Bell to offer mobile backup for address book info

Bell Canada on Tuesday said it would launch a monthly service that allows users of its mobile phones to back up contact information in the event of data loss or an upgrade.

The country’s largest carrier will charge subscribers $3 a month to access Backup Manager, which will be pre-installed on the LG Muziq and Samsung r610 and available for download on the LG Shine. The technology behind the service is being provided by San Jose, Calif.-based FusionOne, which offers the service elsewhere under the name MightyBackup. Bell will offer the services in both English and French and has already integrated it into its billing service.

Users who opt for Backup Manager will load address book data which will then be replicated at a data centre operated by FusionOne. This information could then instantly be restored. Bell spokesman Jeff Meerman said the service will back up as many contacts as their mobile phone supports. In some ways, he said, the service also assists Bell and its customers with product lifecycle management issues.

“The idea is that this is a value-add if people had wanted to upgrade their phone but were holding back because they have a lot of contacts,” he said. “This creates a peace of mind as well. You know that you’ll be able to retrieve the data in the event that (the phone) is lost, stolen or damaged.”

FusionOne co-founder and chief architect Leighton Ridgard said the company identified mobile backup as an untapped market more than four years ago, but at that time the devices didn’t have enough horsepower to run its applications. With more memory and the application programming interfaces necessary to access the address book, however, that’s changed.

“The other factor was that Java handsets have become prevalent and there’s now sufficient numbers to make an offering,” he said. Framingham, Mass.-based IDC recently published a forecast which said the overall market for online backup will reach US$715 million by 2011, or a 33 per cent growth rate year over year.

Doug Chandler, who wrote the report, said mobile backup wasn’t factored into that forecast, though it could eventually.

“I am seeing that come up,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s always being positioned specifically as backup or just storing data somewhere and accessing it when you want it, which is a different kind of thing.”

Although address book information is important, Ridgard admitted that the long term holds a lot of promise for users who want to ensure the business applications they are starting to use on their smart phones is backed up as well. He said the FusionOne back end platform supports music and other content, but some handsets just aren’t allowing the access it needs.

“There is a Java API to access this kind of information, it’s just not rolling out,” he said, adding that LG and Samsung have shown interest in supporting it and catching up with Symbian smart phones. “Now that we’re working so closely for them, more likely to start to make the necessary changes in their API implementation.”

Meerman said Bell will be testing the FusionOne technology to ensure it will be compatible with other handsets in its portfolio later this year.