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Backing Up Your Android Apps and Other Phone Info [Beginners’ Guide]

app backups

When you first buy a new smartphone or tablet, thinking about installing an app that backs up things like apps, photos, texts, and other information is recommended. Since many new users aren’t 100% familiar with the inner workings of a smartphone operating system and how it handles your phone’s data, 3rd party apps that automate processes like backing up are a great idea. In this mini-tutorial, we’ll tackle the benefits of backing up and some of the apps worth a look. 

App Backups

As a new user to Android, there may be times when you need to backup your apps, however, with the most recent versions of Android getting more advanced and a Google Play store that continues to evolve, it has become less and less important. For novice users, backing up can be good when you need to keep older versions of apps that are no longer available or because you think Google’s automated backup system from Google Play doesn’t work all that well. Thankfully, with apps being attached to your account for life, it’s not necessary to worry about always backing up apps unless you become an advanced user and root (gain system access) your phone. At that point, you can make full backups of apps that contain your user data and settings, something that can’t be done by normal non-root access.

Basically, what I’m saying is that for new users, app backups aren’t all that important. If you have to factory reset your phone or uninstall an app, you can simply load the Google Play store back up and re-install the app, if Google doesn’t do it automatically for you. The only problem here, is that you lose all of the data from the previously installed version. That’s when having root access can be beneficial, as you can backup user data and restore it. But you will rarely have to worry about not being able to install an app again.

I know this tutorial is about backing up apps, but again, it’s not something you really need to worry about unless you become a power user that is constantly factory resetting your phone.

Photos, Texts, and Other Info

On the flip side of backups, I would say that it is important to backup your photos, text messages, call logs, and other info. This information, if deleted during a factory reset or lost because you changed phones, might be missed. There are a number of apps that will store this info in the cloud so that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world, or on your phone’s microSD card for safe keeping.

Two of the most popular are apps called My Backup Pro and Ultimate Backup, both of which allow you to back up all of your personal data (photos, texts, etc.), store it on device or in the cloud (recommended), in a file that can be restored from any device. They are simple to use, can be automated to do it regularly, and only cost a couple of dollars. Free options like Dropbox are what I personally use for things like photos, however, they aren’t as automated and are more of a storage locker than anything. The best part, though, is the fact that Dropbox is easily accessed from PC browser to tablet to phone. There are also options for advanced users that are more of a file manager than anything, or if you decide to root your phone, you can have even more control.

Most of the apps I’ve laid out are super simple to use, and that’s on purpose. No one wants to have to worry about backups, so feel free to check out the couple of options we have included below and decide which you like the best. Most of them have free or trial options, giving you the time to find your favorite.

Cloud Backups

One thing that I definitely recommend, is using an option that can store your personal info in the cloud, so that if you lose your device, it’s stolen, or you change to something new, you can pull back your data with ease. Storing information on local drives has become a thing of the past, especially since many of us tend to carry around multiple devices that all need access to the same data.

Contacts

There is no need to backup your contacts with an app or 3rd party service (like Verizon’s Backup Assistant). Google automatically backs up, updates, and restores your contacts, calendar, and Gmail once you login to your phone with your Google account. Using 3rd party apps only makes the situation a mess, often times creating doubles of contacts.

Options:  Ultimate BackupAstro File Manager | Titanium Backup (root) | My Backup Pro | Dropbox

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  • http://theblemish.com The Blemish

    If Jottalcoud finally works out the bugs, I’d use it all the time.

  • Raven

    I have always been impressed with Asus by trying to solve this problem with their own App Backup app that came with my Transformer and Prime. They have not really improved it much since the initial release and could use some major improvements, but at least they are making an effort to allow non rooted data backups. Google should buy/license their app or implement something similar/better.

  • Detonation

    For texts, SMS Backup and Restore is the best app out there. Been using it since I got my Droid in 2009.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.riteshsahu.SMSBackupRestore&hl=en

  • Bionic

    Google plus has unlimited photo backup of photos and can be set to wifi only and while charging only.

    • Droidzilla

      This.

      Also, Voicemail backup = Google Voice (I use them for SMS, too, but that’s not practical for everyone). You get full computer access and free visual voicemail to boot.

  • Droidzilla

    Photo backup: Google+. I’m amazed that this isn’t touted as an option more. Even if you never touch Google+ for the whole social networking bit, here’s what you get so far as photo storage is concerned:

    -Automatic or manual backup over WiFi or mobile
    -Share seamlessly between multiple devices
    -Share with others
    -Download to any device
    -Great UI in both Android and desktop
    -Access from anywhere and just about anything with an internet connexion
    -Desktop share photosphere images (weakness of most other 360 panorama apps)
    -Completely free for 5MP images, free up to 5GB for all others (and it’ll auto downconvert if you just want free)
    -Unlimited <=5MP images
    -Fully integrated into Android OS
    -Easy to organise your photos into albums

    I don't care what else you think about Google+; it's worth it just for photo backup and sharing. The stuff I listed is just off the top of my head.

    • Bionic

      Exactly

  • Steve Edholm

    My backup pro blows. I had a refurb phone from asurion and I ended up backing up things to the old owner’s account. He ended up calling my friends and getting to me, but they don’t have a good set up for things like this.

  • Bryan

    Why Google hasn’t implemented a cloud backup system for Android user data is beyond me. If you are giving me free disk storage, then allow Android to use it to back up my user data so that resetting my phone or getting a new one doesn’t mean I lose all of my game or other app data that has taken me time to collect.

    • NexusPhan69

      JellyBean partially does. While it saves a lot of the system data and installed apps it doesn’t save in-app data. Just a small step left to go before switching phones is completely seamless.

    • Michael Quinlan

      I’m equally baffled by Google’s apparent lack of effort in this regard. It’s ridiculous that Android users can’t get a reasonable backup of their device without rooting. In fact, this was the primary reason behind me rooting my OG Droid when I did.

    • Droidzilla

      Google really does need to get on the ball with this; one of the very few areas in which I find Android lagging behind the competition.

    • brando56894

      I completely agree with you, I wish Google would allow you to store your settings in Google Drive or at least game saves. Half the time I will do a Nandroid backup but forget to do a backup in TiBu so it’s either restore the backup and backup the apps or say screw it and go on.

  • Jeff

    I use S3AnywherePro (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=lysesoft.s3anywherepro ) to backup my photos and videos to Amazon S3.

    I also put transcoded MP4 videos on there so I can stream them when I need to kill time.

  • mgamerz

    App backups matter for products like adobe where they just pull it off the play store and don’t let you download it again.

  • JDHokie

    Personally speaking, I’d love a run-down on using Titanium Backup to restore as much as my phone post-flash as possible. I’m always hesitant to flash new ROMs, in part because I don’t want to re-do my homescreen setup and lose some app data.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mickey.jones.125 Mickey Jones

      I second that. I haven’t had a lot of luck restoring apk + data backups. Wondering if I am doing something wrong. Applications won’t launch or are unstable. Have to do all app installs from scratch

      • NexusPhan69

        Really? Google Play downloads them all automatically whenever I wipe data. Do you have JellyBean?

      • brando56894

        I’ve had these problems most of the time with TB and I’ve been using it since 2009 with my OG Droid. It was screwing stuff up on my Gnex with 4.2 also.

    • Buy This

      Basically, you install it and it creates a TiBu folder on the internal storage. Tap backup apps+data and let it do its thing. When you wipe and flash, (assuming you didn’t have to move the folder to a different location) simply reinstall the app from the market. I always stop it manually from populating my apps and just DL TiBu. I have maybe 3-4 apps which recovering the data matters for me, so I individually restore them with their data. Then I restore the other missing apps without their data. This may not be necessary to leave their data out but its less chance for an issue. The app automatically keeps track of what apps are present on the phone and ones that have not been downloaded or restored will have a long line through their name, designating them as yet to be restored. They will be at the bottom of the list of apps.

    • mike

      Just google it. There are tons out there on forums. This one, though not very well written, got me through my first rooting & flashing experience just fine.

      http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=33660753

  • brkshr

    FYI- JRummy is also working on a non-root app backup app. I also prefer JRummy’s App Manager in his ROM Toolbox, over Titanium Backup. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jrummy.liberty.toolboxpro&hl=en

    • http://twitter.com/kirilv Kiril

      Non-root backup seems to be all the rage now. Koush (clockworkmod) is working on one as well, and it is looking pretty slick so far.

      • brkshr

        You know what I’m probably thinking of Koush, not JRummy… I get those two mixed up all the time for some reason.

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      I’m sure my experience is not typical, but Rom Toolbox Pro has been giving me a lot of problems restoring backup up apps + data the last few times I’ve used it. When doing a batch restore, it’ll get through a handful of apps then crash, at which point I have to try selecting all the apps I want to restore again and start over (and again several more times). Also, on the app selection screen, it won’t always list all the available backed-up apps.

      • Jared Rummler

        I’m actually working like crazy on the new update. I saved it for last and it’s taking awhile but it should be worth it. I know there are some bugs in the current one but the revamped version should be tons better. Here is a screenshot. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/A_w3V_UCAAASE-A.png:large

        • brando56894

          Look at that, JRummy himself! I switch from TB to Rom Toolbox for a few months, but switched back to TB when they introduced the flashable zip restore feature, which doesn’t work 100% from the recovery (you can’t flash rom,gapps, then the app restore zip because for some reason the apps won’t show up. You have flash the first two, then boot into Android, then back into recovery then flash the zip and all of your apps will be there). Introduce something like this and I’ll be sure to switch back :)

  • Buy This

    TiBu, FTW.