Another Strong Personal Vote For the Cloud

HTC Sensation

HTC Sensation. Credit: Partial screen shot from HTC flash video at http://www.htc.com/www/smartphones/htc-sensation/

Friday (I seem to be very lucky with Friday’s–see my earlier vote for the cloud) my “smart”-phone spontaneously started rebooting.

It had done this before. This behavior is inconvenient for the user since one does not realize that the phone is quietly sitting in the pocket waiting for the pin to be entered.

During that time the phone of course does not receive calls, which could be a relieve to some. But I actually have a mobile phone to receive calls.

Another little issue was that the phone refused to sync my contacts and calendars. The “Accounts and Sync” app refused to start and consistently gave me a “Force close.” Since I rely on having my calendar and contacts in sync on my devices this was a real drawback.

A call to the friendly support person from HTC (the phone is a HTC Sensation with Android version 2.3.4 and HTC Sense 3.0) resulted in the advice to do a factory reset of the device.

When I told him that I had been through this before on some of my other earlier HTC models and about the time I had to spend to get all my settings back to where they had been before, he told me that HTC has a backup app that can back things up to the card thus making the recovery much easier.

I received the app (HTC Backup), installed it and fired it up. It proposed me to make a backup of my calendar, backup of my contacts, backup of my SMS and backup of my call-log. That was it. The first two options (contacts and calendar) did not work since the program calls on “Accounts and Sync” app which did not work in the first place.

But it did not do what I had asked for. It did not make backups of all the settings in my numerous apps. While fiddling with this the phone decided that it was time for yet another spontaneous reboot. At this point I clenched my teeth and made the factory reset without an additional safety net.

After the reboot my phone was in the state I had purchased it in half a year ago. So I started to get everything back onto the device that I needed. BTW I had always set the option “back up my settings” in the settings of the phone. But somehow …

So here an (incomplete) list of the things I had to do:

Vicious Circle

"Look out, it's a vicious circle" -- Credit: Image at http://karch10k.wordpress.com/2011/ 03/30/vicious-circle/

  1. Account settings: The first thing you have to do is to enter your user account ID at Google. But since I have two-factor authentication enabled, it asked me for an additional authentication key which I would get from Google Authenticator. This is an app you can download to the phone. But only after you entered your account. So I had the classical hen-and-egg problem where I could not download the app since I did not have the code which I could only get when I had the app. A truly vicious cycle. Until I realized that I could look if the Google Authenticator is also available on other platforms and lo behold, there is one for the iPod touch. So I downloaded Google Authenticator for the iPod and could finally break the vicious circle.
    I still had to set all the other accounts but since I am using KeePassX on all my devices I was able to get all the account information for my twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other accounts and enter them one by one. (Completed after 2 h)
  2. Calendars and contacts: Fortunately Android takes care of that due to the Google user account. Just let the phone sit for a while and everything should be back. (Completed after 30 min)
  3. Apps: Ordinarily they should also come back to your phone. But in my case something went wrong and no app appeared automatically on the phone. Going to the Google Android Market I saw that all my apps were listed but as “installed.” The only option I was given was to uninstall–something I definitely did not want to do. No option for re-installing.
    Next stop: AppBrain App Market. I had used this in the past and I was happy now that I had done that. I found all my apps under a previous profile name and was able to copy them into the new profile AppBrain had set up for my freshly reset phone. After tinkering with “Fast Web Installer” and tweaking a few settings Appbrain was able to move all my apps back to the phone. (Completed after 3 h)
  4. Mail: This has always been my favorite peeve. Not only does one have to recreate all mail accounts (I have 13 different mail accounts due to my collaborations with different institutions and companies) but since some of them use strange server settings one has to enter that information one by one for receiving and sending mail. Name of the server, port used, SSL or TSL and so on. Of course again, when you enter your Google mail account information, your “normal password is not accepted and you have to get the application specific password from a special account website at your Google profile. (Completed after 1 h)

    App Screen on Android Phone

    My Apps Screen 5 before the Factory Reset

  5. HTC Sense Settings: All the settings, which apps appear on which screen, which widgets will appear where and in which form and size will have to be manually entered. I use the Android “Apps Organizer” an app that allows to assign apps to (several) folders (System, Tools, Utilities, Media, Phone, Office, …). This exercise has to be done for the hundreds of apps that have populated your phone since step 3. (Completed after 2–3 h)
  6. Application Settings: Many of the applications have their own preference settings, games have counters and statistics, utilities have settings many of which you won’t remember that they existed in the first place. Well you will have to go through all of them and enter your preferences for all apps affected. (Not yet completed. I will have to do this as I go along and use the respective apps. Estimate: 2 h)
  7. Pairings: I had my phone paired (bluetooth and WiFi) to several devices — all these had to be paired again from scratch. (Completed after 30 min)

I could continue with this list but I have you, the reader, in mind and don’t want to bore you before I come to my point. So let’s review the situation: For something that should be perfectly easy to automate, I had spent some 12 hours (!) just working to get everything back to normal on my phone after the factory reset. This is not my CPU time but rather the lapse time since I did have to do other things in between while I was recovering the phone settings.

And yes, I know about tools like Titanium Backup, but for those you have to root the phone (and lose any warranty) and I don’t want to go there.

Did nobody so far get the idea to save all these application preferences in the Cloud (on your Google account) or at least on the SD card of the phone? If the phone gets stolen saving on the SD card won’t help anyway but it would be better than nothing.

Here is my strong vote to save all these settings in the cloud. Would it be so difficult to save these preferences to a remote server? Is anybody out there listening? Anybody from Google?

What are your experiences with factory resets? Would you agree that saving these settings to the cloud would help? Do I have to trash Android and buy an iPhone?

About Hellmuth Broda

Independent Information and Communications Technology Strategist with an interest in the construction sites between business, society and technology. http://www.hellmuthbroda.com
This entry was posted in Cloud Computing, Internet, Social Media, Web. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Another Strong Personal Vote For the Cloud

  1. Michel Ruggaber says:

    I have an IPhone. All my settings, contacts, agenda, music, photos are saved on a MacBook Pro and easy to back-up once there is a problem on the IPhone. My music is on ICloud, but probably because I have never upgraded from Leopard to Lion, contacts and settings are not there.

    • Thanks for your comment, appreciated. I know this works ion the iPhone. But that is less difficult due to the highly integrated architecture between MAC OsX and iOs.
      It is more difficult in the wild world of Android and its need to integrate with several architectures. But saving settings somewhere safely — preferably in the cloud — should not be rocket science.
      Or was the eventual need for a factory reset unforeseen by all involved?

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