iOS5: Backups & Syncing

If you’ve ever fried a hard drive or lost a phone,   I’m sure you found many of your friends/coworkers asking you the same snotty question.. “You have it all backed up right?”  Ummm.. If I did would I be standing on this ledge?  Well at least for iDevices, Apple has made this MUCH easier and should drastcally redue the likelihood of loosing any data.  So here’s how to navigate the new options in iOS5, which will allow you to be cool as a cuke if your phone goes for a swim.

First things first.. I’m aware that this is not a “photography” post, but Apple’s iPhone has become the most popular camera on Flickr, and likely the one you have with you most of the time.   I’ll get back to your regular programming shortly.

If you haven’t already updated to iOS5, set aside an hour or two and plug your phone into the computer.  In iTunes, it will tell you that there is an update ready.  I always select the Download Only rather than download and install.  Next right click on your phone’s name in the menu on the left and choose “transfer all purchases”.  Once done, sync, then run the update.


Previously, these two tasks were combined and performed when you plugged your phone into your computer.  It would save and store all your info through iTunes while simultaneously moving over any new purchases (songs, videos, etc).  Unless you were religious about backing up, it was easy to go a few months without doing so, thus risking substantial data loss if the phone was damaged or lost.  Starting with iOS5 – these two tasks are MUCH easier, but it will require some initial work to set up properly.

The first thing to know is that these two steps are no longer combined.  Backups are completely separate from Syncing.  During a backup, the phone stores important information (contacts, texts, settings, calendars, etc).  iOS5 brings the ability to wirelessly backup your phone (to iCloud) when it is plugged into a charger.  This is a great way to prevent data loss and other than setting it up, doesn’t require any additional steps.  Syncing still occurs with your home computer, but now it also can be performed wirelessly now.

iCloud & Backups

iCloud is Apples update to their online server space previously known as MobileMe.  It’s much improved and serves more roles than it’s predecessor.  If you already have a MobileMe account, then the first step is to migrate your account to iCloud by visiting this site.  If you’re new to the service, your iPhone will setup a new 5GB account for you (it’s free).  iCloud can provide many services such as email, calendars, contacts, reminders, notes, etc.. but the most important are Backups and the now free “Find my iPhone” function.  After walking through the initial steps required when starting your phone after the update, proceed to the Settings app.  You’ll notice a new catagory called iCloud.





Clicking on the new iCloud button opens a list of functions that you can turn on or off.  While I use Google for my calander, I find all the other items helpful to have backed up.  If you have multiple devices, this can sync the data from reminders, notes, contacts, which is very helpful.  So select what you want here then scroll down until you see the Storage & Backup option.









Selecting this will bring give you a summary of your online storage and allow you to toggle iCloud Backups on and off.










Select “ON”, then select the “Manage Storage” option, which brings you to this screen.










This is a brief summary page of your backup data.  Select the device that you are currently using.







You’re now presented with a list of all the apps on your phone, and by default they are all selected to be backed up (select “Show all apps”.  This is where you will be making some changes.  How many of your applications truly contain data worthy of being backed up?  I found that it was just a fraction of mine.   Shopping lists, photography apps, or any other applications that have data in which you have changed should be backed-up but applications that just get data or provide info like conversions and airfares – no need to use the server space.  I cut down my backup size from 7GB to less than 600MB.  If you have an iPhone and an iPad, it’s likely that you’ll be required to buy more space if you don’t make these changes.  It should be noted that I opted to NOT back up my photos.  I did make sure that I them all moved over to iPhoto on my computer, then just turned on the auto syncing “Photo Stream” option

OK.. now that you’ve done all the heavy lifting, your phone should back up once a day when charged and in a wi-fi zone.  Should you ever loose/damage/upgrade your phone, you’ll be up and running in a few seconds by restoring to the last back-up.



WiFi Sync

This is a lot easier to set up, but does require one not-so-obvious step.  When you plug your phone into the computer (for possibly the last time) you’ll need to click off the “Sync this iPhone over Wi-Fi” under the options page in iTunes.  Now, when you unplug from the computer, you’ll notice that your iPhone icon remains as an option in iTunes.  Now, much like backing up your important data, your iPhone and computer can transfer any purchases made to be sure you’re fully up to date.  This is really fantastic if you subscribe to any podcasts, as they just “show up” on the iPhone now.





On your iPhone, you can see the Wi-Fi Sync info by going to Settings -> General -> iTunes Wi-Fi Sync.  This will tell you the last time it synced.  I have had a few times that this didn’t work for one reason (computer was off) or another (iTunes was closed).

There are other pretty fantastic upgrades included in iOS 5 (Notification Center, new camera options, photo sync, etc) but they are all much easier to understand and manage than the new options for Syncing and Backing up.

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