The Best Backup App For iPhone

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.


Platform: iPhone (Jailbroken) Price: $US8 Download Page

  • 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.


    ITunes backup is comprehensively pathetic. The last two restores ( performed within an hour of a backup) failed to put back any music or photos, installed only a random selection of apps. After doing a sync to get the rest of the content back on the phone, neither time did it remember the groups that most of my 100+ apps live in. Pathetic

    As much as i HATE iTunes... having been subject to it's HORRORS as a Windows user with Apple iOS devices for many years.... and it's AWFUL AWFUL user interface... it has never let me down in terms of backups and restores.

    Even crossing platforms with an iPhone from Windows to Mac.

    Since my first iPhone in 2007 thru all subsequent models, and my iPads... I've had nothing but good results. And as a long time Apple basher... and I still think iTunes is a crime against (computing) humanity... iTunes has faithfully backed up and restored all my "stuff" to each new iPhone handset every year. And I mean everything... every contact, email, setting, SMS msg, photo, note, Assfari favourite, song, podcast, audiobook... even saving the place I was up to in the audiobooks across new iPhone devices...

    Recently I tested the "I've lost my iphone... 10 password attempts and it wipes the device" feature... Over course of a day I tried and entered wrong passwords... (it progressively lengthens the time between guesses to many HOURS after the first 5 wrong guesses. Once I had failed 10 times.. it wiped the device to factory fresh...

    I plugged it into iTunes... selected RESTORE and 30 minutes later it was like nothing happened. Everything was was EXACTLY as I had left it...

    Not sure what else you could want in a backup program. (yes I'm typing this on my MBA tethered to internet from my iPhone 4's 3G connection with my iPad charging in the other room connected to my iMac 27"... but really... i'm NOT that guy... )

    PKGBackup never worked for me and all requests for support by the creator were ignored. Definitely a waste of money.

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