Yesterday I received a call from my mom, asking me to help her with her iPhone. She said she had been locked out of it and needed help getting back into it. Her password had somehow changed without her knowledge, and since she'd tried a couple times, she was locked out for 5 minutes, and every time she tried the timer got longer. I drove to her house to figure this out, and unfortunately she had no iCloud backups, and the password she was using definitely wasn't working. We had to wipe the iPhone and set it up like new. I don't know what it was that caused her password to change for no reason, and some poking around I did on her iPad indicated that it actually hadn't changed, but still wasn't working along with her thumbprint for Touch ID. This could happen to you too. Maybe your password won't change for seemingly no reason, but you could drop your phone in some water, it could be stolen or lost, or many other terrible things that happen to people's phones all the time. Here are the things my mom could have been doing to make her situation better.
Backing Up to iCloud
If you already have an iCloud account, you should be backing up your iPhone to iCloud. You can do this in Settings > iCloud > Backup.
Once this is turned on, your iPhone should back up automatically every time it is connected to wi-fi and plugged into power for a long enough time, usually about 30 minutes to an hour should be good enough.
I would recommend making sure your phone is connected to power and wi-fi every night before you go to bed. This way, the worst amount of time you could lose is the current day, and you can restore from the last night's backup should something have gone wrong.
If you can't get to power for a long enough time, or you want to just do an extra backup just in case, you can go back into the settings for iCloud and tap the "Back Up Now" button.
If you'd prefer not to backup to iCloud, you can manually backup to iTunes instead. This also allows you to encrypt your backup if you're more security conscious.
To backup to iTunes, just plug your iPhone into your computer and click on the little iPhone icon near the top of the iTunes window and under Backups choose This computer. If you also want to encrypt your backup check the box Encrypt iPhone backup. Then click Back Up Now.
Using iCloud Photo Library
One of the things people care most about losing is their photos. While iCloud backup will save your photos as well, you can have a second layer of defense against losing them by storing your photos in iCloud.
In Settings > iCloud > Photos you can turn on iCloud Photo Library. This saves all of the photos you take to iCloud automatically the next time your phone connects to Wi-fi. This has the added benefit that you can view your photos from any of your iCloud connected devices.
If you'd rather not use iCloud Photo Library, Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox all offer camera upload features in their apps for saving your photos. Google will store all your photos for free and even makes them more easily searchable and sometimes upgrades them in fun ways, but compresses them a little bit; OneDrive and Dropbox have limits that you can pay to expand, just like iCloud.
Syncing Important Data with iCloud
iCloud doesn't just store your photos and backups online, it also allows you to sync your Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and other items to other devices. This is another layer of protection because on top of the syncing with all your devices that it normally does, it also serves as an additional layer of backup for those items. You'll also be able to see all those items from iCloud.com from any internet connected device.
Simply go into Settings > iCloud and turn on all the switches for syncing to iCloud. After that, all your things will sync to iCloud.
If you're not an iCloud user, many of the sync features work with most email services too. You can find these sync features to enable in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Your Email Account
Hopefully nothing bad ever happens to your phone, but if you've done the things I suggest in this article, you shouldn't have to worry that all your pictures are gone forever when your iPhone flies out of your pocket while you're riding the Batman ride at Six Flags.
Thank you for reading,