Picking the best backup app for the iPhone is pretty easy, because there's really only one choice that's amazing: PKGBackup. It requires a jailbreak, but if you want the job done right it's worth the trouble.
By the way, should you want to learn how to use PKGBackup, we've got a guide for that.
- Back up to an address book contact or Dropbox
- Schedule backups to run whenever and however frequently you want
- Back up everything or just a few things
- Easily restore your jailbreak apps, settings and tweaks after upgrading iOS or restoring your iDevice
- The ability to share your backups with others, either locally or remotely
- Backups are firmware independent, meaning, for example, that you can restore an iPhone 4 to an iPad running a different version of iOS
- Initiate backup on application startup
- Helpful documentation
PKGBackup can back up pretty much any data on your iPhone -- including your jailbreak apps, tweaks, and extensions. Not only that, it can back it up to your Dropbox account. If you don't want to use Dropbox as the backup destination, that's just fine. It'll save most of the data you care about to an address book contact which you can sync with iTunes and use to restore at a later time. You're also able to schedule backups and control virtually every aspect of the process. There is really no other app that offers so many features and so much control.
The interface is, frankly, a little weird and hard to understand at first. PKGBackup is not a user-friendly app. It's very utilitarian. While that's definitely better than something that simply looks pretty and doesn't next to nothing, there's a lot to be said for an app that perform a complex task without actually being complex to use. That said, the somewhat unpleasant user experience and resulting learning curve is the only real downside to PKGBackup. If you're afraid to jump in, just read our step-by-step guide for assistance.
Depending on how you look at it, there is and isn't competition for PKGBackup. There's AptBackup, which just doesn't do nearly as much. There's iPhone Explorer, which can back up third-party apps and other data but manually. Tools like SMS Extractor can back up your text messages, but that's just a small piece of the puzzle. The only thing that is actually competitive in the backup department is iTunes. If you don't have jailbreak content to worry about, iTunes is does a really good job. It may be a bit slow, but you could argue the same for PKGBackup. iTunes is comprehensive, as it syncs any data it doesn't explicitly back up. Soon iOS 5 will bring cloud sync and backup, making it even better. So if you don't want to jailbreak your iPhone, don't worry. You're still in pretty good shape with Apple's default option.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.