Mobile Backup Guide

For iPhone and Android

How do you backup your iPhone or Android phone so you never worry about losing files?

Having a complete backup strategy doesn’t just mean backing up your laptop or desktop. As phones and other mobile devices increase in popularity, so does the amount of data that people store on their mobile devices. It is becoming increasingly important to have a good mobile backup strategy, in addition to the one that you may have for your laptop or desktop. Here we’ll go in to detail about the various ways to back up your iOS or Android devices, listing a variety of different methods, which will allow you to choose the best methods for you.

Topics Covered

iPhone backup using
iCloud and iTunes

Backing up Android

iOS Backup

Backing up an iOS device, such as an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to safeguard your data is fairly easy. If you have an issue with your device, you can restore the contents from your backup rather than losing it. There’s three major ways to back up iOS devices:

  • Directly from the device using Apple’s iCloud
  • Directly to your computer using iTunes
  • A hybrid approach of both options

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iCloud is Apple’s pantheon of online services to share and access photos, music, documents and other data between iOS devices, Macs and Windows PCs. Apple offers 5 GB of storage on iCloud for free, but you can upgrade to additional amounts for a fee. 20 GB is $0.99 per month. 200 GB is $3.99 a month. 500 GB is $9.99 a month. 1 TB is 19.99 a month.

To enable iCloud backup on your iOS device, navigate to the Settings app -> iCloud -> Backup. Sign in to iCloud if prompted. Tap Back Up Now to begin backing up.

Subsequent backups are automatically performed when the device is within a Wi-Fi network and connected to USB power. You can manually start backups whenever you want by tapping Back Up Now.

Component: Pros - Cons


This is a great solution for users who don’t regularly connect their device to their computer as it only requires a Wi-Fi connection and USB power to automatically back up, such as overnight when the device is charging.

It’s a very complete backup, so if the entire device is lost or damaged, a user can easily restore their data to a replacement device. The iCloud backup includes contacts, calendars, camera roll, settings, and app data. The apps themselves are not counted against the storage space, but when a restore is performed, they’ll be downloaded from the App Store again automatically.


Limited free storage is the biggest drawback. Since all current iOS devices have capacities greater than 5 GB, it’s easy to fill up that entire space. Additionally that 5 GB is per iCloud account, not per device so users with multiple iOS devices will find that the space gets used up rapidly.

There’s no versioning history retained. For example, if you needed to restore your device back to the condition it was a week ago when you accidentally deleted an entire group of contacts, iCloud would not have prior revisions of your backup.

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Backing up to iTunes is really easy. You just plug your iOS device in to any Mac or Windows PC with iTunes installed, and from the “Summary” page of the device, there’s a “Back Up Now” button to manually start a backup.

If you want to automatically start a backup whenever the device is plugged in, you can enable the “This computer” radio button.

Additionally if you choose the Encrypt iOS Backups option, the backed up data will be encrypted on your hard drive, so an additional password is required to restore the data to another iOS device. This is useful if it’s a shared computer. This has the side benefit of retaining Wi-Fi and email passwords when you restore.

Just like iCloud, it’s a complete backup so if the entire device is lost or damaged a user can easily restore their data to a replacement device.

Component: Pros - Cons


Typically a computer’s hard drive has a lot of space available, so an entire phone backup can be kept on the computer without running out of room or having to purchase additional storage.

Backups are fast, as it’s relying not on the internet connection but just USB transfer speeds.

Backup software, like Time Machine or Backblaze, can additionally back up the backed up data on your computer. This gives you another layer of protection and in the case of Time Machine and Backblaze - versioning, so you can retrieve previous copies of your backups.


It takes discipline to remind yourself to periodically plug in your iOS device to back up. There’s no reminders if you’ve neglected backups for days or weeks.

It requires your computer is available to plug in and sync to. If you’re traveling or away from your computer for days at a time, it can mean long timeframes between backups.

A hybrid approach: Backing up to both iCloud and iTunes

In this method, you enable iCloud backups as above. They happen automatically whenever the device is in Wi-Fi and connected to USB power. Additionally, you periodically connect the device to your computer and back up to iTunes as detailed above. Make sure to leave the “Automatically Back Up” option set to iCloud, as you’ll be manually backing up to iTunes.

Component: Pros - Cons


This method means that your iOS device’s data is in three or more places - on the device itself, on iCloud, and on your computer’s hard drive via iTunes. Additionally if you employ a backup tool like Time Machine or Backblaze, an additional copy and versions can be retained there.

Having your data in multiple places means that if one of the backups has an issue or is out of date, you have other options to choose from.


The same restrictions to iCloud storage apply. It still requires a user to remember to plug in periodically and back up the device to their computer.

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Android Backup

Backing up your Android device does not need to be difficult, there are a few things you can do to make sure that your device is almost fully backed up. Below are some popular methods to keep your phone’s data safe.

Google Sync

This service comes from Google and ties all of your data and information in to the Google ecosystem using a Google account of your choosing. Using Google Sync allows you to back up: App Data, Calendar, Chrome, Contacts, Docs, Drive, Gmail, Google Fit (and it’s data), Google Opinion Rewards, Google Play Books, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music, Google Play Newsstand, Google Keep, My Tracks, MyGoogleDrive, News&Weather, People details, and Tasks.

All of these items are synced across various devices automatically, if you are signed in to them with that Google account. If you get a new phone, you simply sign in to your Google account and once a sync completes all of that data will be put back in to place. You can even back up data such as Wi-Fi passwords, and settings to Google servers, so that you won’t need to remember them once you get a new device, you simply sign in with your Google account.

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Google has a fairly robust solution for backing up data as listed above. It’s also very easy to set up, go to Settings -> Accounts -> Select Google -> Select Google Accounts -> and make your sync selections.

Backing up Wi-Fi passwords and other settings is done by going to Settings -> Backup & reset -> and then pressing “Back up my data” and selecting your Google account.


While this encompasses many of the items that you use through Google, any apps that you have installed themselves are not backed up (though their data may be). What that means is, if you purchase a new Android device, you’ll need to re-download the apps that you had on it.

Manufacturer Apps

Often phone manufacturers will have their own backup solutions (HTC Backup and Samsung Kies for example) installed on the device. Google/HTC/Samsung/etc. are capable of doing backups from the phone to their respective clouds. Normally, this is app data (contacts, some settings, etc.) and some user data (pictures, movies, etc.). It does not include the apps themselves, nor any lower level data. It also does not usually backup the downloads folder or any of the custom folders created by apps.

3rd Party Apps

There are also 3rd party “security” apps like Lookout and ESET Mobile or 360 Security that can back up certain documents like photos, contacts, and call history while also providing protection against viruses and malware. Typically apps like these require you to download them to the device, create an account, and then select what you would like to back up, secure, or sync - though sometimes these can be an additional fee. Additionally, apps like Lookout can also include location and theft-prevention services. Apps like Dropbox can also sync with their respective accounts and automatically sync photos and videos in full resolution, so if the phone gets lost, there is still a way to recover the items in your photo gallery.

Backing Up Your Phone to Your Computer

Often, a simple way to move or copy data from your phone to your machine is to simply plug it in to your laptop or desktop with a USB cable. Most often the phone will appear as a disk drive, and you’ll be able to find your photos, music, downloads, etc. in their corresponding folders. Once found, it’s as simple as copying and pasting them on to your computer.


Google offers quite a robust backup and sync solution for its Android devices. There are many different additional options, varying from the very easy (setting up Google to Sync data during your initial sign-in) to somewhat more difficult (using an app like Helium to backup apps and data). All of these are relatively user-friendly, and there exists a plethora of such apps in the Android ecosystem.

Backing up your Android device isn’t a simple “set and forget” process like your desktop can be. You need to decide which files are important – images, contacts, app history, etc. and make sure that you have the right tool for the job, which may mean using multiple methods and services. No matter which methods you choose, make sure to test them often.

Regardless of what mobile device you have, it is becoming more important than ever to save that data to other locations. Phones get lost or stolen all the time, and even though both Apple and Google have ways to remotely find and wipe your devices, the data is often lost with them. Having a backup is a great way to insure that even if the physical device gets lost, the data will still be available elsewhere!