16
Mar
android cloud

While we love apps like Titanium Backup that make restoring your data relatively easy when you upgrade phones, buy a tablet, or switch to a new ROM, what if they weren't even necessary? What if all of your apps' data could be stored in the cloud? This would not only make backing up and restoring easier, but it would save you a big chunk of SD card storage, right? It turns out that these capabilities have been present in the Android OS since the arrival of Froyo last year. So why aren't developers using them?

Check this out from the Android Developers' Guide:

Android's backup service allows you to copy your persistent application data to remote "cloud" storage, in order to provide a restore point for the application data and settings. If a user performs a factory reset or converts to a new Android-powered device, the system automatically restores your backup data when the application is re-installed. This way, your users don't need to reproduce their previous data or application settings. This process is completely transparent to the user and does not affect the functionality or user experience in your application.

The service is a "lazy backup," meaning the Backup Manager on the device determines when it's appropriate to back up after being asked to do so by an application. On the upside, it can back up game progress, API tokens, and other non-sensitive information. The downside is that it's not secure, so devs shouldn't use it to save passwords.

This sounds like a great service, but have you ever or anyone you know had an app automatically restore its previous data after an upgrade? I haven't. And why not? It's a fairly clean-cut process that shouldn't add too much labor to any developer's work - just have a look at the dev guide.

Sony just announced that they added cloud storage with their most recent PlayStation 3 update, and it was considered to be a pretty big deal. Save your game data to the cloud, save hard drive space, use your internet connection instead. Win for everyone, right? Granted, the Android equivalent says that it's primarily for installing the app on a new device and not for everyday use, but isn't this still a feature with some extremely useful potential that isn't being used at all?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this, both from devs and regular users who might be surprised to even know this feature existed. Give us your two cents in the comments below.

Source: Android Developers' Guide - thanks to Victor for raising the issue

Will Shanklin
Will's typical, run-of-the-mill story is that of 'classically-trained actor turned Android smartphone and tablet writer.' If you catch him quoting Shakespeare, it's not because he misses it, but because he desperately wants his Masters in drama to count towards something.

Sir William dwelleth in the fair haven
Chicago; with his fair maid'n Jess and his
trusty cur, Ziggy.
  • David

    I think Words with Friends uses part of this, because I have had app crashes where it seems to be updating parts of the program while I am waiting with a message like "Updating App" or something.

    • Coldman

      Words with Friends uses their own server to synchronize the data, because it needs to transfer it between multiple players. This is different - imagine a Notes application that won't lose your notes if you lose your phone or have to wipe it. Things like that.

  • dmzda

    Disabling Google's backup service actually speeds up the phone by quite a bit, especially on older devices. This is because it backs up whenever it feels like it. It would be a lot better if you determined when the backup should take place.

    The other major problem is that it isn't secure. That may be the main reason why developers are opting not to use the service.

    • Coldman

      Right, as mentioned, depending on the data, it should be used with caution. But who cares if my game progress is not secure - at least I know I can continue my game I spent 5 weeks playing when I get a new phone or if I lose mine.

      • dmzda

        That would be a useful thing to have, but its not worth it until they fix the performance issues.
        In addition, there should be a note on applications that use this feature that tells you so, perhaps in the permissions section or something. Just so you know if you are missing out :)

    • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

      It's completely up to the developer when the backup happens.

      • Coldman

        That's not true. They can request the backup, but the backup manager is the one deciding when it'll act on it. It's in the API docs.

        • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

          That's true, but without the request, the backup manager will not act (unless I'm reading it wrong), so the fear that it's constantly backing up and slowing things down is unfounded.

  • Dominick

    It seems like this feature should be one of the main bullets in the debate between Android and iOS.

  • mrw

    We could use this or something similar. The lack of a comprehensive backup solution for Android applications (unless one has rooted the phone) is baffling. Why should the customer have to void their warranty so they can have an effective backup? Over the last year many responsible application developers have added data backup to SD, but this is kludgy and usually every app is on a different schedule. Five years ago, my Palm Treo had a better backup solution without voiding the warranty.

    • Kaz

      Palm doesn't really have a backup solution so much as synching to your computer.

      Astro File Manager can backup files without Root. Not sure, off hand, if you can schedule backups.

      • mrw

        Excuse me, but I use Astro File Manager and it does backup apps (and it can be scheduled) but not the data. For example it would allow me to recover gbaHours (my invoicing app) but not the data I have accumulated. Now, gbaHours does provide for data backup within the app, but this is not so common and requires a manual process. On the Palm Treo I had a third party app that backed up all of the apps and the data to the SD card. As well I had the sync to the computer. Five years ago, I had better backup options than I do today on Android -- unless I want to void my warranty. Something still needs fixing.

  • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

    Gah, indeed, I have not implemented it, either. It really is one of the best features, and I think it's utter laziness that has kept me from putting it into my apps. Since it only works on 2.2 and above, it's not a perfect solution, though at this point it covers the majority of users.

    Ok, I promise I'll look at implementing it this month :)

  • HyperByte

    I've been a dev since January and I've never heard of this feature. I've read through a couple of development guides that have'nt mentioned it at all and I've never heard anyone on any programming forums discussing it

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Then spread the word! Our job here is done.

  • MicroNix

    Locale has recently implemented this in their app. I can't tell you how cool it is with all the different situations I have entered that they all magically return every time I flash a new rom on my Droid!!! It was the worst app to have to reconfigure every time and when I inquired about a feature to save the config to SD at least, the dev informed me that it was going to back up to Google. I waited for that feature to arrive and has worked flawlessly many flashes later :)

  • http://commonsware.com Mark Murphy

    BackupManager has a lot of issues:

    http://commonsware.com/blog/2010/07/11/backupmanager-unsafe-at-any-speed.html

    Some of those have been rectified in the nine months since that post, such as having enough 2.2+ devices to make it worthwhile.

    "This would not only make backing up and restoring easier, but it would save you a big chunk of SD card storage, right?"

    BackupManager is not designed to solve this problem.

    "It’s a fairly clean-cut process that shouldn’t add too much labor to any developer’s work."

    And your proof of this is...what, exactly?

    Should apps have a backup mechanism? Yes. Is BackupManager that mechanism? At best, it is a small part of it.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      It's not designed to solve the SD card space problem, agreed, but it's straightforward to implement and relatively transparent (i.e. assume you don't have a restore available and treat it accordingly) for <2.2 devices. Plus, any software has problems (like the shitty reliability of C2DM), and the only way to fix it is to keep filing bugs and bug Google about it. The idea is beautiful, it's already there for contacts and soon it'll be there for music - app data is just a natural step in the same direction.

  • Christo

    Please, please, please, please, PLEASE, PLEASE, **PLEASE**

    Can someone forward this to the developers of Angry Birds?

    And if it's already implemented, it needs to be fixed. :)

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Tweet @RovioMobile with your requests, guys. They will notice.

      • Christo

        Took your advice. Hope it helps out there! :)

  • exa

    I have all my contacts sync with gmail and SMS Backup +, that backup all my sms, mms and calllog to my gmail account.
    Neat features would be to save phone settings and not having to install all our apps 1 per 1 after each flash

  • jaamgans

    I would like it if more devs would use this service to back up non-secure data.

    I have this functionality on all the time, and I haven't noticed any major issues. Having used it when transferring from one phone to another I can confrim that it can be extremely useful.

    I just wish more devs used it.

  • Al

    I haven't added this since a. It's froyo plus only and b. Google backup isn't on all android phones, only Google experience ones

  • http://www.rfc1149.net/blog/ Sam

    Good question. I just didn't know about it, and added it to my Harass Me application.

    Thanks for your post!

  • Vidit Bhargava

    Great idea to bring this to the forefront. As noted, most of the devs do not know about this awesome feature. Let's spread it out.

    AndroidPolice users...post the link to this post on your blogs, facebook, retweet it or whatever.

  • bacdoliljo

    No one uses the Google cloud backup thing because there is no way to manage what you have backed up. It chooses what to backup and what to restore. You can't even clear the backup history. It's turned out to be an annoyance for me. Give the option to manage cloud data and I will use it.

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