iPhone backups

Q: The whole Apple ecosystem is marvelous but the iPhone/iTunes slow backup destroys the whole experience. I have a non-jailbroken iPhone 3G on 3.1.2, iTunes 9.0.2, and iMac Intel on Snow Leopard. ALL my pictures and music, iCal and Address book, and my Applications ARE already backed up to hard disk. If I cancel the backup process what are the downsides? I believe games settings, email settings, etc are lost but what else? Thanks.

– George

A: The backups created by iTunes include everything that is stored on your iPhone that is not already synced to your device from iTunes itself. Media content, including music, photos and videos are not normally backed up as these come from iTunes in the first place. Likewise, your applications are not backed up but their data is, which may or may not be important depending upon what sort of applications your are using. Other content that may be relevant in the backup are your device settings and any photos or videos that you have taken with the iPhone’s own camera.

A more complete list of which data is backed up can be found in Apple’s knowledgebase article, iPhone and iPod touch: About backups.

Under most circumstances, iPhone backups should not take more than a couple of minutes, so if you’re finding that your backup times are excessive, you may want to look at which applications you’re using and how much data they’re likely storing, if you’re taking a lot of photos between backups, and/or if you’re not syncing your iPhone on a regular basis. iTunes only backs up that data which has changed since the last backup, so the length of time required to make a backup will depend largely on the above factors.

Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with cancelling a backup in progress during a sync when you’re in a hurry.