Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we in the geek world aren’t like normal people. We spend our lives connected, and backing up our data is just one of those things we do as a matter of course. Until iOS 5 arrives in the coming months, the only way to back up an iOS iDevice is to plug it into iTunes and let it sync. But does anyone actually do it?

According to a little birdie, only 50% of the customers who take iDevices into Apple Stores for repair have their apps, settings, contacts and the like, backed up.

That’s right – around half of iPhones, iPads and iPod touches don’t find themselves plugged into iTunes after that initial set up – a set up that won’t even need to be done after iOS 5 lands…

“A little birdie says that about 50 percent of Apple Store customers who need to get their iPhones swapped have never plugged them into iTunes after the initial activation and sync. This is a big reason, according to this birdie, for why Apple Store Geniuses are excited about iCloud.”

The comment about iCloud makes sense. The current barrier to entry when it comes to backing up iOS devices is the cable and computer. Theoretically, and apparently this is happening, devices need never actually be connected to a computer other than to do iOS software updates.App installations and updates can all be handled on-device, and music can also be purchased from the iTunes app. People just don’t need to connect to the desktop iTunes.

But there is one thing they need, and that’s power.

The way iOS 5’s backups will work changes the game completely. Now, when a device is plugged into a power outlet and the screen is locked then a backup will be performed. This happens once a day, usually at night when there is less chance of a user interrupting the process. With the default setting being ‘ON’ there really is no reason for users to not back up their data.

Apple, once again protecting its users from themselves.

  • kokhean

    “But does anything actually do it?”


  • This will be a big plus for me as I have to do phone support for a living, so idiot proof backup is ideal, but the problem we will still face is that those 50% of users that dont backup are probably on the original software release for their phone, ive seen customers with 2.1 on 3g’s still and my other half only just upgaded to 4.3.3 from 4.0 on her iphone.

    Granted uses buying with 5.0 will have it set, automatic backup and ota updates that they are prompted to install. People say apple has stolen ideas… maybe, but the make them work 100x better than their nearest competitor and they are generally made so easy a monkey could operate it

  • Josh

    50% of people that bring their iPhones into Apple Stores, not 50% of all iPhones. Chances are high that most of the people who bring their iPhones in for help don’t know much about computers or technology, so I’m not surprised that they haven’t backed up their iPhones.

  • William

    i’m one of those 50% who rarely sync my phone with iTunes, just hate to find the USB cable and plug to the computer.
    Not sure how useful iCloud backup will be for jailbreaker like myself.

  • @william, probably invaluable really. if its backing up your contact and important stuff, when you need to return to a vanilla firmware before an upgrade or if you have problems it will be handy to have it restored for you. My understanding of the icloud backup is that it wont be a firmware reload in the same way itunes does now. Only time will tell though. I would hope that it would be granular on some level, so that say i accidentally deleted a bunch of contacts that i could go to cloud app and say restore my contacts etc

    • William

      yeah, I’ve been a MobileMe user since the .Mac age, & its contacts, calendar, bookmarks syncing have been working flawless for me. If iCloud backup works more or less like MobileMe sync, then I’m all for it, as long as it doesn’t break my Jailbreak.

  • With how long backing up and syncing takes with iTunes, I’m not surprised. iPhone 4 here and it’s been backing up for 15 minutes already…

    • Ben Gillam

      To be fair that is not entirely apples fault, that backup will be backing up any new photos or videos, app data, data from apps where you added files via iTunes such as vlc. My backup for iPhone is about 5-6 gb and takes a long time to restore but that’s because I have a lot of data. Theoretically though a lot of the backed up data SHOULD be on the cloud already

  • Vincent

    For a few (myself included, until recently), an iTunes glitch is the cause of this. For months my iPhone had had been “syncing” yet not creating a backup. I realized the issue when I updated my iOS only to find my phone was restored from a backup from nearly 6 months ago! Turns out, some odd glitch turned off the feature, and the only way to turn it back on is by putting a complicated command into Terminal, one I only found our about thanks to helpful people on the Apple Discussion forums.