iCloud Now Available to Download via iTunes Update
The latest branding of Apple's cloud computing services - iCloud - became available for download via iTunes update last week. iCloud is a direct replacement for the MobileMe service which will be discontinued on June 30th next year.
Like all Cloud technology, iCloud's function is to deliver an array of multiple applications to the user via an internet browser. This means the user can access films, music and other applications without having to store the data on their machine, as the bulk of the information is actually held on servers elsewhere - 'in the cloud'.
The obvious drawback is that should the internet connection be lost for any reason then access to all the data and applications is too, but of course the 'no service' scenario is becoming increasingly rare these days as internet connectivity improves.
iCloud features: Online Storage
iCloud provides each user with 5GB of free storage space. This should go a very long way, because all music, books, visual media and apps are stored in the iCloud online library. The 5GB is intended solely for personal documents such as user account information, settings, mail, app and Camera Roll data - and backups. In the event that the user needs more than 5GB, extra space can be purchased from any device connected to the cloud. Pricing is reasonable - £14 for 10GB, £28 for 20GB and £70 for 50GB - all per annum.
iCloud features: Multi Device Synchronisation
A huge benefit from storing data in iCloud is the ability to access all data held there from any iOS device with iOS 5 installed, or any Mac running OS X 10.7.2. Also, iCloud can keep all your devices in sync automatically, so that a user could for example purchase music from iTunes on their laptop, and then be able to access it from their iPhone. Both devices are drawing from the same data pool.
iTunes Match - coming to the UK soon!
Available to US users only at time of writing (end October 2011), iTunes Match enables a user to store a music collection of up to 25,000 tracks (including ones purchased from other venders or ripped from CDs) in the cloud.
iTunes Match scans the music collection and identifes all the tracks which are available in the iTunes Store. These tracks are then added to the user's iCloud library. Any tracks that cannot be matched with the iTune Store catalogue must be uploaded manually, but as the catalogue currently boasts more than 20 million tracks this should not be a regular event except for those with the most eclectic musical tastes.
An excellent feature of this software is that any low bitrate (poor sound quality) track in the collection submitted to iTunes Match will be replaced from the iTunes Store - provided it is in the library. All iTunes Match files are 256kbps AAC (which is widely held to offer sound quality equivalent to an MP3 at double the bitrate i.e. 500kbps). Very few (if any) human ears can detect the difference between an MP3 at 320kbps and the CD it was ripped from on all but the most high fidelity sound reproduction equipment. So Apple are effectively offering their users free upgrades of all their existing MP3s - free.
iTunes Match can be used by up to ten devices with one Apple ID and is currently set to be released in the UK for 2012.
Find My iPhone
This MobileMe feature has been included in iCloud and - with the latest version, 1.3 - has some handy new features. As the name suggests, the primary function of the app is to allow a user to locate a misplaced iPhone using another iOS device. The user also has the choice to remotely lock a lost device and/or delete data from it.
In a scenario where an iPhone is lost, the user can download the free app onto any other iOS device, sign in using their Apple ID and then locate their lost iPhone on a map. On version 1.3 it's possible to use this app to find Macs too.
Another similar service is the 'Find My Friends' app, which allows users to show their location to others who have chosen to make themselves visible to them. The setup options offer the ability to control who sees who, when, and how often.
MobileMe Account Transfer
iCloud has been devised so all current MobileMe users can transfer their account to iCloud. As MobileMe is set to be discontinued on the 30th of June 2012, we advise all existing users to transfer their account to iCloud before this date.
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