But what if something similar happened to you, and you weren’t so lucky?
What if you owned an Android phone, which uses your Google ID to access all kinds of data services, and Google killed your account? Would you have a brick in your pocket?
I asked Google what would happen. The news is both good and bad.
“Your Android phone would still function, for example to make phone calls, surf the Web, send and receive texts, etc.,” sayeth a Google spokeshuman. “Obviously Gmail, Contacts and other services tied to your Google Account wouldn't work.”
In that case, your only option would be to create a new Google account and, yes, start from scratch. That would likely involve a factory reset of your phone, so kiss your contacts, text messages, and other stored data goodbye.
Fortunately, with the exception of Google Voice, your cell number is not associated with your Google account, says the G-rep. So your phone itself isn’t banned, even if your old account name is.
What should you do? Back up all your Google data now, before the inconceivable happens. Google has set up a site called the Data Liberation Front and a service called Google Takeout designed to help you move most of your stuff off G-services. The problem? It falls down badly when it comes to Gmail – probably the most important Google service for most of us.
Want to access your Gmail messages when you’re not on Gmail? The most straightforward way is to use a third-party email client like Outlook or Thunderbird and download your email into it. (Be sure to leave a copy on the Gmail servers if you want to access it from other machines.)
You can also set up Gmail to work offline using the now moribund Google Gears – but only if you’re using an older version of Firefox or Internet Explorer. Paradoxically, this doesn’t work with any version of Google’s own Chrome browser.
That works for mail you receive from now on. How about those years’ worth of Gmail archives squirreled away in some Google data center? For that you’ll probably need another program, like the free Gmail Backup for Windows, or payware like Backupify (starting at $3 a month) or BackupMyMail ($20+ a year). I’m using Gmail Backup as I write this; it’s not fast, and you can’t just set it to run periodically and forget it, but it does seem to do the job.