Tech Tips: Don’t lose your contacts if you replace your phone
June 18, 2017
Question: I recently had to replace my iPhone, and when I did, I realized that I no longer had all of the contact information from my old phone. At this point, all I can see to do is to ask all of my friends to send me their contact information again. Is there some way to avoid this in the future?
Answer: No! No! No! We do not ever want to see or hear this question again. Never again. We hear it often, and the solution is so simple that there is just no excuse for ever losing any data if your phone gets lost or needs replacement.
Listen up: Your phone is, sooner or later, going to get damaged or need replacing. Either of those things can happen at the most inopportune time. No matter what happens, you don't want to lose the contents of your phone, including phone numbers, email addresses, and photos. The solution is simple: Think of your phone as a "viewing portal" for data that is stored somewhere else. Live as if your phone was going to disappear any day, and your data all needs to be stored somewhere else. The bottom line: The phone shouldn't be the only storage location for any of your data. None of it. All your data should be stored "in the cloud" somewhere, and copied to the phone for your use.
If you're an iPhone user, the simplest solution is to set up an iCloud account, and synchronize all your data to iCloud. All of your contacts, calendar entries, notes, and photos should be synchronized with your iCloud account. If you set this up correctly, you should be able to browse to http://www.icloud.com from any computer, and see all your contacts, calendar entries, and photos. Entering contact information is far easier on a computer, using iCloud.com, than it is on the phone — this is a great way to re-enter all your lost contact info, and everything you do on iCloud.com should show up nearly immediately on your phone. Check out this site for more information on setting up iCloud synching: https://www.apple.com/icloud/setup/.
If you're an Android user, your best bet is to store all your data with your Gmail account. That way, all your contacts, notes, calendar items, and photos are synchronized to Google's servers, and you can view all this information from your Gmail Web page. (Ken uses Gmail for all his data, although he's an iPhone user. Every piece of Google data synchronizes with his phone, and it's all available via a Web browser on any computer, as well.) Check out this link for more information on adding a Google account to an Android phone: https://goo.gl/p7t7iR. If you're using an iPhone but want to "live" in the Google world for your data, check out this link: http://www.wikihow.com/Set-Up-Gmail-on-an-iPhone.
Take our advice on this one —it will save you a ton of time later. Treat your mobile device as an extension of your data, not the place to store your data. As you set up your phone, think "What would happen if I were to lose this device?" The answer should be only a worry about replacing the device, not about replacing the data.
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Question: I have a bunch of devices that need to be charged via USB. For example, I have a phone, a tablet, a Bluetooth headset, and a Bluetooth speaker. I don't have enough electrical outlets near my desk to charge all these things. Do you have any suggestion as to how I can charge all my devices at once?
Answer: It's funny: You're looking for an answer to a problem that simply didn't exist a few years ago. We can remember clearly when every device had a unique and dedicated charging brick; woe be unto you if you lost or mislabeled the device's specific charger. Look in your old electronics drawer: You'll certainly find an old Nokia or Samsung phone charger that's of absolutely no value any more.
At some point, device manufacturers realized that consumers' lives would be so, so much easier if most devices shared a common, standard charging mechanism. And so, USB charging was "born."
Although the device end of the charging cables isn't completely consistent, the "plug-in" side of the cables are almost all identical, and all use the same voltage and are generally interchangeable. (We're always amused and amazed when a friend is surprised to find that she can charge her iPhone using the USB port on her laptop, even though it's not the charger that came with the phone!)
This proliferation of USB charging means that we now need some charging station; a place where we can plug in multiple USB devices concurrently. Oh, sure, we could use an electric power strip, and plug in all the devices' individual chargers, one in each socket. But that takes up an entire charging strip, and a lot of room. Wouldn't it make more sense to have one device that simply has a number of available USB ports for charging?
And of course, this device exists. And it's easy to find. And it's cheap. And you have a ton of choices. USB chargers come in sizes with one port (like the one that came with each of your devices), up to 6 or more USB ports. The general consensus is that devices from the manufacturer Anker are the most popular—they're often on sale on Amazon.com, and we're big fans. Check out https://www.anker.com/products/taxons/108/Chargers—you'll find a bunch of options.
Be aware that not all USB chargers are the same. Some devices take more power than others (for example, to charge an iPad requires more amps than charging a phone), and not all USB chargers handle the difference in power draw as well as others. Anker, of course, does a great job at this, and their devices clearly indicate what they'll support. Pick up a USB charger for travel, work, and/or home. You'll no longer need to use all your computer's USB ports or multiple power outlets to charge your devices.
Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Submit your own technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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