One of the best parts about owning an Android phone is being able to transform your home screen into a one-of-a-kind interactive desktop. With Android's customization potential, from live wallpapers to the endless array of icons and widgets, there's practically no limit to what you can create.
But what happens when an unexpected error occurs -- or worse yet, you lose your phone -- and that pimped-out setup you spent hours perfecting is gone?
That's the subject of this week's Android Power reader question, which comes to us from phone-dropping Android fan Sean W.
Riddle me this: How could one back up their Android home screens? You go to the trouble of placing everything where you want it, loading umpteen apps and folders, and then along comes an update or a quick swim in the porcelain pool and you're left scratching your head. What's the answer?
Ah, yes, the ol' porcelain swim. Many a fine phone has suffered that sad fate.
While your inner-germaphobe may never recover, your home screens can -- provided you took the proper precautions.
Backing Up Your Android Home Screens
As with any data, the best way to protect your Android home screens is to make regular backups along the way. You back up the files on your hard drive (don't you?), so why not back up the files on your phone, too?
That's where a handy little app called MyBackup Pro ($4.99, also available for a 30-day free trial) comes in. MyBackup Pro lets you schedule regular automated backups of all your phone's data -- including your home screen configurations -- to either your SD card or a secure online server. I'd recommend the latter, as it'll keep you covered in the event you actually lose or seriously damage your phone.
When you configure MyBackup Pro, you'll get a unique user ID and password. These are your keys to accessing your data, either through the Android app itself or via the company's secure Web site.
Setting up your Android home screen backup is simple: Once the app is installed and your account's enabled, just tap on the "Schedule" button on the program's main screen. Select "Online" as your option. Then, you'll be able to choose what data you want included: MyBackup Pro supports everything from text messages to call logs, system settings, and even individual app settings. Make sure you select the "Android Home" option; that's what'll grab your home screen configuration and include it in the backup.
Easy enough, right? You're almost done: Next, tell the program when you want the backup to occur -- either daily or weekly at the time of your choice -- and how many old backup files you want it to keep archived at any given point.
That's it: Your backups are now scheduled. If you ever need to restore the data onto your phone or another Android device, just open up the app (or reinstall it from the Market, if need be) and use its "Restore" option. In my tests, everything worked swimmingly; all of my icons and widgets went back exactly where I had them at the time of my last backup. Some widgets may need to be removed and re-added before they'll work properly, but at least you'll know where they belong.
What If You Use a Home Screen Replacement?
If you use a home screen replacement program such as HelixLauncher or Home++, saving your Android home screen setup is a bit more complex. An app called Titanium Backup (free, with optional donation) can do the trick, but it works only for phones that have been rooted.
Rooting an Android phone is a risky endeavor -- and also one that can void your warranty -- so I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who isn't an advanced and ambitious user willing to accept the risks.
Got an Android-related question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll answer it here soon.