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The only iCloud backups that show up in the list when choosing to restore a brand-new iPhone (4S) are ones from November last year. However, I know that there should be much more recent backups than that.

If I look at the list of backups on an iPad that uses the same iCloud account, there are more recent backups listed (as well as the older ones that show up in the restore options).

I've tried with a different iCloud account, where the iPhone that's being backed up is still active, and says that the last backup was a few hours ago. However, it doesn't show any backups available for restore at all.

Is there any way that I can get access to the backup that's (presumably) there?

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Not all versions of iOS can back up from backups made using more recent versions (i.e. the backups are not necessarily forwards-compatible). Confusingly, rather than show these unusable backups in some way (e.g. disabled with an error message available on tap) they simply don't show up at all (at least with iOS 5.0.1).

A new-from-the-box iPhone isn't necessarily running the latest version of iOS; it's running what was latest (or close) when it was boxed. If the version on the phone is older than the version that was used to make the backup (which is actually quite likely now that iOS updates can be done over-the-air).

Thankfully, there is a simple fix: choose to set up the phone as a new phone, rather than from a backup. Skip the step where you are asked for an Apple ID, since you won't actually be using the phone like this.

Once the initial setup is done, plug the phone in to iTunes and choose "Restore" (you can skip the backup of the clean-state phone). This will download the latest version of iOS and install that first, and then offer to restore (either from backups on the computer or iCloud).

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