No matter if you have an iPhone or Android phone, chances are it is full of photos and other information that you don’t want to lose. After all, it’s a terrible feeling to not only lose a smartphone, but to also lose all the data stored on it. Back it up, especially when it’s personal and priceless.

The good news is that it’s not really difficult to do that on a regular basis, regardless of which phone you’re using. Generally speaking, smartphone manufacturers and mobile operating system developers have backup processes in place that simplify things.

The importance of backing up can’t be understated. Imagine having a camera on vacation and losing the memory card. All those great images and memories are gone. Multiply that several times over and include your messaging history, contacts, music, video, apps and personal data (passwords, notes, etc.) and you have a much bigger issue.

Here, I’ll go through each mobile platform and the backup options:

Back up on iOS via iTunes

From the beginning, Apple has always offered iTunes as the one-stop shop for syncing and backing up an iPhone. When it added iCloud, there was another option that could also help. To back up your iPhone’s data entirely to your computer, use iTunes.

This is essentially a backup maintaining the status quo at the time you backed up. If you were to lose your phone or need to restore to a new one, iTunes would load the backup file onto the new device and place everything exactly where it was.

Personally, I’ve always found this super convenient for keeping a weekly backup that I can use to overwrite the previous one. Not to mention avoiding having to re-download everything. All you need to do is plug in your iPhone to a Mac or Windows PC, launch iTunes and select Backups>Manually Backup and Restore>Back Up Now to make it happen.

If you have an older backup already stored on the computer and want to save space, you can delete the older one by going to the menu bar and selecting iTunes>Preferences>Devices and deleting it from there.

Back up on iOS via iCloud

iCloud is always good at backing up the basics, like contacts, mail, notes, calendar, reminders and photos. You do get the first 5GB of cloud storage free, but you will have to pay to increase that. The storage options range from 50GB, 200GB and 2TB.

What’s good about iCloud is that it works for you in the background. When entering a Wi-Fi network, it can pull in any new photos, videos and apps you added to your phone. That automatic upload is like an insurance policy for your images. You just have to make sure you have enough storage to keep it all. To enable that, go to Settings>[your name]>iCloud>iCloud Backup, then turn on iCloud Backup.

Beyond that, iCloud will back up app data, device settings, HomeKit configurations, all your messaging history (text and iMessage), iTunes purchase history and even voicemail.

Back up on Android

With Android, things are considerably clearer than they used to be. Having a Google account is important to initiate any backup process. It’s pretty basic, so will cover things like contacts, calendar, apps and media purchased from Google Music.

Previously, Google didn’t include app data, but that’s no longer the case. Preferences, settings and saved games can transfer over, but there is a catch. Much of that is left up to app developers, so a certain app or game might save more than the other does. One way to find out would be to go to Settings>Backup>App data. The path to get there may slightly differ, depending on the Android device you’re using, so keep that in mind.

You do have the option to restore from a previously-owned Android phone or tablet, which automatically re-downloads whatever apps were stored there to your new device. Except it won’t bring back your messaging history.

For that, it’s best to use something that can back them up. Pulse SMS is a good option because it’s cloud-based and easy to customize. With the exception of Google’s Pixel phones (albeit limited to 25MB worth of messages), Android phones don’t back up message history.

Photos and video are relatively easy to deal with through Google Photos. Every one you take automatically backs up to the cloud-based app, even if you’ve shot with multiple handsets. I’ve relied on it a lot for my photography and it’s worked very well throughout.

Android via Google Drive

To back up a phone entirely, similar to how Apple does it with the iPhone, Google Drive could help. At 15GB to start for free, it may be enough for devices with smaller storage, but you probably need more. For that, you will have to buy extra storage. Note, also, that any video shot in 2K or 4K will save as a 1080p file. If you want to retain the higher resolution, it will count against your Google Drive limit.

Some things won’t require backup. For example, if you subscribe to streaming services, your playlists and preferences are saved in the cloud. Providers, like Google Play Music, Spotify, Netflix, etc. will retain your settings and preferences. Re-download the apps and login, and they will be there.

Again, Google Drive won’t back up all messages. You will need to use something like Pulse SMS to do that. Either way, it’s a good idea to download the Google Drive app as well.

To recap, if you want to make sure you back up settings and apps, go to Settings>Accounts and Backup>Backup and restore>Backup my data (toggle On). You do not need Google Drive for this part.

For Google Photos resolution changes, open up the Google Photos app. Go to the menu, tap Settings>Backup and sync>Upload size and choose the option you want. Note that high quality will not count against your Google Drive, whereas original will.

Android via third-party app

There is no shortage of apps on the Google Play store offering various backup solutions. It’s hard to recommend one over all others, but I will suggest Super Backup & Restore as one option to start with. You can pick and choose what to back up, and there is a free version to trial first, as you will have to pay for the pro version. My Backup Pro works in a similar way.

Other options

Phones that include memory card slots may be one way to back up certain files. If you’ve been using one to expand on your device’s internal storage, look into that.

For something, a little more physical and substantial, especially for iPhones, Leef makes a number of plug-in storage products. The most recent one works wirelessly.

You could technically use any cloud-based service as a backup solution, albeit with some limitations. It’s not hard to amass gigabytes of data on a smartphone these days, and cloud services don’t usually offer a commensurate amount for free. If you’re willing to pay a little more, you can make use of them under specific circumstances.

You could also manually upload photos or documents to a cloud service, like Dropbox, whenever you like, directly from your phone. That can be a great way to ensure you have photos safely tucked away while at an event or on vacation. I recommend you do all these things over Wi-Fi so you don’t use too much of your data bucket.

You could also manually move over images or files to an external hard drive or even the memory card you use to expand storage on your phone.

No matter what methodologies you choose to go with, the bottom line is that backing up your smartphone is a crucial part of smart maintenance.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.