Mobile backup services help users save, sort data

As mobile phones users store more on their devices, they increasingly need ways to back up the data

If you've ever wished you could easily search through your cell phone voicemail messages or save all of your text messages, SkyDeck has a solution.

It's one of several offerings on the market designed to help mobile users either back up data they store on their phones or more easily sort through phone information.

The full suite of mobile storage features from SkyDeck are already available on BlackBerry and Android phones and last week the company started offering the service to Windows Mobile users.

SkyDeck "mirrors everything" that customers do on their cell phones, said Jason Devitt, president and CEO of the company. Voicemail messages, text messages, call records and contacts are all backed up online.

A user can opt for a feature of the service that transcribes each voicemail so they can search through the messages for specific words.

SkyDeck customers are typically "people who live and die by their phone," Devitt said. Real estate agents, sales people and lawyers are common customers, he said.

A salesperson can use the service to more easily track follow-up calls to clients, for example. With a full call record accessible through a Web interface, a salesperson can check the last time a customer was called. The user can also add notes to each call record.

Users can also respond to phone calls from the Web interface using a built-in voice over Internet Protocol client. To a recipient, the call appears to originate from the SkyDeck user's cell-phone number. Users can also respond to text messages from the online interface.

SkyDeck first launched the service in January. While some of the basic components like the voicemail backup are available on most phones, the full array of features are available once users download a small client to their BlackBerry, Android or now Windows Mobile phones.

For US$29.95 a month, users get unlimited voicemail transcriptions and calling from the Web client. A cheaper $9.95 monthly subscription charges users for each transcribed voicemail and outgoing call.

Microsoft and Apple also both have mobile backup services, but neither are geared for such heavy users.

Microsoft's free MyPhone offering only backs up data once a day and is really designed as a backup and restore service in case users lose their phones or replace them. Plus, it only works on certain Windows Mobile phones.

Apple's MobileMe service is limited to the iPhone and is really designed to synch e-mail, contacts and calendar items among a user's computer and iPhone.

FusionOne has a phone backup service, primarily aimed at consumers and offered through carrier-branded services like Verizon's Mobile Backup.

But it also has an offering that lets users backup applications that they've downloaded to their phones in order to transfer the applications to a new phone. That could become more popular as people increasingly download applications to phones.

It's a sticky issue because of copyright rules that could prevent users from legally transferring applications to new phones, said Alex Chow, senior product marketing manager for FusionOne.

The company is busy signing deals with content providers to legally facilitate that transfer. Key to the service is that FusionOne also checks the capabilities of a user's new phone, making sure to download the version of the application that will work best on that phone.

That's important for users who might upgrade to a touch screen phone from one without a touch screen, for example. For now, Alltel is the only operator offering FusionOne's application transfer service, to users of phones that use Qualcomm's Brew application platform.

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