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MEEM, First Take: Convenient smartphone backup, at a cost

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Backing up a smartphone can be a tricky business, although various apps are available that will make backups for you, either locally or to the cloud, from which you can restore as required. There might even be some preinstalled backup tools on your phone.

MEEM claims to make the whole backup-and-restore process as easy as possible by bundling backup functionality into a charger cable. The idea is that you always need your charger cable, and whenever you charge, backups can take place automatically as well as on demand.

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MEEM is a charger cable with either 16GB (Android version) or 32GB (iOS version) of built-in storage for backing up your phone's contacts, calendar, messages, music, photos and videos.

Image: MEEM

There are versions of MEEM for Android and iOS that, oddly, offer different amounts of storage -- the Android model has 16GB, while the iOS variant has 32GB. Although the MEEM website notes that "the average Android user has a total of 1.94GB meemable data to backup", there's nothing about what the average iOS user has on their device.

MEEM is a Kickstarter campaign (that's just ended, having achieved its target), and you can buy it direct from the MEEM website at £49.99 for Android and £69.99 for iOS.

Backups are incremental. The first one takes a while -- how long depends on how much stuff is on your phone. The guideline is about six minutes per gigabyte of data. Further backups are incremental, so they might take just a few seconds. Nothing happens until you install the MEEM app, which acts as your control centre for the hardware. The backup is kept secure by a 4-digit PIN, which you are forced to set.

MEEM backs up contacts, calendar, messages, music, photos and videos, and the app lets you enable or disable any category with a tap. The whole user interface is based around sweeps, swipes and taps. A tap away from the large green on-screen 'avatars' that represent your handset (on the left of the image) and the backup (on the right) brings up a few screens of reminders for the various controls.

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You can, for example, tap the narrow central vertical line to see how much of the MEEM's memory you're using, or drag the left-hand icon to the right side to force a manual backup.

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The MEEM app shows your handet and its backup 'mirror' (left); tapping on the dividing line shows how much storage is in use (middle); to restore data to a new handset, drag the backed-up data from your old handset (blue icon on the right) over to its (green) icon on the left.

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Restoring data to a new handset is a matter of installing the MEEM app, plugging in the MEEM, entering your PIN and then dragging the new blue icon that represents your old handset from the right side of the screen over to the left and on top of the green icon that represents your new handset. I tried this and it worked like a charm. MEEM backs up data on storage cards as well as on internal memory, and will back up two handsets -- as long as you are happy sharing its PIN.

My main irritation is that what's stored on the MEEM isn't readable as files. So, if I trash my handset and need to get photos from it, I can't just plug the MEEM into a PC and take a look at, or even copy, files. I need to restore them to a new handset. The MEEM unit itself is also slightly warm all the time it's plugged in.

Although it's pretty easy to use and worked faultlessly for me during testing, MEEM seems a bit expensive. But if you want convenience and are prepared to pay for it, MEEM does what it claims to do.

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