Uniquely Android: Helium



Uniquely Android is a series we started that shines the spotlight on those apps that take advantage of the unique capabilities of the platform and provide an experience that you wouldn’t find in most other phones. Previously, we have featured Plug In LauncherAirDroidShushLlamaSwiftkey 3SwipePadWidgetsoid2.xUnified RemoteAirCalcWiFi KeyboardPuzzle Alarm ClockNotif Mac LauncherReadItToMeAutomateItFriday and Wave Control.

By popular demand, this week’s Uniquely Android features an app by possibly one of the most important developers in the Android community, Koushik Dutta. If you’re regular on XDA or follow a lot of the Android talk on Google+, you might know Koush, as he’s more commonly known in the community, as the developed behind Clockworkmod Recovery and ROM Manager.

When he isn’t working with the CyanogenMod Team, he is (as you can see from his various apps on Google Play) building something that is typically geared to power users like us, with apps such as Superuser, Loggy and various Recovery Bootstraps. One of his most recent pieces of work that stand out, though, is Helium. Or Carbon, as it was initially called until he received a Cease and Desist.

helium screenshotHelium provides users with the ability to backup all their apps and their data, much like Titanium. However, Helium stands out because the interface is simple enough for anyone to be able to use the app unlike Titanium which, let’s admit it, can feel like a puzzle the first couple of times. The simplicity is important, too, since Helium doesn’t require root and hence has the less technically-inclined users to cater to.

The highlight of Helium, however, is it’s app data syncing capability across your devices. In essence, you can sync settings, data and accounts across your various devices for your apps, which can be really useful for games in particular. This functionality is something I would love to see make it’s way to Android by default, handled by the OS itself. Google did announce at I/O in May that developers could leverage Play Services to do so for their apps, but that depends on developers taking advantage of their offering.

If you are a new user looking for your first backup solution, you should definitely skip Titanium for Helium. It does everything Titanium can, including scheduled backups and integration with cloud services like Dropbox, but it goes quite a few steps ahead. Besides the much simpler UI, you can also create groups of applications and also easily download your backup files to your PC over Wifi.

For older users who are happy with Titanium, you may not need to make the switch, but I would certainly suggest giving Helium a try.

Visit this Google Play link to download the app. And, as always, if you have a suggestion for the Uniquely Android series, I’m all ears.

Raveesh Bhalla

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  1. why is it always elements?

  2. Waste of time for tech users

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      I don’t know if this is a bug or what, but an interim screen pops up
      after tapping backup with a user-input box asking if you want to backup
      data. I don’t know what the input box is for because it disappears
      before I can finish reading the text on it.

      1. Thanks for copying my post and using it in your spam.

        1. I was going to ask since when did spammers actually participate in the discussion. I wouldn’t mind spam if they actually did this :).

          1. In a way, this does happen. Think of all the people who put links to Dropbox or Amazon Affiliate links or whatever in their signatures.

          2. I suppose, but that is far more tactful!

          3. True enough.

    2. I disagree, I consider myself a highly technical user. I compile my own roms from aosp and cm repos. I have been using the paid version of TB since it came out and I recently bought Helium for a couple reasons. 1. Support Clockworkmod 2. the interface is vastly superior IMO. 3. options for non-root backups which means I can sync apps to stock unrooted phones which is handy for family and other non-rooted senarios. It is cool if Helium isn’t for you but calling it a waste of time out of hand and generalizing about “tech users” is short sighted.

      1. Re #2 (vastly superior UI): Except it’s missing several key items like search/filter, backup system apps, and backup Bluetooth, call log, and browser settings just to name a few.

        1. I actually agree with you. Vastly superior was an overstatement I was extremely caffinated when I wrote that. I should have said more modern. Also TiBu has had years to develop these features and Helium is brand new. I think the app has a lot of potential but has a ways to go to catch up to feature set of TiBu for sure. I am happy to see more competition in this space.

  3. It’s decent enough, except the backups aren’t portable. With TiB, the data and APK are tarred and you can browse the files and install the app without TiB if you so desire. This app uses a non-standard format which I’ve never seen ([app name].ab?) and I can’t find the actual APK (it’s possibly bundled in the .ab file with the data? Assuming it even backs up the data.

    1. I don’t know if this is a bug or what, but an interim screen pops up after tapping backup with a user-input box asking if you want to backup data. I don’t know what the input box is for because it disappears before I can finish reading the text on it.

    2. There’s no obvious way to search. I have the SGS4 with no search button, so tapping it is not an option.

      Edit: The search button on my S2 doesn’t do squat.

      1. you have a menu button, right?
        long-pressing it on Samsung devices should work the same way as a physical search button(except for some stubborn apps, which hijack the initial press causing the long-press to be ignored)

        1. I know. That even works on the S2, but neither that nor the actual search button on my S2 will make this particular app search.

    3. .ab is the Android Backup format… The only official supported by ADB on Android SDK.

      1. Oh, well, it’s fine, then. I still can’t browse the backup and pick out what I want. I like to be selective.

    4. You can’t backup system apps and Browser, Bluetooth pairings, and Call Log seem to have been forgotten.

  4. I’ve been using Root ToolBox Pro. I can backup my apps to the cloud. I got that 50GB Box promotion. LoL!! So I backup my apps there and just download them and install. True it takes way longer to restore. That’s why I always try and do it at night before I go to sleep. LoL!!

    This is nice, though. And it’s free. So I can get this for my friends before I root there phone. Since they’re technologically inclined. =.P

  5. Top benefit of this app? Root is NOT required for syncing app data between devices.

    1. This app is not required for that, either. This and the desktop counterpart are front-ends for ADB. Not that that’s a bad thing.

  6. Nice app, but I still prefer to use Titanium since it allows me to freeze apps and to uninstall bloatware (when rooted). I’ll admit that it can be a bit complicated though.

  7. I want to like this app more than Titanium Backup because it’s got a great user interface and is easy to use. It just never seems to work correctly though.

  8. Helium backed up my app & data fine but corrupted the pictures. On to another backup app for me.

    1. i keep all of my photos and videos at flickr, they give you 1tb yes 1000gb of storage space. I’m a constant flasher so it’s keeps the backup size down and had a great ui. I use flickfolio to instantly upload them so I never have to worry.

      helium handles my other backup needs just fine. also those concerned about pulling out specific apps just use nandroid manager to do that with app data since we all make nandroids regardless of our backup solution.

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