The average iPhone is stuffed to the gills with precious documents and data: photos, videos, music, contacts, important messages and emails and perhaps even work documents. Which is why it's incredibly important to back up, just in case disaster strikes and your phone breaks.
But what happens if you forgot to back up, or (the nightmare scenario) your backup got lost or corrupted? Is it still possible to recover some or all of the data from a bricked device? Yes - perhaps. Numerous companies offer data-recovery software that can save the day.
Elsewhere we've discussed methods for recovering lost data; in this article we round up the best data-recovery software, and help you find the solution that's right for you.
Please note that none of these apps are 100 percent guaranteed to recover a specific file or indeed any data at all - data recovery is a complex business and not to be relied upon. Much better to prepare multiple backups in advance. But if you've got nowhere else to turn, these could be lifesavers.
General buying advice
As you'll see, data recovery software tends to be expensive: it can afford to be, because the people who need it are often desperate. However, before you spend lots of money have a look to see if a free trial is available - and note that even if there is, you may find that the free trial is missing a key feature.
Our sense is also, unfortunately, that this is a market with a high percentage of scams. The reason we've only included three products below is that all the others we tried seemed, well, a bit dodgy. And many of the dodgier denizens of this market are fond of inserting themselves into comment threads and forum posts, so be careful about using software you've heard about unless you've had a recommendation from a) someone who has actually tried it and b) definitely isn't a fake bot account.
We also have a Mac data recovery apps article.
Best data recovery apps
Install Dr. Fone on your Mac or PC, plug in your iPhone via the Lightning cable, and you're ready to start searching for deleted or unreachable files.
The software can recover files directly from an iOS device, but is also capable of scanning iCloud or iTunes backups. It can find photos, messages, calendar and reminder items, call history, bookmarks, voicemails, notes, WhatsApp attachments and more.
The current interface - we tested version 9.2.1 - is pleasingly intuitive: you simply have to select the Recover module, choose the types of file you want to look for, and hit Start Scan. We found it took around five to ten minutes even when looking for a small subset of files, so don't expect instant results.
It's also not guaranteed to work, as is the case (unfortunately) throughout this market. But we found its hit rate impressively high.
Note that, while there is a trial version, it's not much help: you'll be able to scan for (and find) the files but recovering them requires the full, paid-for version. However, at least you'll know what the software is going to be able to recover before you've paid any money.
The full version costs $69.95 (around £54), assuming you want the Recover bit only; a bundle deal is available which also includes a suite of related tools.
Like Dr. Fone, EaseUS can recover (or attempt to recover) files from an iDevice, or from an iCloud or iTunes backup. There are separate versions for macOS and Windows.
We were unable to persuade EaseUS to scan an iPhone at all, since it continually reported that the Lightning connection was being interrupted; we didn't have this problem with the same cable on other apps and it appears to be unusually sensitive in this regard. Perhaps you will have more luck, and you'll be able to use the free demo to find out whether it works for you before you purchase.
However, when scanning old iTunes backups the software was transformed, digging up thousands of long-deleted images and messages we had almost forgotten existed.
Scanning is a longwinded process, however. We recommend getting a cup of tea while you wait.
The thing we like most about EaseUS is that the free version is actually helpful, in a small way. Most free versions of data recovery apps will only scan, demanding payment before recovering anything; but this one will recover a single photo and up to five contacts. That's not much, but we can imagine situations where it would be useful.
The full (Pro) version costs $59.95 (around £46), and this unlocks the full recovery features.
Stellar Data Recovery for iPhone
A third option is Stellar Data Recovery, which aims to recover all of your lost data from an iPhone or iPad. It can also recover some iTunes and iCloud backup data.
You'll find that it can salvage photos, videos, contacts, call history, messages, voice memos and bookmarks from your iDevices, but can also get back deleted data from WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber and other apps.
As with EaseUS, there are also Stellar versions for macOS and Windows.
We had similar iPhone connection issues with Stellar as we did with EaseUS, but thanks to the free version you'll be able to determine whether this is going to work for you before you cough up any cash. The free version will allow you to scan your device and preview the files it can recover, so you'll know whether it's worth the money.
Stellar Data Recovery for iPhone costs £36.79/$47.99, and is available to try or buy on the Stellar website.