Apple iCloud: A skywalker guide to iCloud

Coming soon to every iOS device and computer/mac in your neighborhood; the iCloud is here to take care of all your photos, documents, media, and music.

The iCloud from Apple

What is the iCloud?

I guess the best way to explain the iCloud is as a digital storage place for all your documents, photos, media, apps, and music that you can easily access from any computer/mac or iOS device (includes iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad).

You can work on your documents on any device and the changes you make will immediately be updated on the iCloud so that when you access the document from a different device you can continue from where you left off, ensuring you always have access to the latest version of your files. No longer any need to manually sync between devices as the iCloud takes care of all that for you.

Consider the iCloud as your own invisible storage device that is always with you.

How much does it cost?

The iCloud is free for up to 5GB of storage when you sign up, and that does not include storage of purchased music, apps, books, and your photo stream, which we will come back to a bit later. So the free 5GB of storage will go towards your mail, documents etc. so most people should find that 5GB will do the trick to start with at least.

Should you require more storage then Apple is offering upgrades directly through iCloud service, starting at £14 per year for an additional 10GB, £28 per year for additional 20GB, and £70 a year for additional 50GB.

When will it be available?

The iCloud became available for most people on the 12th October following the launch of iOS 5. The iCloud services are deeply integrated in the set-up of iOS 5 and the process is fairly self explanatory for anyone that has ever used an iOS device before.

What services are available through iCloud will depend on your location, as iTunes Match for example will only be available in the US to start with due to music licensing rights.

What does the iCloud include?

We have talked about what the iCloud is, but what does it actually include. Apple has so far announced the following features for the iCloud, that will be available once iOS 5 is released.

iTunes in the cloud

iTunes in the Cloud

In the future when you purchase music on iTunes or on your iOS device that music will also be stored on iCloud and automatically shared with your other devices. We are not talking streaming, but rather downloaded to each individual device automatically depending on your settings.

This means that if you make a purchase on your mac in the evening, that music can be automatically available on your iPhone the next morning without you having to do any syncing. The music can be downloaded over wi-fi or 3G, although if you purchase a lot of music you might prefer wi-fi as we here in the UK usually have a limited monthly 3G data traffic quota to think about.

Past purchases will also be made available to download across your other devices.

Now, this feature is already available as a beta in the US, and there is no word as of yet when it might become available for the UK.

iTunes Match

What explained so far is how to share the music you have purchased through iTunes already or in the future, but what about all your other music that you might have stored, legally or through piracy. For that there is iTunes Match.

iTunes Match looks at your entire music library and then matches it with music available through their licensed deals with the record labels, and makes it available for you in the iCloud. And if they can’t match it then they will upload it for you, so you can have all your music in the cloud. It will even upgrade it to iTunes Plus (256 Kbps) quality if possible.

iTunes Match is not a free service though, as it comes with an annual subscription charge of $24.99. No UK price is available yet as there is uncertainty if and when the service will be made available to UK customers.

Looks like Apple is helping the music industry monetize piracy.

Photo Stream

iCloud Photo Stream

Take a photo on your iPhone and Photo Stream will make it available on all your other devices straight away without you having to do any syncing. Same goes for photos that you upload from a camera to your computer (wifi or ethernet connection needed).

The iCloud will make sure that the 1,000 latest photos is readily available for you, storing new photos for 30 days, giving you plenty of time to download them and save the ones you want to have on different devices.

Turn on Photo Stream on your Mac or PC and it will automatically store all your photos from all your devices in one place, making sure that you never loose any of your photos, as they are removed from the iCloud after 30 days to avoid using up all your free space there.

Apps and data across all devices with backup

One of the great things about services like iCloud is that it unifies information, data, and settings across all your devices, and ensures that you always have a backup of the latest versions.

Take your apps for example, now you can go onto any of your devices, have a look at the apps you have purchased or purchase a new one, and automatically share them with your other devices using the iCloud, with no need to manually do any syncing. In fact this is a feature that is already made available in beta.

Sharing Apps and iBooks on iCloud

The same goes for iBooks, as all your purchases will automatically be available on the iBook app on your other devices for reading.

iCloud also makes sure that your mail, calendar and contacts stays up to date across all your devices, so there is no longer any need need to manually sync between devices or to download emails across multiple devices, as the iCloud takes care of all that for you.

All technology can sometime go a bit haywire, but with daily backups of all your important data (requires wi-fi connection) it will all be safe in the iCloud, without you having to connect and sync with a computer/iTunes.

[images: screenshots from]

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