I’m a sucker for being on the bleeding edge of technology. As soon as any new software upgrade is available for anything I have, I immediately want to upgrade – especially any operating system (OS) I have running, like OSX and Ubuntu. When Apple released the iOS5 platform I was eager to get on board. I’d heard about the iCloud service and it sounded pretty cool. After all, everything in the cloud is pretty cool. After going through the lengthy upgrade process my iPhone 4 was running iOS5.
At first it was hard to see any real difference from iOS4. I did see the obvious News Stand and Reminders apps straight away.
News Stand is no good for me. Not only are there very few magazines available for it right now, if I’m going to pay money for a magazine subscription, then I want the magazine itself.
Reminders also wasn’t for me. I had a go of it and was very impressed with the location-based reminders feature – very cool to prompt yourself to get milk on the way home while you’re actually passing the shops. While the Reminders app will sync to tasks to my work Exchange account (Outlook), I need a task list that I can use on every device and that stays in sync. That’s why I’m sticking with Wunderlist for now (side note: I’m also giving Orchestra a go for team based task management). There’s no doubt these other task apps will offer location-based reminders in the near future.
The most significant background change in iOS5, the iCloud. The iCloud claims to be the backup of everything you need. It will keep your emails, calendars, contacts and photos safe. Apart from the photo stream, this is pointless.
If you’re using an email provider that isn’t in the dark ages and still forcing you to use POP, then all your email already is backed up. This is especially true for web mail services such as Gmail, Yahoo! mail and Hotmail. Your email will always live on those services. Your work Exchange email is also safe. Your company will be keeping your email safe on some internal mail servers.
When you read your email on your iPhone you’re simply viewing the email that is on those services. I’ll trust Gmail to backup and keep my email safe thank you.
Calendar backup works in a similar way to Email. Most people will be using two calendars – one for work and one for personal appointments. Work calendars running from Microsoft Exchange are again backed up using the Exchange system. When you view your calendar on your iPhone, it will pull information from Exchange.
The same thing happens for other online calendar services like Google Calendar. Whenever I make a change to my calendar on my iPhone, either my work or personal calendar, those changes are immediately pushed up to the respective service. Backed up.
I guess, if you have created a local calendar on your iPhone or on iCal, then the iCloud service helps to back that up… but then again, so does the Time Machine utility.
Once again, if you’re using Exchange and a web service like Google Calendar (like me), then all your contacts are already safe. I have my iPhone contacts in sync with my Google Calendar contacts. When I change details in one of these places, the other is automatically updated. Google keeps my contact list safe.
The same goes for work contacts on your Exchange account.
The photostream service seems to be the best part of the iCloud service. It’s benefit comes when you’re taking photos when you’re out and about. The iCloud sync will keep them safe until you’ve had a chance to copy them into iPhoto or whatever photo library you’re using.
I’m using Picasa from Google. From the desktop application, I can keep my photo albums in sync with the Picasa Web service. And viola, all my photos are backed up straight away and are safe on Googles massive infrastructure.
Dropbox for example, lets you store more than just the Pages, Keynote and Number files and you can download, view and edit them at any time, on any device.
The iCon of iCloud
At face value, the iCloud seems like a great way to backup your devices and keep them in sync. You would think that the backup would be in real-time – constantly monitoring for changes on you iPhone and pushing these up to the iCloud service. No. The iCloud backup only pushes data to the iCloud service when your iDevice is plugged in to power and is on a Wi-Fi network. Whaaat? If I have my iPhone plugged in, then it’s usually plugged in to my MacBook and iTunes will do a full backup anyway. All my other apps like Wunderlist, Dropbox and Evernote keep my other devices up to date in real-time – open the app, it updates, or it updates in the background.
The iCloud. Sounds great in theory. Practically useless. Please don’t waste too much time with it. Move on and start being productive.