This post, originally published Feb. 13, 2013, and updated on Sept. 3, 2014, to reflect current prices and backup services. DT writers Meghan McDonough, Emily Schiola, Joe Donovan, and Brandon Widder contributed to this article.
Most of us have dropped our iPhones at some point (and if you haven’t, congratulations!). We’re human; accidents happens. But what’s even worse is when nothing happens at all after you pick your phone up off the floor. The screen won’t turn on; or, no matter how many times you tap, you still get a black screen. Whatever the case, a trip to the Genius Bar is probably in your future. Replacing the hardware is the easy part; but replacing the photos, contacts, and messages you have on the phone takes a little more forethought.
We know how painful it is to start all over once you lose a phone, which is why we’ve come up with some of the best resources for backing up your iPhone. Sure, you can always go the Apple route, but iTunes and iCloud aren’t the only way to go. And often, you’ll pay a more for iCloud’s cloud storage services than you might with third-party apps. iCloud currently offers 5GB of free storage. 10GB extra will cost $20/ year. There are other backup services available both on your computer and on your phone that can keep your contacts, photos, and videos safe when your phone is on the fritz. Below, we give you five alternatives to iCloud for backing up your iPhones data. If you’re still not convinced, we’ve included iCloud in the roundup. Because, well, iCloud does the job, too.
Update: This post was originally published Feb. 13, 2013, and updated on Sept. 3, 2014, to reflect current prices and backup services. DT writers Meghan McDonough, Emily Schiola, Joe Donovan, and Brandon Widder contributed to this article.
PhoneCopy — Free
PhoneCopy is a freemium app for both iOS and Android designed to create a backup of your data and store it in the cloud, where it’s then accessible via the developer’s website. After the initial backup, it synchronizes your data for quicker backups going forward. It also saves a history of your previous backups, so if you accidentally delete an important contact or a chain of text messages, you can retrieve them directly through PhoneCopy.
Start by creating an account from your smartphone or online. Afterward, simply tap the blue Synchronize button to back up your data to PhoneCopy’s server. Once it’s done, log into the site to view everything the app saved, or make changes to your data. Just make sure you tap Synchronize to save the changes.
SOS Online Backup — Free
Want to back up more than just your iPhone and access all of your files in one place? SOS Online Backup has you covered. The freemium iPhone app allows you to stream music and access files in the cloud, along with store up to 5GB of contacts, photos, and videos for easy access in any situation. Moreover, the software also lets you back up five desktop machines on a single account, while securing your precious data with military-grade encryption before files ever leave your device. The premium version of the service costs $60 a year, but it gives you unlimited storage and access to all of your backed up files — from your smartphone and computer — regardless what device you’re using. Not sure if this is the right service for you? Try the 14-day, 500GB free trial.
To use SOS Online Backup, download the app from the App Store and create a new account. To begin backing up your data, select the Protect tab at the bottom of the screen and tap either the Protect All Contacts or the Protect All Photos button to preserve either your contact or your photos and videos in SOS’s online storage bank.
Related: Best cloud storage services
CopyTrans 4Pack — $30
For starters, Copytrans doesn’t utilize the cloud like other choices on our roundup. The basic software represents a viable solution for anyone who just wants to backup their iPhone data and access it without an Internet connection, one allowing you to click and drag contact, calendars, apps, notes, and other data to a folder on your desktop machine. Aside from the attractive granular controls, the software does a good job organizing data via a contact book and a music library resembling iTunes circa 2006. The simple application comes at a price, albeit one likely cheaper than other software designed for locally storing your data. Opting for the 4Pack ($30) will allow you to manage photos, calendars, apps, music, notes, contacts, and more from your desktop.
To use the software, download the suite from the developer’s site and connect your iPhone as you would normally. Afterward, select the type of data you wish to back up within the CopyTrans Control Center and your device from the resulting drop-down menu before clicking the backup button.
Dr. Fone — $70
Backing up to the cloud has definite advantages, but there are some tradeoffs to consider in the form of monthly subscription fees and possible security breaches. Dr.Fone is another option for keeping it local, one that works directly with your iTunes backup to recover notes, messages, contacts, voice memos, and even Safari bookmarks that might have accidentally met their end when your finger grazed the Delete button. Unfortunately, this kind of granular recovery doesn’t come cheap. Though there is a free trial available, the full version of Dr. Fone costs a whopping $70. However, the software is able to recovers more than 15 types of files, including photos and app videos, from the iPhone 3GS and 4. Apple’s iCloud may be able to recover more lost media content from the iPhone 5, but unfortunately, you’ll need Dr.Fone to recover photos and videos directly from apps.
To use it, download the software on your PC or Mac from the Dr. Fone site and connect your iPhone as you would normally. Then, allow the program to guide you through the necessary steps to back up and recover your data from your device.
Lookout — Free
Hate having to remember to back up your contacts? How about that moment of panic when you can’t find your phone? If this sounds familiar, Lookout may be the solution for you. This free app automatically saves your contacts to their cloud storage so you’ll never have to remember to connect it to your computer or even press a button. Like PhoneCopy, your contacts are securely stored and easily accessible 0n the developer’s website.
Should you lose your phone or forget where you last left it, the app can also help you locate it when you log in to your account. From there, the app will ring your phone — even if it was placed on vibrate when you misplaced it — which is often the problem we have when our phone runs away from us. If your phone gets really lost, the app even features a killswitch designed to to wipe all of your precious should your phone fall into the wrong hands, along with a convenient feature that will ask whoever finds your phone to call specific friends who may be able to help. Of course, iCloud can do all of that as well, but Lookout also provides basic security measures to prevent against malware and spyware. Moreover, the premium version of the software ($3 a month) allows you to automatically back up photos and manage up to three devices from a single account.
Related: How to find your phone
Not convinced by the above backup tools? Apple provides the easiest way to back up your iPhone through iTunes on your home computer. Just remember to do it regularly and your content will be safe even if your phone’s luck has run out. It’s easy to do, takes only a few minutes, and gives you peace of mind. Apple additionally offers automatic backups through its iCloud service, allowing you to back up the most important data from your iPhone in the cloud. Keep in mind it’s currently restricted to a mere 5GB of data — meaning you likely won’t be able to back up all your photos and videos — but you can always opt for one of three premium storage options if you prefer more space.
To use iTunes or iCloud, simply connect your iPhone to your machine as you would normally. Afterward, check the bubble directly beside the iCloud or This computer option to choose your preferred backup method from the list of available options in the Summary pane. Then, if desired, simply click the Back Up Now button to manually back up your device.
Related: How to use iCloud
Safe and secure
Boom. Now your iPhone’s data is safe from unpredictable mayhem and destruction. We can’t say the same for the phone’s hardware, which is always susceptible to slippery fingers. But if you’ve found a bulletproof case, feel free to toss your iPhone around with reckless abandon. After all, your data is backed up and safely stored.