this thing's incredible

This $40 Doodad Backs Up My Phone’s Photos Whenever I Charge It

The Qubii (pronounced cube-y) sandwiches between an iPhone’s wall-outlet adapter and power cord and automatically backs up photos when a phone is plugged in. Photo: retailer

When I tripped over a loose curbstone not long ago, I saw the last five years of my life flash before my eyes. Not because I thought the fall would be the end of me, but because I watched my 2016-era iPhone 7 hit the pavement in almost cinematic slow motion. In a split second, I relived so many memories captured by the phone’s camera: my wedding day at a Hong Kong public park, my all-time favorite vacation to a palm-fringed Kenyan island, my very first minutes as a father with a purple-faced newborn shrieking (of happiness!) in my arms. No photos of these moments — no photos on the phone I’d owned for half a decade — were backed up, and I worried I’d never see them again.

Mercifully, despite its screen cracking in half, my phone itself survived the drop. After years of telling myself I would “look into” better photo storage, the incident scared me enough that I stopped procrastinating. I made a plan to do a monthly backup to an external hard drive but lost patience after just two months because the process was such a hassle. I knew syncing my phone’s media library to a cloud-storage platform would be more efficient. But even though my photos felt invaluable, paying $3 per month for iCloud storage for the rest of my life somehow felt like a rip-off.

It was my wife, ever the godsend, who wound up giving me the solution to my problem. It came in the form of a tiny cube called the Qubii, a file-storage gadget she had heard about from no fewer than five different friends in Taiwan, where both my wife and the Qubii’s parent company are from. The cube, roughly the size of the adapter you plug in to a wall outlet to charge an iPhone, has a USB plug on one side and a USB socket on the other, plus a slot for a MicroSD memory card (which, depending on the model, can come with the device). To back up my photos, all I had to do was sandwich the Qubii between my iPhone’s wall-outlet adapter and power cord and plug it into my phone. That was it. There is an initial, very straightforward setup via the Qubii’s corresponding app, but once complete, the gadget syncs photos to the SD card every time I plug in my phone to charge (as long as the Qubii is attached to the power cord, of course). The first time can take a while because the Qubii needs to back up from scratch, but after that it quickly syncs new files every time you charge.

Photo: retailer

The price shown is for a Qubii alone, but via the link you can also purchase options that come with MicroSD cards (and, as a result, cost a bit more).

The app has a lot of nifty features that make backing stuff up even easier. It lets you select which folders to pull photos from, whether an entire camera roll or select albums. There are also options to let you backup an iTunes library and contacts. The app even shows you how much storage space remains on whatever MicroSD card you use with the Qubii, too. While I’m nowhere near my card’s 256GB limit, when the time comes to swap it with a fresh one, the Qubii is smart enough to know what has been transferred so it won’t duplicate anything that has already been backed up. Via the app, you can also choose to have all backed-up photos removed from your phone once transferred to the SD card, which is great for freeing up precious storage. Accessing media is as simple as storing it: I can just plug the Qubii into my laptop’s USB port, and it works like any other flash drive, allowing me to move files wherever I want.

The gizmo, which is also iPad compatible, comes in a few models: The Qubii Duo (available with both USB and USB-C plugs) works with Android phones. The Qubii Pro, while only compatible with iPhones and iPads, can back up text files in addition to photos, music, and contacts. Another plus? Folks who’ve hung on to older iPhones, like me, can use a Qubii with models as ancient as an iPhone 6.

Photo: retailer

An Android- (and Apple-) compatible Qubii Duo with a traditional USB plug. Via the link, you can pay a bit more to get this model with a MicroSD card, too.

Photo: retailer

An Android- (and Apple-) compatible Qubii Duo with a USB-C plug. Via the link, you can pay a bit more to get this model with a MicroSD card as well.

Photo: retailer

The Qubii Pro can also back up text files, but is only Apple-compatible. There are pricier options that come with MicroSD cards available via the same link.

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This Doodad Backs Up My Phone’s Photos Whenever I Charge It