Windows Phone 8 Backup feature savaged, and rightfully so


For some reason Microsoft appears to have an allergy to providing a real back-up service for Windows Phone users.

Windows Phone 7 users could back-up their phones via Zune, but only when flashing a ROM, and were out of luck otherwise. The backup would also not restore to a new phone, for example if you wanted to replace or upgrade to another handset.

Windows Phone 8 is somewhat better,  but as All About Windows Phone notes in their editorial,  that’s only compared to not having any back-up at all, and even that is debatable.

Currently the Windows Phone 8 back-up feature will only save certain “stuff” to the cloud, including some settings, your list of installed apps and upload your photos to SkyDrive.

The Stuff includes:

  • The list of apps you’ve installed on your phone.
  • Your call history.
  • Your theme color.
  • The accounts you’ve set up on your phone.
  • Your Internet Explorer favorites.
  • Settings from around your phone, including photos, messaging, email and accounts, location, Internet Explorer, lock screen, Speech, and more.

What is not backed up is app settings, including databases created by 3rd party apps, games progress, live tile arrangements, passwords for email accounts and the actual apps, with only links to the apps in marketplace saved.

Other issues is that there is only one opportunity to restore, immediately after a hard reset, and that this occurs before WIFI is enabled, meaning it has to happen over 3G data, which can be costly if you are roaming, and can not be done at all without a SIM card in the phone.  (Edit:Sushant notes you can not restore at all when roaming, because data is switched off by default!) AAWP calls this a “stunningly poor piece of UI design”.

AAWP writes how it SHOULD work:

Here’s How It Should Work

I should be able to press the back-up button on my phone, and the resulting archive file should contain everything about my phone. The back-up application should know all my personal details, address books, and email accounts. It should know which calendars I am syncing to. It should know which applications I have installed, and where all the data, saves, preferences, and other info is for each application. It should be able to back-up up my personal preferences, my live tile layout, and all the other tweaks I have made.

And it should do this not just to SkyDrive, but give me the option to dump this out to another computer either over the air, or over USB.

Why? Because the goal should be that if I need to reset my device, or it is swapped out for a new device, I want a one touch restore. I want my phone back the way it was… and it does it for me! If I’m travelling I don’t want to rely on a 3G data connection (and the cost involved) to get it from the cloud, I want a local copy.

A back-up is only as good as the data taken off the device, and the data put back on the device.

backupsp_mainssAAWP’s suggestion to Microsoft?

Here’s How To Fix It

Dear Microsoft,

It’s simple. Please look up ‘back-up’ and ‘restore’ in a dictionary and just do it.

My own, slightly more detailed suggestion would be to allow users to have a choice about what is backed up and what is restored, much like old Windows Mobile utilities offered, and whether the back-up should be stored in the cloud or not.

The current effort is pretty amateurish, and users will discover this only after they are already in crisis.

As AAWP notes, is a proper solution really too much to ask.

Read their full editorial here.