How to back up your Android phone in 2019

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There’s a good chance your smartphone acts as a hub for everything going on in your life. It’s where you keep all of your contacts, cherished photos, important documents, etc., etc. Your phone allows you to easily access these things no matter where you are, but what if something happens to it? Whether you break your phone or it’s getting time for you to upgrade, here are a few things you can do to ensure all of your precious data is backed up and safe.

Apps used in this guide

  • Photo hub: Google Photos (Free at Google Play)
  • Google’s cloud: Google Drive (Free at Google Play)
  • Drive alternative: Dropbox (Free at Google Play)
  • Keep your texts: SMS Backup & Restore (Free at Google Play)
  • All your numbers: Google Contacts (Free at Google Play)
  • For Samsung users: Samsung Smart Switch (Free at Google Play)

How to back up your Android phone

If you were hoping to just back up all of your data with the press of one button and be done with it, we’re sorry to say that it’s a little more complicated than that. However, we’re going to walk you through each step one-by-one and make things as easy as can be.

You can keep scrolling through and go through the entire guide, or click/tap on one of the following links to jump ahead to a specific section:

  • How to back up photos
  • How to back up files
  • How to back up text messages
  • How to back up contacts
  • How to back up apps
  • How to back up a Samsung phone

How to back up photos

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First thing’s first, let’s talk about photos.

They say the best camera is the one you have in your pocket, and for a lot of folks, this results in your phone being used to take pictures of just about everything. From selfies to family portraits, chances are these are all captured and stored on your phone.

With so many special moments living on your phone, it’s important to keep them backed up to the cloud so that they aren’t lost forever. For this, we recommend Google Photos.

Google Photos is 100% free to use and offers unlimited cloud backups of photos and videos. Once you download and install the app from the Play Store, getting it set up takes just a couple of taps.

Open Google Photos.
Sign in to your Google account.
Choose your desired quality settings.

Wait for your photos to sync.

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With that done, Google Photos will take all of the pictures and videos on your phone and save them in the cloud on your Google account. If you have a lot of images on your phone and haven’t set up Google Photos before, this could take a while — just be patient! Also, with Google Photos now set up, any additional pictures or videos you capture will automatically be backed up.

wWhile Google Photos is free to use, unlimited free backups of pictures are saved in what Google calls “high quality.” This is a lower-resolution file of your photos, and while they’ll still look good, won’t be quite as sharp as the original file.

If you want to back up your pictures in their full original resolution, this will count against your Google One storage (more on that in a bit).

For a deeper dive on backing up pictures with Google Photos, be sure to check out our guide.

Photo hub

Google Photos

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Free at Google Play

One place for all your pictures and videos.

When it comes to cloud photo storage, no one does it better than Google Photos. The app is easy to use, all of your memories are saved in the cloud for free, and it’s easily accessible on all of your devices.

How to back up files

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Okay, so you’ve got your pictures backed up, but what about all of your other files? That’s where Google Drive and Dropbox come into play.

Both of these are cloud storage apps, allowing you to keep all of your word documents, presentations, PDFs, and other file types safe and secure off of your phone’s local storage.

Getting started with either app is quite simple. For Google Drive:

Open Google Drive on your phone.
Tap the + icon in the bottom-right corner.
Tap Upload.

Select the files you want to upload.

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All Google Drive users get 15GB of free storage to use right out of the gate, but if you need more, you’ll need to pay a monthly fee. Extra Drive storage is sold through Google One, with plans starting at $1.99/month for 100GB. There are a bunch of tiers offered, including 200GB, 2TB, 10TB, 20TB, and even 30TB.

If you don’t want to use Google Drive for whatever reason, we also recommend using Dropbox. After downloading Dropbox from the Play Store, getting set up is simple.

Open the Dropbox app on your phone.
Sign up for an account or sign in with Google.

Once logged in, tap the + icon.

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You can use Dropbox for free, but you only get 2GB of storage for free compared to Drive’s 15GB of free space. If you want to upgrade to a paid plan, Dropbox Plus costs $11.99/month and comes with 2TB of storage in addition to 30-day file recovery, Dropbox Smart Sync, and other features.

Google’s Cloud

Google Drive

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Free at Google Play

Lots of free storage with flexible paid plans.

Google Drive is one of our favorite cloud storage solutions. It’s deeply integrated into Android, comes with a generous amount of free storage space, and has a variety of paid options for any budget.

Dropbox

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Free at Google Play

If you want an alternative to Drive, Dropbox is also worth checking out. It has fantastic mobile and desktop apps with a great paid storage plan.

How to back up text messages

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If you use a messaging app like Facebook Messenger or Telegram, accessing your messages on your new phone is as easy as logging into your account. However, if you still rely on good old-fashioned SMS text messaging, things are a bit more complicated.

You’ll need to download an SMS backup app from the Play Store to save a backup of all your texts, and then on your new phone, download that backup so all of your conversations are restored.

There are a few apps you can download to do this, but the one we recommend the most is SMS Backup & Restore by SunTech Pty Ltd. It’s a free download on the Play Store, and getting set up with it is pretty straightforward.

Open SMS Backup & Restore on your phone.
Tap Get Started.

Tap Set Up A Backup.

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From here, you can backup not just text messages, but any phone call history you have, too. For a more in-depth look an how this processor works, be sure to check out our guide.

Speaking of which, if you use WhatsApp as your primary messaging app, there’s an entirely separate process you’ll need to follow for backing up your conversations. You can check out our guide on that subject right here.

Keep your texts

SMS Backup & Restore

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Free at Google Play

New phone, same old texts.

For those of us that still use old-fashioned SMS texting, SMS Backup & Restore is an essential app. With just a few taps, you can backup all of your text conversations and quickly restore them on another device.

How to back up contacts

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On a related note, something else you’ll want to make sure is backed up is all of your contacts. For this, we recommend using Google Contacts.

Devices like the Pixel 3a and Nokia 7.1 come with Google Contacts pre-installed, but if you have a phone from OnePlus, Samsung, or LG, chances are you’re using a contacts app made by that manufacturer.

If you’re already using Google Contacts on your current phone, you can download the app on your new phone, log into your Google account, and all of your contacts will be synced automatically. If you need to dig a bit deeper, Google Contacts also offers tools for importing, exporting, and restoring contact files.

Open Google Contacts on your phone.
Tap the menu button at the top-left.

Tap Settings.

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Here, you can import a .vcf file, export contacts from a Google account, and restore contacts you’ve saved to your account.

All your numbers

Google Contacts

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Free at Google Play

The best contact app out there.

If you aren’t already using Google Contacts, now’s the time to change that. In addition to seamless automatic syncing with your Google account, the mobile app is easy to use, has a gorgeous dark mode, and you can access your contacts on your desktop at any time.

How to back up apps

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Moving right along, you’ll also want to make sure all of your applications are backed up.

Backing up apps used to be a pain in the butt, but these days, Google keeps an automatic backup for you on your account. As such, downloading your apps and all of their data is as easy as diving into the settings on your existing phone, making sure the toggle is turned on, and selecting the backup option when you get your new device.

On your current phone, doing so is as easy as follows:

Open the Settings on your phone.
Tap System.

Tap Backup.

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On this page, you can turn automatic backups on/off, manually initiate a backup, and see when the last time backups were made for app data, device settings, and much more.

Once again, we have an in-depth guide that goes into this topic in much greater detail to help you out.

How to back up a Samsung phone

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Finally, if you’re moving over to a Samsung phone, the Samsung Smart Switch app is worth checking out. This involves downloading Smart Switch on your old and new phone, making a connection between the two either wirelessly or with a USB cable, and transferring all of your data in one clean sweep.

Smart Switch can be used to transfer just about everything, including:

  • Call history
  • Contacts
  • Calendar data
  • Text messages
  • Images, media, and other files

Getting started with Smart Switch on your old phone is pretty simple. After downloading the app from the Play Store, follow the following on-screen prompts.

Open Smart Switch on your old phone.
Tap Agree.
Tap Allow.

Tap Let’s Go.

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Tap Cable or Wireless depending on which method you want to use.

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One last time, we have a more detailed guide that walks you through every step of this process if you want a deeper dive into how it works.

For Samsung users

Samsung Smart Switch

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Free at Google Play

The easiest backup/restore tool for Samsung phones

Moving to a new Samsung phone? If so, the Smart Switch app is one of the best backup and restore tools out there. After establishing a connection between your old and new devices, all of your data is transferred without having to ever mess with the cloud.

Never run out of charge again

Taking out your phone on the go can be tricky if you’re gone for extended periods. Luckily there are some great portable chargers to keep you topped off throughout the day.

Anker Powerline+ C to C 2.0 Cable (6 ft)

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$9 at Amazon

Keeping your phone plugged in while traveling is a constant pain, but a nice long USB cable can alleviate some of the stress of using those hard-to-reach outlets. Anker’s cables are robust, and this six-foot example is a great travel companion.

Anker PowerCore 10000 USB-PD battery pack

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$46 at Amazon

When you’re traveling you don’t want anything to slow you down, so make sure you have a portable battery back that charges your phone quickly. This Anker 10000mAh pack supports 18W USB PD and it’s incredibly light.

AUKEY CC-Y12 18W PD Car Charger

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$17 at Amazon

This is a super-compact USB-C car charger you can plug in and forget it’s there until you need to charge your phone at top speed. Isn’t that handy?