iWant: Time Machine for iOS

I wrote yesterday how I lost data stored in iCloud, and had to get geeky to retrieve it. This shouldn’t happen. Ever. With Dropbox, for example, if you have two files with the same name, Dropbox saves both of them, showing, in the file names, that there is a conflict. And back in the days of pre-iCloud syncing, Apple showed you when there were conflicts and let you resolve them. But now, iCloud, in an attempt to be as transparent as possible, has eliminated such features.

Data is important; data integrity is essential. There is simply no situation where losing data is acceptable. Yet, for many people who use iCloud, this is the case.

The data loss I described is not uncommon. I’ve heard from lots of people who’ve had similar problems with Apple’s app and with third-party apps. The best Apple can do is tell you how to find missing information in iCloud after restoring an iOS device; they talk about apps, media, messages, but not data that has been lost. About two years ago, a number of app developers spoke out about this, and some app developers have given up on iCloud because of its lack of reliability.

iOS can back up to iCloud automatically. But this isn’t a real backup; it only stores some settings, but not most data. It stores pointers to apps and purchased content, but not content that you’ve synced to the device that Apple doesn’t sell. It’s not a backup, it’s not even a clone; it’s a selective backup of what Apple is concerned about. Apple’s logic is probably that iCloud will still have your app data: your contacts, calendars, notes and more. But as I, and many others have seen, iCloud can lose data. Also, you may have apps that store data locally; that don’t sync to the cloud, that don’t store files on Dropbox. In that case, it’s very hard to recover lost data.

Apple created Time Machine for the Mac so users would be protected. It’s still users’ responsibility to turn it on, and to purchase an external hard drive for the backups, but it’s not Apple’s fault any more if users don’t back up their data.

Apple needs to create Time Machine for iOS. This would back up what is backed up now, but also all the data that Apple’s apps and third-party apps store. You should be able to go back and see previous versions of this data and restore it, as you can with Time Machine.

There is no excuse for iCloud losing data. Apple needs to create a safety net so this never happens.