Apple has made a bunch of noise about iCloud, its new free online service for users of Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Windows PC’s. Here’s what we think is useful in iCloud, and what we think is not so great.
What’s Cool about iCloud
- Free to users of Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.
- Works with Windows PC’s, although you need a Mac, an iPhone, or an iPad to actually create an iCloud account.
- Keeps contacts, calendar appointments, and email synced across your Mac (if you are using Apple Mail, Address Book, and iCal), Windows computer (if you are using Microsoft Outlook), iPhones, and iPads.
- When you purchase Music, Apps, or Books from the iTunes Store, they’ll automatically be downloaded to your other computers and devices.
- You can look at your past video purchases, and download them on request.
- For $25 per year, you can use iTunes Match, which will automatically synch iTunes libraries across computers and devices.
- Provides Photo Stream, so that any picture you take, or any picture you import into iPhoto, is automatically visible on all your computers and devices. Up to 1,000 photos can be in your Photo Stream, and each one can stay there for up to 30 days.
- Backs up iPhones and iPads automatically, over the air, and can restore that way too.
- Certain documents automatically stay in sync across iPhones and iPads, no saving required.
- If you set up Find My iPhone, it will show you on a map where your iPhone or iPad is, and will also let you remotely erase its contents.
What’s Not So Cool about iCloud
- Requires a recent operating system: Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion,” Windows Vista or 7, and iOS 5. (Your current computer may not be upgradeable to a recent OS so do your research.)
- Only syncs email addresses that are @mac.com or @me.com.
- Doesn’t keep iPhoto libraries in sync across computers or devices.
- Only certain content from your iPhone or iPad gets backed up: your camera roll, most stuff you purchase from the iTunes Store, app data, how you have your icons arranged, your text messages, and ringtones.
- If you have a lot in your camera roll, and are using iCloud for backup, you may need to purchase more iCloud storage.
- Document access only works with Pages, Numbers, and Keynote (for now). And it doesn’t automatically sync with your computer; you need to log in online and manually download and upload files to get them to your iPhone or iPad.
- No disk drive in the sky for files (as existed with MobileMe’s iDisk feature). For synchronized online storage that works with all your computers and devices, go with Dropbox.
- No Gallery or iWeb (which existed with MobileMe).
What iCloud can do is still evolving, and non-Apple developers are starting to build iCloud functionality into their applications and services. So we’re excited for the future of iCloud.
And if you still have MobileMe: You have about two months to move to iCloud before MobileMe goes away forever. We’re happy to help you with the transition.