Now it's Palm's turn to lose user data

The Palm Profile data backup service doesn't always restore users' data; Sprint and Palm investigating the cause

Palm and Sprint are trying to solve problems some users have had moving data from one Palm WebOS device to another, a task that has caused some to lose contacts and calendar entries, according to blogs and online user comments.

Users of the Palm Pre and Pixi, the first two devices to run Palm's WebOS, can back up contacts, calendar entries, tasks, and memos to an online Palm Profile. From that password-protected Web page, they can synchronize that data to another WebOS device over the air if they have to change phones for any reason.

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Normally, one copy of that data resides on the handset and the other in the user's Palm Profile on Palm's servers. But some users who have had to replace or reset their WebOS devices have found large amounts of their information missing and apparently irretrievable, according to a post last week on the Palm-oriented blog Pre Central. Several people posted comments on the item, describing data losses.

"We are seeing a small number of customers who have experienced issues transferring their Palm Profile information to another Palm WebOS device," Palm said. "Palm and Sprint are working closely together to support these customers to successfully transfer their information to the new device."

It's not the first glitch in online backup for mobile phones. Last month, many users of the T-Mobile Sidekick phone from Microsoft's Danger division lost contacts, photos, and other data permanently after a server failure. The incidents could raise concerns among consumers about relying on network-based synchronization instead of backing up data to their own PCs or Macs.

The Web-based Palm Profile is a departure for Palm, which for many years provided the Palm Desktop application for its PalmOS devices. But though the company didn't build a mechanism into its new WebOS devices to sync them with personal computers, it did provide some alternatives to Palm Profile. Users can set the phones to synchronize their contacts and calendar entries to Google, Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo, or another destination instead. And there are third-party applications from vendors such as CompanionLink and Chapura that allow synchronization of memos.

Synchronizing multimedia content from the WebOS phones is another matter. Photos from the phones aren't synchronized to Palm Profile, and users can back them up on a computer via USB. The Pre originally shipped with the capability to synchronize music to the phone from Apple's iTunes software, but Apple has disabled that feature with updates to its own software.

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Stephen Lawson writes for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.

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