myphoneMicrosoft has launched an online phone back up service called MyPhone. It’s exclusively for handsets running on Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 OS.  It is still in beta so the application has a limited set of features.

What It Can And Can’t Do

It automatically backs up phone numbers (contacts), photos, video, calendar and appointments and text messages from a handset to the web. Users with a Windows Live id (what used to be your Hotmail id) can instantly download the application and log on while others will need to register online first.

Storage space offered is 200 MB – which we think is fine for storing SMSs, photos, contacts and bits of information. The data is password-protected, like your email id, so is relatively safe. We noted one small security lapse – the mobile user can use someone else’s email id as there is no background check performed by Microsoft to verify that the owners of the Windows Live account and the mobile are the same person.

There are options to search and manage your contacts online – which may be more convenient than tapping away on handsets. It will definitely be easier to manage your text messages online. A screenshot provided by Microsoft is here.

MyPhone has been programmed to automatically synchronize every night so users are not inconvenienced. You can also back up your data manually using the application. The problem I have faced with synchronising software is that they take too long.

It will only work on phones that run the Windows Mobile 6+ operating system. The WAP push does not include India – something its developers should fix for easier online discovery.

MyPhone is also not currently integrated with the other online services that Microsoft offers – like Skydrive for storage, or its Photo Gallery or even Exchange.

Contacts saved on your SIM card will not be synchronised. On the phone, too, you would have to place all the data you need to be synchronised in the My Documents folder for them to be uploaded. Data on SSD cards or other external memory cards can only be synchronised after some under-the-hood tweaking of the settings.

Pricing

MyPhone is free as of now but GPRS charges will have to be borne.

For Whom?

Is this service for corporate users? Most Windows Mobile 6 OS handsets in India are smartphones like the MotoQ or HTC Touch, which have sufficient memory capacity and other services such as Microsoft Exchange and Windows Live to help them back up data. Instead, MyPhone could have been more useful to the collegian who texts furiously and probably has a mid-priced phone which does not have enough memory to store all her messages and songs. So if Microsoft can launch this service without binding it with the handset OS, it would definitely be valuable.

Also read about Microsoft’s plans to ‘dramatically’ increase the number of Windows mobile phone shipments and its partnership with handset maker LG to launch 50 Windows Mobile phones.

Yahoo, BSNL and Airtel

Previously Yahoo, BSNL and Airtel attempted to launch similar services – Yahoo’s SMS backup for Indian mobile users was unveiled in September 2006 but the service is no longer available.

In March 2008, Airtel offered its users in Punjab the option of subscribing to a telco (not online) back up service even if they did not have GPRS. Users could activate the VAS by sending an SMS to a shortcode, according to Indian Express. This, too, is not functional anymore. BSNL and OnMobile had launched a limited version of a phone back up service – only contacts could be stored and it was marketed as a safety precaution in case of theft. Users had to pay Re. 1 per day to subscribe to it, CIOL reports. But this too does not seem to be functional. Anyone know why?

Related: Our Microsoft Channel.