Apple has floated out iCloud (http://www.apple.com/icloud), a set of free cloud services, including iTunes in the Cloud, Photo Stream and Documents in the Cloud, that work with your Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and PC to automatically and wirelessly store your content and push it to all your devices.
iCloud stores your music, photos, apps, contacts, calendars, documents and more, keeping them up to date across all your devices. When content changes on one device, all your other devices are updated automatically and wirelessly.
“iCloud is the easiest way to manage your content, because iCloud does it all for you and goes far beyond anything available today,” says Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “You don’t have to think about syncing your devices, because it happens automatically, and it is free.”
iTunes in the Cloud lets you automatically download new music purchases to all your devices, so you can buy a song on your iPad and find it waiting for you on your iPhone with no syncing required. iTunes in the Cloud also lets you download your previously purchased iTunes content, including music and TV shows to your devices at no additional cost.
Since iCloud stores your previously purchased iTunes history, you can see what you’ve bought no matter which device you bought it on. Since you already own the content, you can play it on your devices or tap the iCloud icon to download it to store and play later.
In addition, iTunes Match scans the songs in your music library, including music not purchased on iTunes, and matches them to the more than 20 million songs available on the iTunes Store, offering them in DRM-free 256 kbps AAC encoding. Any unmatched songs are uploaded to iCloud so you can play songs, albums or playlists from your music library on your devices.
iCloud’s Photo Stream service lets you take a photo on one device and have it automatically appear on your other devices. A photo you take on your iPhone is sent to iCloud and automatically pushed to your iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC. You can even view your Photo Stream album on your Apple TV. iCloud also automatically pushes a copy of the photos you’ve imported from your digital camera over Wi-Fi or Ethernet, so you can view them on your other devices. Cue says that iCloud manages your Photo Stream efficiently, showing your last 1000 photos so you don’t run out of storage space.
iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud keeps your documents up to date across all your devices, automatically, so you don’t have to. For example, if you create a document using Pages on your iPad, that document is automatically sent to iCloud. When you use Pages on another iOS device, you can open the same document with your latest changes and pick up editing or reading right where you left off. Apple’s iWork apps for iOS, Pages, Numbers and Keynote will take advantage of iCloud storage, and Apple is also offering developers the application programming interfaces they need to enable their apps to work with Documents in the Cloud.
iCloud lets you see your App Store and iBookstore purchase history and download those apps and books to any of your devices at any time. Purchased apps and books can be automatically downloaded to your devices, not just the device they were purchased on. Simply tap the iCloud icon and download your purchased apps and books to any of your iOS devices at no additional cost.
iCloud Backup automatically and securely backs up your most important information to iCloud daily over Wi-Fi whenever your iOS device is connected to a power source. Once you plug it in, everything is backed up. iCloud already stores your purchased music, TV shows, apps, books and Photo Stream; iCloud Backup takes care of everything else, backing up your photos and video in the Camera Roll, device settings, app data, home screen and app organization, messages and ringtones. iCloud Backup can even help you set up a new iOS device or restore the information on one you already own.
(Note that the backup of purchased music isn’t available in all countries. Backup of purchased TV shows is US only. A purchased item may be unavailable to be restored if it is no longer in the iTunes Store, App Store or iBookstore.)
iCloud works with your Contacts, Calendar and Mail, so you can share calendars with friends and family, and your ad-free Mail account is hosted at me.com. Your inboxes and folders are kept up to date across your iOS devices and computers, and with icloud.com you have web access to your Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Find My iPhone and iWork documents.
The Find My iPhone app can help you if one of your devices is missing. Just use the free Find My iPhone app on another device, or sign in at icloud.com from a computer to see your missing iPhone, iPad or iPod touch on a map, display a message, and remotely lock or wipe your missing device. Find My iPhone now lets you locate a missing Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”).
Find My Friends is a new app available as a free download from the App Store that lets you easily share your location with people who are important to you. Friends and family appear on a map so you can see where they are. Find My Friends also lets you temporarily share your location with a group of friends; when the time is up, the sharing ends. With Find My Friends, you get a notification every time you get a new friend request and if you give them permission, they can see your location. With a tap you can hide your location. Parental controls help you manage how your child uses Find My Friends.
Also released is iOS 5, which includes over 200 new features including: Notification Center, a way to view and manage notifications in one place without interruption; iMessage, a new messaging service that lets you send text messages, photos and videos between all iOS 5 users; and Newsstand, a new way to purchase and organize your newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
iCloud is a free download to iPhone, iPad or iPod touch users running iOS 5 or a Mac Lion with a valid Apple ID. iCloud includes 5GB of free cloud storage for Mail, Document Storage and Backup. Purchased music, TV shows, apps, books and Photo Stream don’t count against the storage limit. iTunes Match will be available starting in the US later this month for $24.99 a year.
Using iCloud with a PC requires Windows Vista or Windows 7; Outlook 2010 or 2007 is recommended for accessing contacts and calendars. Additional iCloud storage upgrades are available to purchase starting at $20 a year for 10GB, $40 a year for 20GB and $100 a year for 50GB.
iOS 5 is available as a free software update for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, iPad and iPod touch (third and fourth generation) customers.
iCloud is available worldwide. iTunes in the Cloud varies by country. iTunes Match and TV shows are US-only. iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match may be used on up to 10 devices with the same Apple ID.
What’s more, all three of Apple’s iWork apps have been updated to version 1.5, bringing support for iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud feature. And the just-released iPhoto, 9.2 implements compatibility with iCloud, especially Photo Stream.
— Dennis Sellers