It’s a fair bet that most of us have experience the death of a phone, either directly, or through someone close to us, and while it really shouldn’t be a big deal, the truth is that these days the sheer quantity of personal data on these devices means that replacing the hardware is the trivial part, the content on there is the real value; phone numbers you don’t have anywhere else, information someone sent only to your phone, photos of events you have no other record of. It’s lose can be a traumatic experience.
Help is at hand
However, since these phones are essentially always connected pocket computers, these are ways of making sure the phone itself takes care of tucking the data away so that nothing on there is truly lost forever.
Apple makes it easy
If you have an iPhone, then Apple have basically done it all for you with iCloud. You get 5GB (gigabytes) of free storage, which can be upgraded to a vast 2TB (terabytes), equivalent to 200 hours of full high definition video.
Icloud is first choice
The iCloud store can be accessed by Windows PC, and backed up to by Android phones, but it is clunky, tricky to setup, and lacks the full feature range. It works seamlessly for all Apple products, as you’d expect, and is the first, and probably only choice for iPhone owners. You can setup an account, and your devices from this page, after which any attached device will backup and synchronise automatically.
Android is more complex
For Android the choice is a little more complex, but this is inevitable given the greater flexibility of the platform, and the fact you are not computing in a dictatorship.
Hosted services are safe
Hosted services like email, messaging apps, and social media, such as Gmail, WhatsApp, and Twitter are accessible from any computer, and are backed up and stored by the original service provider, so this data is at no point unique to your phone and can’t be lost.
Dropbox is wonderful
Most Android phones also come with Dropbox, which is a wonderful app, and I use it extensively. It will automatically sync certain types of files, pictures for example, immediately. This archive can then be synced with multiple other phones and computers. I have often taken a picture with my phone, then waited 30 seconds for it to appear on my desktop, so I could drop it in to a document I was working on. On all but the slowest link, it’s quicker than finding the USB cable and dragging it across.
Android is a Google product, and while it can be used without a Google account, it does limit the phones functionality, so you almost certainly have an account already, and it comes with 15GB of Google Drive for free.
Synchronise to Google Drive
With all that space, it's on;y sensible to use it as a backup drive. Your phone can connect to it from anywhere, and you can access it from any PC. All the major phone makers either have Google Drive support built in, or include an app to do it. Sony have Xperia Backup and Restore that uses your Google account to store a complete copy of the phone. Samsung devices can also be backed up using your Google account, and HTC have HTC Backup which does the same.
Watch the battery
All this wireless back is great, but it will take a noticeable toll on already short battery lives, so if the software allows, set a backup schedule so it only synchronises one per day rather than every single time something changes. You can normally tell the software to only backup when Wi-Fi is available which will save using up your 4G data allowance.
Backup to you PC
The final method is to use the software that each phone manufacturer produces to let you take a local image of the phone. The draw back with this is that you can only get the data back if you are on the PC with the backup image, and it won’t be up to date if no backup has been made recently, although versions that backup whenever the PC and phone can see each other over your home Wi-Fi do now exist. If you physically connect the phone, then you charge it and back it up at the same time, and so avoid any battery issues.
Here are links for the PC software for 3 of the largest manufactures.
A few minute of preperation, plus some time to allow the first backup to run, should ensure you never go through the stress and upset of finding that your precious content is trapped inside an unresponsive plastic slab. It's an investment we would all be wise to make.