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My favorite thing about free products is the price – usually. SMSBackup for Android is an exception to this rule because I would pay real money in a heartbeat for an application as simple, efficient, and useful as this has proven to be to me.

What this Android app does is allows me to back up text messages using my phone (either manually or automatically) to my Gmail account. At the end of this article, I will go over a few user cases that I personally have found useful that you may not think of right out of the box.

Obviously, if you’re backing up to your Gmail address, you’re going to need a Gmail account first.  Feel free to use your personal Gmail account, or make a new one just for your backups. In this tutorial, I made one specifically for my phone. If you don’t want to use Gmail (you’re just that cool) then this tutorial isn’t for you.

If you really are that die-hard anti-Gmail then you do have another option. Get a Gmail account anyway – but set it up to forward all incoming mail to your real email account. Then have your email account just filter the email from [your Gmail account] to a certain folder so it isn’t always cluttering up your inbox.

Step 1: Configure Your Gmail For IMAP

This is really easy – log into your Gmail account and go to settings. Within settings, navigate to the  “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab. Once you’re in there, scroll down a bit until you see the “IMAP Access” section. All you need to do is change it from “Disable IMAP” to “Enable IMAP“. If you got stuck on this step, just check out the screenshot and do as I did.

how to back up text messages using my phone


Step 2: Get SMSBackup

On your Android device, hop on to the Android Market and search for “SMS Backup“. You’ll notice that there are ten or so applications with this name – pick the one with 4.5-5 stars by Christopher Struder. Go ahead and download/install the application on your device.

Step 3: Configure SMSBackup With Your Gmail

This step should be pretty intuitive, but what kind of person would I be if I left out the most important step? Start up SMSBackup and you’ll see the following screen.

how to back up text messages using my phone

This part is pretty straightforward; click “Username” and “Password” and put in your Gmail credentials. Once they verify, you can modify your advanced settings, or check/uncheck the “Auto backup” feature. For me personally I check this box – although it probably saps a bit of battery and does use a bit of my data connection, I think there are some benefits that outweigh the cons (and I’ll explain why at the end of this article).

I also set the “maximum number of items per backup” (also in advanced settings) to 200, because that’s the maximum length per convo that my Droid keeps. Got a question? It’s probably been answered before in the SMSBackup User Guide. Check it out.

NOTE: In “Advanced Settings“, I told it to upload items as “read” for my first backup. This is because I’ve read all the texts and when it uploads, I’ll get 100 “unread” SMS messages. I only want the NEW messages to be unread; so after my first backup I’m going to un-check that box so that my new messages are unread (and therefore I’ll know when I get new messages).

Step 4: Run A Backup

Once you’ve configured everything you want (it’s very straightforward; just decide what you want) go ahead and tap “backup now“. The first time you run a backup, it’s going to take a few minutes maybe (depending on your connection). Later however, you won’t even notice it’s going on.

After my initial backup, I went back to “Advanced Settings” and told it to upload new texts as “Unread” so that I’ll know when I get new stuff – and I’m not cluttered with the old stuff anymore.

Step 5: Check Your Gmail

Did it work? Log into your Gmail account. The first thing you’ll notice is that there are NOT a ton of new emails in your inbox (unless you’re just that popular – but they won’t be your text messages at any rate). Why is this? Well, thankfully SMSBackup uploads them and labels them, then shoves them in that label folder.

As seen below with my completely new Gmail account, the texts are tucked away in a little labeled folder called “SMS” (name configurable in the Advanced Settings panel in SMSBackup).

how to back up text messages using my phone

What I like about this is the fact that I can see when I have new TXT’s uploaded, but they aren’t intrusive. In this case I’d actually uploaded my texts as “unread” (accidents happen) so there are 95 “unread” SMS-labeled messages.

To show you what a thread is like, I texted Google (466453) asking for my local weather. Since I had selected to automatically back up my texts, about 30 seconds later I got the conversation thread in my Gmail account SMS folder.

Have you ever received a text with a person’s address/email/name (for Facebook, etc) or something related? Well, now you’ve got that information in your Gmail which makes it that much easier to access and manipulate (I’m sure you can think of something).

Earlier I mentioned that I like to have mine automatically sync to Gmail rather than manually backing it up. I do this for several reasons. If I lose my phone or have it stolen, I can instantly see any text activity on the phone right from my Gmail. I can figure out if the phone is even ON by texting it from another phone, and seeing if it uploaded a received text to my Gmail. There are several other ways to use this sort of capability, but at a basic level I have already found good use of the aforementioned feature.

Additionally, this makes it REALLY easy to go find past text messages. I don’t know about you but if I want to find a message that I sent/received more than a week ago, I have to scroll up quite a bit and get a little lucky before I can spot what I’m looking for. Now that your texts are in your Gmail, you can search them with the Gmail search algorithm which is FAR superior to anything on my phone. I’ve used this quite extensively and found it to be an excellent method of sifting/reading text threads very quickly.

What did you think? Do you find this kind of application useful? After using this free app, I can’t think of anything else that I want it to do – it’s perfect for me the way it is.

What about you – did you like it too? Let me know in the comments section; I’d love to discuss this!

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