Last month, I had to exchange my Nexus One due to an issue I was having with connecting to wifi networks. I had lived with it for about a month, but it had finally become too painful to handle. I was dragging my feet about returning the device, because I didn’t want to have to transfer contacts, email, settings and all of the other things I had customized on my device. The pain of my last transition from a BlackBerry Pearl to a Nexus One was still lingering.

After trying a few things with the HTC support folks (who, by the way, were very easy to deal with), they suggested I return the device. Reluctantly, I agreed, and within a couple of days I had my replacement device.

Little did I realize how far things have come in the smartphone world in the last year, particularly with Android. I inserted and installed my old SIM and SD cards into the device, powered it up, entered my google account name and password, and within 10 minutes, my new phone was setup nearly identical to my old phone. All of my contacts, emails, wifi and network settings (including hotspots and encryption keys), and applications were on the new phone. Outside of a few miscellaneous settings and icons that needed to be arranged on the home screen, everything was just like I had it on the old phone. Best of all, it was all done over the air. No need to find any cables, hook up the phone to a computer, sync with an App Store or desktop application, or any other extra steps. In short, I was blown away!

I then realized that with Android, you are storing all of your data in the cloud. So when you change phones, all of your important data moves with you. Given the advances that are occurring in smartphone hardware these days, this is an absolutely liberating feeling to know that I can go out, pick up the latest Android device (like a Nexus S or G2), and within minutes be up and running just like before. No longer am I locked into a device, manufacturer or carrier. Without a doubt, there is serious power in the marriage of mobile computing and the cloud.

By the way, to make sure this works, you need to have checked the “Back up my data” and “Automatic restore” boxes under the Privacy Settings in Android (Go to Settings -> Privacy). Yes, I know it is a little unsettling knowing that all of your data is being stored on someone else’s servers, but I’d say the convenience is worth it.

For anyone out there who has went through the upgrade process lately with an iPhone or BlackBerry, is it as simple as what I went through with Android, or is it painful and complex?