Carbon app shows how Android backup should happen

An early version of Carbon backup app at work

You've put real time into installing and configuring your apps. You should be able to back them up, and one developer has made it so.

Smartphones get lost, they get stolen, they take unexpected baths and glass-shattering blows. Every so often, they get wiped out and reset, for sale, for troubleshooting, or, in my case, for messing about. When any of those things happen, a new Android can restore their system settings, their wallpaper, and some other changes. But the Android owner who has spent a notable amount of time finding, installing, and customizing all their apps have a few, mostly inconvenient restore options:

  • On signing into your “new” Android phone, let Google’s backup of your apps start reinstalling your previous apps—most of them, usually, and usually without your settings, data, and with you being signed out of all of them.

  • If you had or have a rooted) phone, you can restore your entire old phone from a full backup, perhaps made with ROM Manager or Titanium Backup. Of course, this doesn’t work if you’re moving from one device to another, or if you’re trying to fix a problem that was deep in the system.

  • Sit there and check that Google properly re-installs the apps you actually want on your refreshed phone. Log into each app as is needed. Be glad you have at least something marching back onto your phone.

But, as is often the case with Android, a developer has found a better way. In this case, the developer is Koushik Doutta, who has posted a very early beta of a new Android backup app, Carbon. It is such an early-release stage that the free version he is giving out to testers expires after a week. There are plenty of rough edges. But at its core, it does exactly what you need it to do.

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The Carbon backup app in its browser-based desktop backup mode.

Carbon backs up your apps, and just your apps, to, ideally, your Google Drive account. You know how Google Drive gives you 5 GB of storage space, for free?. A backup of my 60+ apps and their data took up 178 MB. Assuming that I still use Google Drive for documents, that I don’t need to keep 12 old copies of my apps, and that Drive will likely expand their free offering over time, I will run out of Google backup space roughly never.

Carbon also allows you to back up your apps and their data onto your phone’s own storage space, in one tidy ZIP file package, or to offload your backup onto your desktop computer through a temporary browser connection. There’s a Dropbox option built into the interface, but it’s not working just yet. And while Carbon is root-only at the moment, Doutta states that the full (likely non-free) app will not require a rooted phone.

Google gives everyone storage space in the cloud. Google’s Android servers can back up all of the little settings and tweaks that glue your phone together, but they should make space for your apps and their data. iOS devices offer that this kind of “Welcome back” backup and restoration, and it’s what makes upgrading between iOS devices a usually painless experience. Here’s hoping Doutta succeeds, both in developing a winning app and in pushing Android forward.

Side note: Doutta is also the creator of other very handy Android apps, including the aforementioned ROM Manager (for rooted phones), a tethering app, and a two-part app, DeskSMS, that lets you view and respond to text messages from desktop systems.

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