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Samsung Cloud fixes a major Android problem, with a catch

Note 7 users are the first to use the new backup service from Samsung.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Samsung Cloud -- which is exclusive to the Note 7 -- isn't a full-fledged Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud Drive competitor. It's name is a bit misleading, because it really only does one thing: back up your phone.

It's a huge relief for Android users who often turn to third-party solutions for backing up and restoring devices. Samsung Cloud make that process a lot easier and then some. Here's everything you need to know.

Not the same as Google backup

If you've used Google's Android backup service to restore a new device, you've undoubtedly experienced the frustration that comes along with it. Since Google requires each developer to built support for its backup service into the app, the overall experience is hot or miss. One app will fully backup, restoring its own settings and what not when restored on a device (Twitter app Talon comes to mind as an app that successfully does this), while the next app will install and force you set it back up from scratch. And that's when the restore option works at all.

Samsung Cloud handles backing up of a device the same was Apple's iCloud backup works -- all apps are backed up, without requiring any work on the developer's part.

However, it's a good idea to still use Google's backup service to keep items such as your Google contacts and calendar backed up and synced across your devices.

Using Samsung Cloud to back up your phone

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

To view your Samsung Cloud settings, open the Settings app on your Note 7 then tap on Cloud and accounts > Samsung Cloud.

This is where you can find the current backup stats, how much space you've used and switches to enable or disable the backup of various items. Every Samsung Cloud user is given 15 GB of free storage. It's not clear what happens when a user hits the 15 GB limit, but we've asked Samsung to clarify and will update when we know more.

Here's what gets backed up according to the main settings page:

  • Contacts (Samsung account only)
  • Calendar (Samsung account only)
  • Samsung Notes
  • Internet (Samsung's browser)
  • Keyboard data
  • Gallery

If the service stopped there, it'd be rather unimpressive. However, selecting Back up my data reveals the true magic that is Samsung Cloud.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

In addition to the items above, Samsung Cloud backs up:

  • Phone call logs
  • Clock settings (alarms)
  • Home screen layout, wallpapers, widgets
  • Apps. Complete with APK, app data and app settings
  • Device settings (Wi-Fi, ringtones, etc.)
  • Messages
  • Music
  • Documents

Or more succinctly put: all the data you really care about having backed up.

You can manually force a backup by tapping on Back Up Now at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise, your device will automatically back itself up 10 minutes after its plugged into a charger with the screen off. Auto backup will run every 24 hours, as long as those conditions are met.

Restoring a device

Left: Removed icons from home screen. Right: All is right in the world after a successful Samsung Cloud restore of said icons.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Unlike other backup services, Samsung Cloud will allow you to restore certain aspects of your device at any time. To test out the restore process, I created a backup of my home screen and installed apps, then deleted some app icons and installed apps.

I then went into Settings > Cloud and accounts > Samsung Cloud > Restore and selected to restore just my home screen layout and installed apps. A few seconds later, an alert showed up letting me know the restore had completed successfully and sure enough, all of my apps were back in their rightful place. The apps I had deleted retained their pervious logged in sessions and settings, speeding up the restore process even more.

This feature alone is sure to come in handy should you get overzealous when rearranging your homescreen or deleting apps, only to wish you could easily go back to how things used to be. With Samsung Cloud, you're just a few taps away from restoring order to your device. Assuming you have a recent backup, that is.