My iPhone and MacBook are constantly connected, and with the advent of wireless sync in iOS 5, even when they’re not connected, my phone still stays in sync with my computer data, which would be a life saver if I ever — horrors! — lost my iPhone.
But most people who have iPhones don’t sync very often at all, and a surprising number of iPhone owners have never sync’d their phone to their computer.
That’s the old school vision of your cellphone as a standalone device that works or dies, and there’s no way for you to interact with it on your computer or in “the cloud”, so I completely understand people who go from a Motorola or a Nokia device to an iPhone and use it the same way.
The problem is, what if their phone gets broken or they lose it? What happens to the photos they took on the device? What happens to their contact list and address book?
Enter the simple, ingenious iomega SuperHero Backup & Charger for iPhone.
The $59.99 device (street price might be lower) primarily works as a convenient charging dock: mine actually lives in my kitchen and is almost always in use, between my iPhone, my iPods, my family’s devices and friends phones that need a quick charge.
The magic happens when you also have the iomega SuperHero Backup app [iTunes link] on your iPhone before you drop it on the dock, because then the device automatically grabs a backup copy of your contacts and photos, saving it on a 4GB SD Card (included) that tucks neatly into the back of the device. And not just the iPhone 4 series, iomega specs it to include backup and restore support for the Apple iPhone 4, 3GS, 3G, and iPod touch (4th generation).
The key to getting that functionality work is to unlock your iPhone before you put it on the dock. It’s something that makes sense from a security standpoint (no surreptitious backups, sorry Ethan Hunt!) but a tiny part of me wishes it just worked without any extra fuss. Still, not exactly onerous and you don’t have to remember every single time you dock the device for a charge and, as you might suspect, it doesn’t backup anything if you don’t have the free companion app on the phone.
Once you drop the phone on the SuperHero charger device, unlocked, it instantly launches the app and gives you 30 seconds to decide if you want a backup or not:
You can ignore it or just tap on “Start Now” to get going…
I have a lot of contacts, and a lot of photos. You can see the progress bar above on the backup. It takes about a minute for the SuperHero to grab everything on the device and ferret a copy away on the SD Card.
When it’s done with the backup, the app sticks around in case you want to make any changes or — most importantly — restore from a previous backup because you’ve a new phone or your existing data has gotten corrupt:
Can you restore from the backup of a different iPhone? I asked the iomega team because that feature by itself would make this a terrific device to acquire for anyone about to jump from a 3gs to an iPhone 4, or a 4 to a 4s, and they said: “Contacts and photos from older model iPhones can be restored to brand new iphones (even 4s) or the same model iPhone without ever going back to the computer.”
By default, the backups on the SD Card aren’t encrypted, which is something you can, and probably should, change. That’d done with the Settings option:
With 550+ contacts and about 200 photos, my backup archive on the SD Card turns out to be about 250MB (simple to ascertain: I plugged the card into my computer). That means that the 4GB card included with the device should be able to handle over a dozen phones without breaking into a virtual sweat. If you have a dozen iPhones and iPods, then you’re set! More seriously, it’s a nice, compact format and that’s a good thing.
After years of owning iPhones of various models, I’ve learned it’s always smart to be charging your device whenever the opportunity arises, so I’ve had a charging dock on my kitchen counter for years. The fact that the new iomega charger also does instant backups of my contacts and photos is a big plus, and makes it well worth the $59.99 suggested retail. For comparison, the Apple charging dock is $29.99 and does nothing other than, well, charge your devices.
Note SD Card and plug for external power (required)
Truthfully, I really like these sort of gadgets. Smart, simple design and very easy to integrated into your daily workflow and life. A redundant backup of my address book is itself worth the money to me, but the fact that this is also a sleek, attractive charging dock makes it a must-have accessory for anyone who wants the peace of mind of knowing that even if their phone breaks or gets lost or stolen, they have all their precious data saved.