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How to back up your Android phone 2022

Backup icon on an Android phone
(Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

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, and just about everything else. 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 to the next best thing, here are a few things you can do to back up your Android phone.

Apps used in this guide

How to back up photos

Google Photos logo on a OnePlus 6

(Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

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 up to 15GB of cloud backups for photos and videos. Do bear in mind that this 15GB is inclusive of all your Google Drive data as well. Once you download and install the app from the Play Store, getting it set up takes just a couple of taps.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Sign in to your Google account.
  3. Tap your profile picture in the upper-right corner.
  4. Select Photo settings.
  5. Tap Back up & sync.
  6. Turn on the toggle for Back up & sync.
  7. Wait for your photos to sync.

(Image credit: Namerah Saud Fatmi / Android Central)

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.

Backups of your pictures and videos are saved in their original resolutions, making no changes to the quality of the files. As a result, your free allotment of 15GB is likely to run out very quickly if you take a lot of photos. Once it runs out, you'll have to get on the Google One plan to continue backing up files to Photos.

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

How to back up files

Google Drive app on an Android phone

(Image credit: Source: Android Central)

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 excellent 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:

  1. Open Google Drive on your phone.
  2. Tap the + icon in the bottom-right corner.
  3. Tap Upload.
  4. Select the files you want to upload.

(Image credit: Namerah Saud Fatmi / Android Central)

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. Here's how you back up files to it:

  1. Open the Dropbox app on your phone.
  2. Sign in if you have an account or sign up to log in.
  3. Once logged in, tap the + icon in the lower-right corner.
  4. Select Create or upload file.
  5. Tap Upload files.
  6. Select the files you want to backup.

(Image credit: Namerah Saud Fatmi / Android Central)

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.

How to back up text messages

Google Mesages on a Pixel 3

(Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

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.

  1. Open SMS Backup & Restore on your phone.
  2. Tap Get started.
  3. Tap Set up a backup.

(Image credit: Future)

From here, you can backup not just text messages, but any phone call history you have, too. There are three locations where you can save your texts and calls through SMS Backup & Restore: Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive. After you've made your choice, the app will need you to grant it access to the cloud storage of your choice. Finally, all your messages and phone calls will be uploaded to the destination you choose. For a more in-depth look at 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.

How to back up contacts

Google Contacts app

(Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

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 6 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. Here's how you can make sure your contacts sync automatically to Google Contacts.

  1. Open Google Contacts on your phone.
  2. Tap your profile picture at the top-right.
  3. Select Contact app settings.
  4. Tap Google Contacts sync settings.
  5. Under Status, select Manage settings.
  6. Here, turn on the toggle for Automatically sync if it isn't enabled.

(Image credit: Namerah Saud Fatmi / Android Central)

If you need to dig a bit deeper, Google Contacts also offers tools for importing, exporting, and restoring contact files. For a more drawn-out process to back up, restore, and export contacts on an Android phone, read our detailed guide.

How to back up apps

Android backup

(Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

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:

  1. Open the Settings on your phone.
  2. Tap System.
  3. Tap Backup.

(Image credit: Android Central)

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

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

(Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

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.

  1. Open Smart Switch on your old phone.
  2. Tap Agree.
  3. Tap Allow.
  4. Tap Let's Go.

(Image credit: Future)

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

(Image credit: Future)

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.

Our top equipment picks

Backing up your Android phone is just as important as backing up your personal computer. As a companion device that you rely on for communication, information, entertainment, and even safety, it is of utmost importance that you keep a copy of all your phone's files, messages, calls, and app data.

Our top pick for backing up pictures and videos is Google Photos because of its free nature and ease of use. Following that line of thought, there is no better cheap cloud storage solution than Google Drive. You can't beat Google at integration or convenience, which is why Google Contacts is another excellent app to back up contacts.

Non-Google apps such as SMS Backup & Restore and Samsung Smart Switch are noteworthy. You don't have to pay a single penny to use their services and both apps are extremely straightforward, cutting out complex steps and streamlining your backup process.