Toshiba hopes cloudless smartphone backup will have a bright future

Toshiba is showing a prototype smartphone backup station and a new SSD at IFA

What will back up all the data on your smartphone, but doesn't physically exist? No, it's not another cloud backup service, it's the centerpiece of Toshiba Storage Peripherals' booth at IFA.

The as-yet-unnamed (and unfinished) product will be about the size of a small plate, to judge by the prototype in a glass case on the booth. It will have a USB connection to charge your smartphone and back up its contents to an included 500 GB hard disk. There will be no cloud servers involved, and no internet connection needed: Everything will stay inside the device, said Toshiba's product manager for hard disks, Eun-Kyung Hong.

"This is for home backup where you know all your data is in your home, not in the cloud where you don't know whether it's secure or not," she said.

Toshiba's focus on local storage without cloud features reflects a growing unease about the safety and reliability of internet storage services. In the past, hackers have obtained intimate celebrity selfies stored in Apple's iCloud, and more recently Dropbox has encouraged 68 million users to change their passwords because of a breach dating back to 2012.

The backup device will also be able to transfer data to a new phone, Hong said.

Backup and transfer will each require the use of an app on the smartphone. Initially, the product will be available for Android only, reaching the biggest share of European smartphone users, but there's no reason the company couldn't develop a version for iPhone, too, she said.

When the device goes on sale, probably early next year, it will cost a little more than a 500 GB portable hard drive, she said. Toshiba's 500 GB Canvio drives retail for €50 (US$56) to €60 in Germany. That would put the forthcoming Toshiba device at around the same price as Sony's now discontinued Personal Content Station, which backed up phones and cameras over USB or Wi-Fi, but also had cloud functions.

Toshiba had another new product on the stand that's much closer to shipping.

The A100 SSD will go on sale next month at a price yet to be determined, said Paul Lin, product manager for flash memory.

The 240 GB flash drive is aimed at home users wanting to upgrade existing PCs or laptops. It's a mid-range product, not intended for power users, but nevertheless, it appears, on paper, to outperform many comparable devices in one important respect. Sequential read and write speeds are up to around 550 MB/s and 480MB/s, respectively, while random read speed can reach 87,000 IOPS.

The stand-out statistic for a mid-range product like this is the random write performance -- up to 82,000 IOPS, according to Toshiba. Models released over the last year have stalled at a third to half that speed.

The biggest bottleneck for products like this, going forward, is the SATA interface, not the flash memory, Lin said. To get further performance improvements, future generations will need to use the PCIe interface, today found mostly in gaming machines or high-end laptops and desktops.

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Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
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