HTC has announced, in a something of a surprise, that it's about to delete customers' data in an overhaul that the company has planned for its online backup service, HTCSense.com. Everything will still work up until 30 April 2012 but if you haven't exported your data from the service by then it'll be too late.
The smart money is on HTC coming out with new and improved version of HTCSense.com some time in the near future but to expect to be able to fall back on that come 1 May would be foolish. So, if you need something to tide you over, or you'd just like to take a look at what else is out there, here are some HTCSense.com alternatives - or, more importantly, what on earth to do with your phone when the service has gone.
There are plenty of app replacements on Google Play for the phone location functions of the old Footprints section of HTCSense.com. The tricky part is picking the right one. Previously, we would have said that WaveSecure was the way to go, but it only takes a quick look at the user comments to see that all has not been well with this once proud app since it was acquired by McAfee. Never mind.
Instead, try Lookout Security & Anti-virus. You might not be too concerned by trojans and worms on Android but the security side of the equation is worth having. Much as with HTCSense.com, the app and website interface allows users to locate a lost phone on a map. You can also remote lock, remote wipe (including SD card) and it’ll even blast out a siren sound if told to do so, even when on silent. On top of that, your photos and contacts are automatically backed up at Mylookout.com.
The basic version is free but you’ll need premium to remote lock and wipe and to back up anything more than just your contacts. There’s none of the SIM-switch blocking or anything to help with further protection from thieves that some other apps might tempt you with, but the platform is simple and solid and it covers most of what will be lost on the phone location side once HTCSense.com winds down.
One thing that’s often forgotten by all Android users, let alone those with an HTC device, is that Google automatically backs up your contacts. Thanks to the stand-out Gmail integration, all of your mail contacts are part of that same address book that you add numbers into on your phone.
Head to your Gmail account on your computer and hit the Contacts tab. From there, you’ll be able to see them all, add new ones and even merge any of those irritating duplicates. If it doesn’t seem to be working for you, then head to the options in your phone’s Contacts section and perform a sync.
SMS, MMS, Call logs and other back-up
Contacts is the easy part but storing your messages is not so baked-in to the whole back end of Android. One basic way to do it is by using SMS Backup+. It’s an app almost as old as the Android hills which automatically saves your SMS, MMS and your call log from your handset to a special label in your Gmail folder. Restore is just as simple, although, at the time of writing, it was unclear whether MMS restore was functioning or not. Otherwise, SMS Backup+ is free, easy and works very nicely.
For something rather more involved, part with £3.14 and treat yourself to the self-proclaimed number one backup service on Android known as MyBackup Pro. This app will handle your photos, your applications, contacts, call log, browser bookmarks, SMS, MMS, calendar, system settings, home screens (including shortcut positions), alarms, dictionary, music playlists, and more, apparently. And it’ll do that whether you have root access to your handset or not.
Some of those functions are not needed - Android will take care of your contacts and calendars on their own and, as we’ll see, you might rather go another way with your media. But it’s still a very worthwhile option with the likes of your apps, alarms and phone and home screen settings - the kinds of really nice touch that you’ll appreciate the next time you change your handset.
Media sync and backup
HTCSense.com never claimed to do anything with your photos, your videos and your music but, since you’re opening your eyes on to a brave new world, you may as well take a look at what’s on offer in the media back-up department while you’re at it.
An obvious place to start on the desktop syncing front is with the ever-popular Doubletwist. Very roughly speaking, Doubletwist can be thought of like iTunes for Android. The better part of it is a desktop client for your computer that’ll import and export your music, photos and videos - meaning that you can back up what you’ve captured or downloaded to your mobile as well as load up your phone with films and records for your next outing.
It’s a great idea but, in practice, it can be a little rough. You need to have a good play with the settings to make sure that you don’t end up with all sorts of unwanted media clogging up both your mobile and your computer. Once you have it nailed though, Doubletwist is fantastic. It’s free but if you want to add in syncing over Wi-Fi, instead of just USB cable, you’ll need to drop a few coins into the Google Play box to get the add-on called AirSync.
If you’d rather not get caught up in any more bits and pieces bloating your computer and trying to take over your media collection, then there are lighter and more cloud-based options such as the Ubuntu One Files service or Dropbox to try out but they are largely better with one way traffic - ie, backing up media from your device to the cloud rather than pushing your files back down. Nonetheless, worth having at least one of these.
Exporting from HTCSense.com
Whatever service you choose to take over from HTCSense.com, do make sure to export what you have stored in there before 30 April 2012 when HTC pulls the plug. You can find the instructions on a Dear John of a message on the website or just read the same below.
Step 1: Log in to your account at www.htcsense.com
Step 2: Go to Account Overview and click Download
Step 3: Watch as your browser tells you that a zip file is on its way down.
Step 4: Wait for HTC to come out with an even better service
Step 5: Import said zip file
And remember, keep it safe, keep it backed-up.