A Brief History

Apple’s affair with cloud services started way back in 2000 when they introduced iTools, a collection of free web-based services to Mac users. In 2002, iTools was renamed to .Mac with upgraded features, new backup tools and a copy of McAfee Virex. The upgrade also brought along with it a rather hefty subscription fee of $99/year, which was frowned upon by the Mac user community.

Subsequently, in June 2008, Apple rebranded .Mac as MobileMe. It let users seamlessly sync their mail, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks and other system data across multiple devices. Even with the inclusion of services like the MobileMe Gallery and Find My iPhone, the $99/year price tag was hard to justify in light of competing cloud-based services like Dropbox, Gmail, Picasa and several others that offered similar or much better functionality for free. MobileMe got off to a very bumpy start with frequent outages and less than stellar performance; its been widely regarded as one of Apple’s most prominent failures in recent times. In fact, cloud services have historically been an area where Apple has been unable to succeed. But can Apple get it right the fourth time with iCloud?

Given the industry’s to move towards cloud-based storage and services, it was only a matter of time before Apple leveraged its massive iOS user base and the tremendous success of the iTunes Music Store, App Store and iBookstore to let users store their data and media in the cloud and allow them on-demand access to it across devices. iCloud aims to do just that by building on MobileMe and correcting some of its flaws.

What is iCloud? How does it work?

iCloud essentially aims to be what MobileMe should have been from day one. A seamless way to store your content in the cloud, have it sync across all your devices, and give users access to their content on-demand. iCloud backs up a wide variety of content from your iOS devices and your Mac and keeps it intelligently synced across all of them. More importantly, iCloud and all its web applications are free. Each iCloud account comes with 5GB of storage space, with yearly subscription plans for additional storage ($20 a year for 10GB, $40 a year for 20GB, and $100 a year for 50GB). Unlike MobileMe, iCloud is tightly integrated with iOS 5 right from the time you start your device.

Building on the success of Find my iPhone, iCloud also includes support for Find my Mac in conjunction with OS X Lion (10.7) - at the moment, Apple does not appear to be interested in extending iCloud functionality to Snow Leopard. Lion features an updated preference pane for iCloud that lets users control features like PhotoStream, Back to My Mac and Find My Mac in addition to the usual stuff. Additionally, the iCloud pane on the Mac also lets you manage your storage and see exactly how much space is being used by all the devices being backed up to iCloud.

For more on how iCloud works with Macs and Windows PCs, check out the companion piece to this review.

Another feature called iTunes Match is also a part of iCloud and lets users mirror their iTunes libraries on iCloud for an annual fee of $29.99. So regardless of how and where you’ve gotten your music from, if its there on the iTunes Store, it automatically gets legalized and added to your account as 256Kbps AAC rip. Any song from your library for which there isn’t a match on the iTunes store gets uploaded to iCloud as is, and can be downloaded to any of your other devices. iTunes Match is currently capped at 25,000 songs, which should be more than enough for even the biggest audiophiles. This feature should be enabled in iTunes 10.5.1, which according to Apple should be here by the end of the month.

iMessage: Apple's Own BBM iCloud: iOS 5 Integration and Store Updates
POST A COMMENT

89 Comments

View All Comments

  • simi13 - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    I could swear I am on 9to5mac.com (I read anand and that daily), hahaha. A very nice review, though. Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    It does fail to mention a glaring omission in the OS, though: repeating, AUDIBLE notifications of MISSED CALLS.

    This was inexcusable in version 1, but after five or six years, Apple's phone still lacks an important, common-sense feature that was found on cell phones in the '90s. Aren't people sick of missing time with their friends and families because they didn't find out they called until the next day?

    Your phone is on its charger on your dresser, and you're taking a shower when someone calls; the phone gives one little chirp immediately after the call and never again. WTF? If you missed the call, it stands to reason that you're going to miss a single noise right after it. The thing should (OPTIONALLY) notify you periodically that someone called, until you cancel the notification.

    Even more bafflingly, Apple added repeat-notification controls for TEXTS. So if there's an emergency in my family and my parents want to get in touch with me, we're assuming they'll TEXT me? Brilliant, Apple. You have to wonder what kind of retards make these decisions over there.
    Reply
  • eallan - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    I hope Apple adds the option for people that want it, but man, that is one specific complaint.

    I don't think I've ever wanted the feature. Just wake your phone up after a shower? Whats the big deal?

    I think that may be the most rare complaint about iOS. Hardly makes them "retards" for not adding a specific niche feature. Relax
    Reply
  • Booster - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    "I don't think I've ever wanted the feature. Just wake your phone up after a shower? Whats the big deal?

    I think that may be the most rare complaint about iOS. Hardly makes them "retards" for not adding a specific niche feature. Relax"

    Sorry man, but it IS a big deal. Who in the hell would want to wake his phone periodically? Don't you realize how stressful this is? You'll never get to 'relax' knowing someone might have called or texted you etc. You'll be constantly checking out your iPhone and over time this will drive you crazy. Not a small matter by any means and surely not 'niche', since every freaking user suffers from this.

    If iPhones were really that good, they'd have a dedicated LED indicator for missed events and sufficient options to customize alerts, but they would be off by default so idiots wouldn't complain that their iPhone is bugging them. Leave it disabled by default, that's fine, might even add a warning before activating alerts, but this feature just needs to be there, man.
    Reply
  • Bob-o - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    > If iPhones were really that good, they'd have a dedicated LED indicator

    Agreed. It was only last weekend, when my neighbor was showing off her new 4S, that I realized you couldn't just look over at the phone to see if you have a txt/email/voicemail waiting for you. Something my Treo 650 used to do just fine.

    As great as new phones are, it is amazing how some of them have taken steps backwards in many little ways.
    Reply
  • robco - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    That's all well and good if you're home alone, your phone rings, you aren't available, you find out when you return. However, I do recall back in the day, being in a public place, someone's phone rings in their purse or jacket, they're off in the bathroom or in a meeting or something. Not only do you have to listen to their phone ringing, but then you have to listen to the audible beep every so often and that can get quite annoying. Convenient for you, not always convenient for those around you.

    Honestly, get into the habit of checking the phone when you've been away and out of earshot. One quick tap on the sleep/wake button will let you know if you've missed something. Otherwise yours is the phone people are going to want to smash with a sledgehammer because it's beeping every few seconds.
    Reply
  • Booster - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    "Honestly, get into the habit of checking the phone when you've been away and out of earshot. One quick tap on the sleep/wake button will let you know if you've missed something. Otherwise yours is the phone people are going to want to smash with a sledgehammer because it's beeping every few seconds."

    I'm more concerned with my personal psychologic wellness rather than with what irritates the others. Then again, why not include the feature but disable it by default? Morons won't even care to enable the cornerstone feature of any mobile device, but those who care - they will.

    You probably don't realize how retarded the 'quick tap' concept is, how extremely inconvinient for the user. Why should he or she pimp the damn square button every now and then? There is just no excuse for not really caring about end users.
    Reply
  • snuuggles - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - link

    Hmmm, I think you are too-quickly dismissing a valid point. I mean, there are actual laws about car alarms that go off repeatedly because they are so amazingly annoying. I think your repeated noise idea is along the same line. A dedicated light might be a better compramise.

    Honestly, you seem a little unhinged, I somehow doubt that adding this single notification feature will allow you to have better "personal psychological wellness."

    Maybe you should get rid of the phone if it's that important. Unless you are a doctor or the president, being reachable isn't *that* important.
    Reply
  • kezeka - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I am in medical school and I can personally vouch against doctors wanting to be within earshot. If we aren't on call (you would have a pager for this) then there is no reason to constantly check the phone. There are instances where I can see it being necessary.

    That said, I leave my phone completely silenced all day, every day and just check it periodically to see if anyone has tried to contact me. If they have, I call them back. It isn't worth breaking your concentration to be completely on top of things (insert link to any number of articles suggesting the human brain is horrible at multitasking here).
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I actually am with MobiusStrip here. Different people use their phones in different ways, and I'd appreciate a more aggressive reminding of missed calls.

    A similar problem (which I reported as a bug a year ago, but which is still not fixed) is audible notification of text messages. Suppose you have your phone connected to a BT headset or headphones, and a call comes through. The phone is smart enough to realize that it should still ring the phone speaker because you may not actually have the headset or headphones plugged in. But it does not extend that same level of intelligence to other notifications, most obviously text messages --- but I think also Skype or Viber calls.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now