The case for tying your iPhone to iTunes

March 11th, 2011 § 0 comments

Everyone agrees that iOS notifications are outdated and in need of an overhaul. I argued that while true, the solution is not easy and will need to be superior to anything available on Android or WebOS. I was not the first to point this out and I expect to be proven right when iOS 5 drops (hopefully this summer). Everyone also agrees that iOS is tied too tightly to the Personal Computer. Software updates, new content and even activation require the device to be hooked up to a computer. While I agree that it would be nice to get new content pushed/pulled Over The Air (OTA) to my phone there is one aspect of this arduous process that gives me the warm and fuzzies.

iPhone : Restore from Backup

Hallelujah!

I’ve had an iPhone for almost 3 years now and this little feature has saved my tuckus time and time again. Now, one might wonder what the fuck OTA has to do with iPhone restore and it all comes down to timely backups. Every time I plug my phone in to get the latest Radio Lab episode it kindly does a backup for me before delivering my new podcast. In an episode of The Talk Show a few weeks ago Jon Gruber lamented that this is the only reason he plugs his phone into his computer and he wished there was a better solution. Something akin to updating your apps applied to podcasts was his elegant solution and I quite admired it. I am, however, somewhat relieved that it doesn’t exist because if it did then I would probably never plug in my iPhone to my computer. Which would mean that if my phone were to be damaged or stolen I would lose just about everything. Pictures, SMS, configurations up the wazoo, game progress.

You might be saying to yourself “but what about OTA backup? That would be even more up to date and easier than plugging in your phone to a computer!” And yes, that does sound quite lovely but it’s a lot easier said than done. My phone currently has 7.8 GB worth of photos on it. Where is that going to be stored? An Apple Cloud Server? My Windows 7 laptop? The mostly likely place would be a Time Capsule but I’m guessing the percentage of iPhone users that own one of those is below 1%. Is my personal information going to be encrypted before it’s sent over WiFi? How am I going to access the backup for a quick and easy restore? Is it going to do an incremental backup or a full backup? Incremental means another iOS layer and an impact on battery life. Is this going to be a free service or is it going to be part of MobileMe?

There are, of course, solutions to all of these questions. I would argue, however, that we are at best 1-2 years away from an Apple based solution to them. Much like iOS notifications Apple is not going to release some half baked solution while they promise some future cloud based nirvana. When our iPhones and iPads do finally become untethered from their ancestral PC’s it will be comprehensive and well thought out.

In the mean time, plugging in my phone is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with “restore to backup”.


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