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Using Google Dashboard to manage your Android device backup

I used to use AppBrain/Fast Web Install to keep track of which apps I have installed on my phone, and to make it easier to reinstall those apps when the phone gets wiped or replaced. But AppBrain had been going down the tubes, and Fast Web Install had always been a hit-and-miss affair.

Android's own "backup to the cloud" system had previously been even more unusable. There isn't a place where you can see what has been backed up. And when you setup a new phone with your Google account, you just have to wait and pray that your favorite apps will be restored to the phone. Typically all the stars have to be aligned just right for this to happen. More often than not, after waiting for an hour or so and nothing happens, you just curse under your breath and proceed to install your favorites apps manually via the Play Store.

But I just looked again recently and was pleasantly surprised that things are much more civilized now. Firstly there is a place now where you can look at all the apps that are backed up. It's called the Google Dashboard. This is where you can find out almost all the information Google stores on your behalf across its wide range of services, including Contacts, Calendar, Docs, Gmail, Google+ etc.

If this is the first time you are visiting Google Dashboard, you will be shocked how much Google knows about you. If you are not (and you own an Android smartphone with location history turned on), then you should definitely take a look at "Google Location History" (under "Latitude"). Even my wife doesn't know that much about me!

Anyway, under "Play Store", you should see an "Installed Applications" link.

Click on that link and you will be brought to a page that shows 1) the apps currently installed on your devices 2) all the apps you have ever installed on your devices

You can quite comfortably manage your entire app library from the web browser, including install/update/delete apps. The only thing missing is probably batch install, which I hope will be added later. But if you choose multiple apps for installation, the system is smart enough to install the apps sequentially so as not to max out the device CPU and storage I/O.

Note that this only tackles app backup. App settings will only be backed up if the app explicitly built it into its code. You can check which apps backup their settings to Google's cloud by looking under "Android devices, More data stored about this device".

Not sure why this information is provided on a separate page. It would have been more intuitive if this was integrated into the "Play Store" page IMHO.

Nevertheless, this is a major improvement compared to what we had previously. All the details about the backup on each device are displayed, and managing apps from the page works very robustly from my testing (compared to Fast Web Install). All we need now is batch install function. Google, are you listening?


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