up with, that makes it straightforward, but you'll have to do it from that computer, not the MacBook.
  • If he never hooked it up to a computer at all, you should be able to back up using the MacBook, provided you sign into the store under his account before connecting the phone. You can transfer store purchases (music, movies, apps) to your MacBook if you right-click the phone in the iTunes sidebar and hit "Transfer Purchases". After that, right-click again and hit "Backup".
  • If the 3GS is on iOS 5, you can also use iCloud backup. iCloud won't back up music/movies, or photos saved to the phone from a computer, but it will back up everything else, including photos and videos in the Camera Roll. While it doesn't back up music or movies, all music and some movies that were purchased from iTunes can be redownloaded from the store for free.
  • If he set that phone up using a computer, but doesn't have that computer anymore, then that makes iCloud backup the only way I can think of that anything can be transferred over to the new phone. I think that the phone and any purchases can still be backed up to your computer, but restoring from the backup is a little sketchy. I recall trying that once before and it waited for me to hook it up to the original computer before restoring photos and music.
What does iTunes show when you hook up the 3GS to your computer?

In any case, when restoring from a backup, all of the settings, apps, and messages will look exactly the way they were on the 3GS at the time of the backup (if the restore worked properly, anyway). Pictures, messages, apps, home screen arrangement, saved data (such as game progress), etc. He will need to re-enter passwords again (mail, store, apps), since passwords are encrypted specifically for each individual phone and can not be transferred regardless.

If he only wants to transfer a few things, then it depends on what. Contacts, calendars, and notes, for example, can be merged into an iCloud account (in Settings) and then the 4S can pull them down by signing into that iCloud account. If that works, you'd want to then delete the iCloud account from the 3GS, otherwise changes that are made to contacts, calendars, and notes (including deleting) will happen to both phones.

After he's verified that the phone has everything on it that he needs, you can then erase anything from the 3GS that you do not want to keep, and that won't change what's on the 4S. The other thing you can do is restore it (erase/wipe) and set it up as a new device, and then add apps to it from your computer (which you got by transferring purchases), or from the store on the phone. As long as you are signed in on his account, you do not need to pay for the apps again. The App Store on the phone will show "INSTALL" buttons on apps where there would normally be a price. There is a Purchased section in the Updates tab that will show what has already been bought.

If you decide to get your own iTunes account, you will still be able to run the apps that were bought from his account, but in order to update them, you have to buy them, or switch accounts again, and it can be a pain to swap back and forth. I'd recommend just keeping the same iTunes account.

Sorry for the long post, I tend to vomit out just about every possibility that I can think of without waiting for clarification first.
I can give you some really simple step by steps once I know exactly what you want the phones to end up like.