I recently got my first smart phone - a Samsung Galaxy with the Android OS.
In general, I’m careful about regularly backing up my data. I know that the phone synchronizes with my Google account, but should I be backing it up in some other way as well, to fully cover myself in the event something should happen to the phone?
And what about backing up my Google account? I know there’s Google Takeout - but will that be enough for me to access everything on my phone if my Google account gets screwed up?
Android is horrifically complex in how it handles backups. There are basically different levels, from least to most complexity and coverage:
No backups at all: Even then, a lot of your Google stuff (contacts, gmails, calendar entries) live in the cloud to begin with, so your phone will automatically redownload them once you log in to your Google account.
Googley backups: As Dragwyr said, Google remembers most of your information. If you get a new phone, it’ll just automatically re-download all your apps, but usually not their settings.
Titanium Backup: a third party program, will copy all your contacts, apps, and settings to a location of your choosing (including cloud drives). It does not, however, backup the Android OS itself or generic data files like your pictures, music, etc. (unless you specifically tell it to).
A nandroid backup: Basically copies your phone into a file. Includes the Android OS, apps, and settings, but still not generic files on the SD card.
5: nandroid + SD card manual backup: I believe this is only way to actually back up your entire phone (unless your manufacturer supplies special backup software). nandroid captures an image of the phone, but you still need to manually copy stuff from your (real or virtual) SD card such as your music, images, etc. nandroid can restore the essentials and you can copy the rest of it back over to your new phone.
Be warned that #4 and #5 will only work if you stay with the same phone. If you change phones after losing yours, the nandroid backup won’t work right.
In practice, everything beyond number 2 is a huge PITA. If you can keep your files in the cloud to begin with (use Picasa Web or Dropbox for your pictures, Google Play Music or Amazon MP3 for your music, Google Drive or Dropbox for everything else), backups become a lot simpler because all you really have to worry about then are app settings (which don’t typically take that long to reconfigure, anyway, certainly quicker than making and restoring nandroid backups).
As in which apps you’ve purchased, etc.? I don’t think you can – that’s up to Google to take care of. I suppose you could save a copy of every purchase receipt (and not just in your Gmail), but that seems a little far-fetched.
If something so terrible happened to Google and people were actually losing their accounts or past purchases, I wouldn’t worry about backups. I’d start stockpiling ammo, food, and water.
I’m not actually talking about the apocalypse - I’m referring to a scenario where my personal account is no longer available - it gets hacked, there’s a glitch, etc. You can backup most of your Google data - your email, your contacts, calendar, etc, but I don’t see any way to backup your apps.
I see. Yeah, in that case, you can back up the apps with one of the previously mentioned tools. However, that will only capture that specific version of the app, and if you lose access to your Google account, you won’t be able to receive further updates until you get it back. It’s also unclear whether you’ll be able to run all your backed up apps, because some of them might be tied into DRM or in-app purchases linked to your Google account. The point of app backups is usually to make restoration faster (not needing to re-download everything), not to let you keep using them without your Google account.
Google doesn’t back up your apps per se because it doesn’t really make sense to give how quickly they get updated. Instead, Google just remembers which apps you’ve purchased on your account and automatically downloads them to a new phone when you get one. But that, of course, assumes you still have access to your account.
If you care:
To better protect your Google account, you can also enable two-factor authentication, give Google your cell phone number and an alternate email when it asks for it, associate some of your credit cards with Google Wallet, etc. – the more they know about you, the easier it is to prove when someone isn’t you. And of course that’s a loss of privacy or convenience on your part, so pick a balance you’re comfortable with.
You could go to Goggle play and click on “my Apps” then do a screen shot of all the Apps, then either save to a folder or print out a hard copy. When you get your Google up and running again simply download the Apps again. Paid Apps could be sorted out by contacting the owner, who would have records (hopefully).