How to Clone a Phone Without Ever Touching It

You don't even need to touch your phone to save all your data.

What to Know

  • Install Dr.Fone on your PC or Mac and connect the phone you want to copy, then connect another phone to transfer the copied data.
  • For Android only: Install CLONEit on both mobile devices to transfer all data from one phone to another over Wi-Fi.
  • The device you copy your phone's data to may need its own SIM card to work.

This article explains how to clone a phone using third-party apps. Instructions apply to iOS and Android devices; these programs are generally designed to transfer a phone completely to a new device, not just the identifiers.

Before You Clone Your Phone

Back up your Android device using Android backup tools or system backup, or back up your iOS device using iCloud. You should also back up specific data you're concerned about losing, such as family photos, on a separate service, just to ensure nothing crucial is lost.

If all you want to do is keep a complete version of the data on your phone, you can use these to load your data onto a new device. You may need to ask your carrier for a new SIM card, however. Contact their customer service department to discuss their policy.

To clone your phone, you'll need:

  • Your current device
  • The device you want to clone your phone onto
  • A PC or Mac

Clone an iPhone With Dr. Fone

Dr.Fone offers tools that let you completely copy your phone to another device, or wipe data off a phone completely.

Set aside a large amount of time to do this, and ensure nobody will need you on the phone. Consider having a desktop and VoIP number available to make phone calls, receive texts while you wait.

What We Like
  • Flexible backup and restore.

  • Strong data erasing and backup options.

  • Speedy transfers of data between phones.

What We Don't Like
  • More effective on Android than iOS.

  • Needs a PC or Mac to access the full suite of features.

Use Cloneit on Android Phones

CLONEit simplifies the process even further; all you need to clone from one phone to the other is the software on both phones and a Wi-Fi connection for the two phones to share. Just set one phone to send data and the other to receive, and you're all set.

Once the process is complete, open the new device and see if everything transferred properly. If you find data has been corrupted, replace it with the backup tools, and enjoy your new phone.

What We Like
  • Simple, two-step "batch copy" of a device.

  • Works without a PC as a "bridge."

What We Don't Like
  • Android only.

  • Both devices need CloneIt installed to work.

  • Needs a lot of permissions to work, which may give more security conscious people pause.

Consumer software is unlikely to copy your phone's identifiers for legal reasons. Be extremely suspicious of any app claiming to be able to do this, as it could be a “Trojan horse” to get you to install malicious software on your phone or someone else's.

What Is Phone Cloning Anyway?

Phone cloning is copying the data and identity of one cell phone to another. Cloning can either be a backup of the entire phone, or it can just be the key identifiers of your phone.

In the early days of mobile phones, when they were little more than radios, intercepting the signal often made cloning a simple prospect. All a hacker needed to do was tune in your phone on a ham radio and listen for the identifier.

It's more difficult on modern phones, in part because phones now use SIM cards, which come loaded with a secret code. This makes cloning your phone's identifiers, especially without plugging into it, much harder but not impossible.

Two iPhones next to each other
Don Arnold / Getty Images

Why People Clone Their Phones

Copying a phone's identifying data is generally illegal across the world but, despite the technical and legal issues, people generally do it for a handful of perfectly legal reasons, with the two most common being the ability to retain the features of a phone or to share a phone with somebody in their household without paying for a second line.

Never clone anyone else's phone, whether it's their identifiers or their data. The former is illegal, whatever people claiming to be private detectives on the internet insist, and the latter may be against the law depending on how you access the phone. 

Some also believe this makes their phone untraceable, but that's just folklore. Each device has a unique radio fingerprint, and just by the nature of how it functions, it can easily be tracked.

These laws don't apply, it should be noted, to your phone's software or any data you put on your phone, such as photos you take, as duplicating that data won't allow another phone to listen in on your calls or share your number. Copying and transferring that data may be frowned on by your carrier or the phone manufacturer, and may violate terms of service or end-user license agreements (EULAs), but it's generally allowed, if for no other reason than it's usually difficult for these entities to track.

Cloning your phone's identifiers, even if you do it for yourself, may invalidate your contract with your carrier and result in your phone being shut off. In some cases, your carrier may even ban you from the service.

  • Can you clone a phone without someone knowing?

    Yes. Cloning a phone, depending on the software you use, doesn't require you to even hold the device you're cloning. It can be done wirelessly and without notification.

  • Is cloning a phone illegal or not?

    In terms of the software you can use to clone a phone, there's nothing illegal there. However, in most places cloning the unique identifiers specific to your phone can be illegal, which is why most software won't offer these features.

  • Can I detect if my phone has been cloned?

    Yes. There can be giveaways like unexpected texts or being locked out of your phone suddenly, but not always. It will be much easier to contact your cellular provider, as they will usually be able to check if your device has been cloned.

  • Is cloning a phone free?

    Yes. The process of cloning won't cost anything, but the cloning software is rarely free. Some third parties will sell cloning services for a fee, but it's usually safer to do it yourself with a well-reviewed piece of software.

  • Can you clone a phone without a SIM card?

    Yes. Some software relies on SIM-based authentication to clone a device, while other software is specifically built to clone phones without SIM cards.

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