You may have heard a little buzz around some new fangled thing Apple has called
Apple has long succeeded at locking it’s customers into their ecosystem with plenty of media (music, movies and books) and apps. While these have been enough to keep me hooked for the past three years, Cook and co. haven’t stopped looking for that next eco-trap. Well, it looks like they have a winner with iCloud.
To try and summarize this robust product in as few paragraphs as possible, iCloud is Cupertino’s answer to Google’s suite of information management offerings. From email, to document syncing and storage, iCloud competes with the big G on all of the productivity fronts and then some. It’s customized for the user with multiple iOS devices (think iPad and iPhone) and add’s some really exciting features that are sure to impress even the most un-techsavvy of crowds.
Some of you may have heard of MobileMe, the marginally successful first attempt by Apple to enter the cloud game. The core features have been transitioned into iCloud; email (@me.com), calendar, find my iPhone and contacts will all be available for free soon. They all sync seamlessly with your iPhone and Mac, and all reside in the cloud for redundancy. When first starting up an iOS 5 device, it’s pretty obvious that Apple wants this to be a crutch for those users who no longer sync their devices with a computer, prompting first time users to turn on the feature within the first few screens.
These services come with a beautiful HTML 5 web interface that really lends to the overall experience. The design queues clearly come from their Mac and iPad counterparts making for a seamless experience on the web. They’ve also added a section to upload and download doc’s. While you can’t edit them, they will show up on Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for any iOS device you’ve linked with you’re account along with your Mac.
Document syncing doesn’t end with the boring Office competitors; apps can now take advantage of iCloud by storing data on it that can be accessed by any Apple device from an iPad to an iMac. I’ve been able to play with all of the features aside from this one, and I have to say it’s probably the one I’m most excited about. Gone are the days of replaying the same level of Angry Birds you just destroyed on your iPad again on your iPhone. I know, first world problems.
Another great feature included in this huge Cumulonimbus cloud is backup. From a friends and family perspective, this one is pretty damn important. Most of the people I talk to on a daily basis own iPhones. I’m not sure when this phenomenon happened but I’m going to say it has something to do with growing up (older people have more money to spend on phones… it’s a shot in the dark). Anyway, of this large number of people, I’m the only one that syncs my phone on a regular basis. I’m not sure why, but most of these people have no desire to plug their phone into their computer. With iOS 5 they will officially have no need to do this ever again, and I won’t be able to make fun of them when their phones crash and they loose all of their contacts.
iCloud’s backup capability is truly it’s best feature. It’s quick, convenient and seamless. Once enabled your phone will send a backup of itself to Apple’s shiny new servers whenever it’s charging and on WiFi, assuming it hasn’t done so already in the past 24 hours. This has worked incredibly well for me over the last three months. Within a month of turning it on I was forced to restore my phone from a backup due to a issue with iOS 5 beta 2. With my backup in iCloud it took less than an hour to restore and I was back up and running. If I hadn’t had my computer with me, it would still be no problem. Imagine, you’re out of town when you drop your iPhone and it shatters into a million pieces. You go to the local Apple Store, buy a new phone, enter your iCloud info and boom, all your data automagically starts downloading to the new iPhone. No computer necessary.
Since all of this new data can take up some serious space in the cyberwebs, a tiered data approach has been taken. All iCloud users get 5 GB free. This can be used for all of the above features; Mail, Document Syncing, and Backups. For some this may not be enough. I’ve only used half of it to date, and that includes two iOS devices backing up. Of course there aren’t any apps taking advantage of the Document Syncing, so this could potentially use quite a bit of data down the line. Apple is also letting users purchase more space for an annual fee. Twenty dollars get’s you an additional 20 GB. Fifty another 50 GB and $100 get’s a whopping 100 GB. This pricing is inline with the competition such as Dropbox and Amazons cloud storage offering.
I’m incredibly excited about iCloud. It’s a robust solution to an equally robust problem. I love that it’s cross platforms, and I’ve been looking for a reason to leave Google’s grasp for a while now, but I’ll save that for a different post. While most of the buzz around Apple’s next iDevices revolves around their design, iCloud is what will really set the stage for future devices.