Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Restoring iOS deleted Contacts: the iTunes method and OS X method

Clark Goble has a solid iOS 9 wish list addressing longstanding half-implemented oddities like Contact Groups. It omits one longstanding product gap though.

There’s no iOS backup feature.

Yeah, I hear your scoff, but iCloud Backup is not Backup. It’s a system clone. If you delete Contacts accidentally, you can’t readily restore Contacts of, say, 3 days before. When my sister accidentally deleted most of her contacts she had no way to restore them from iCloud.

If she’d been synchronizing with iTunes she could have used a remarkably complicated hack: Recovering iCloud contacts, calendars, and bookmarks from an iTunes backup of an iOS device. Honestly, Apple, that’s just embarrassing.

In this case I had a Mavericks account for her on my primary machine that’s linked to her iCloud account (even though she’s never used it). I took the machine off the network and launched her account. Most of her Contacts were there. I created a local Contacts archive backup, did some cleanup, and put the network cable back in. I didn’t need to use my archive backup though — when sync was done she had a complete set again (which is weird, actually, but that’s iCloud).

I’ve read rumors of some sort of Time Machine/Time Capsule support in 8.x for true iOS backup, but that would still require a desktop machine. IOS needs more than system clone backup, it needs real backup.


Bryan Pietrzak said...

I understand the desire for some kind of "Time Machine" like backup for iOS. I've never found myself needing it - the existing iCloud backup approach has worked for me and my family members. But I certainly see the value of what you ask for though I think it's far more difficult to do this right user experience-wise on iOS than on Mac - and even on the Mac selective restore is still confusing for most people. I think the resources required to implement this right both in a technical sense and in a user experience sense are better spent elsewhere in IOS.

But I'm curious do other mobile platforms have "real backup" and selective restore? Is that why you consider it embarrassing?

jalindrine said...

Boy, that support link didn't last long, did it? Embarrassing, indeed. It's gone, rerouted back to the generic page.

JGF said...

Wow, that's funny. I wonder if somehow my blog posting embarrassed someone. I did feel sorry for whoever had to write that support note.

JGF said...

Bryan, I haven't any experience with other mobile platforms. I was trying to remember how backup worked on PalmOS. Most of the data there lived in desktop clients that were backed up or were easier to hack into to get at missing data.

I actually think iOS is pretty darned mature these days. THere are only a few holes (@clarkgoble's list is very good). So it's right time to focus here.