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With the release of iOS 5 for the iPhone and Apple’s other iOS devices came the official release of iCloud. iCloud is the replacement for MobileMe (which will be turned off in June 2012) and brings some of the same functionality to the iPhone and adds several more features as well. Here is a rundown of how iCloud works with your iPhone.
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MobileMe Features in iCloud
If you are or were a MobileMe user you had access to some of the features in iCloud. These features are a me.com email address (if you are a Mac user then you can still use your mac.com addresses), contact syncing, bookmark syncing, calendar syncing, and Find My iPhone.
The email address is pretty straightforward. You can get a free me.com email address with 5 GB of storage (shared with other iCloud services) to use on your iPhone, computer, iPad, etc. It can be accessed from iCloud.com or set up as an email account on your phone.
Syncing is pretty basic too. Any entry into the above mentioned services will sync to iCloud and they are accessible on any other iDevice set up with iCloud and/or with your Mac. If you make a change on one device it will show up on the others. For example, if you add a contact on your iPhone that same contact will be sent to your iPad.
Find My iPhone is great for finding your lost or stolen iPhone (or tracking your child who has an iPhone). With this feature enabled you can go to the iCloud.com website and see where your phone is via GPS. You can send a message to it and trigger a sound so it gets noticed, and you can remotely wipe it if you think there is no chance of recovering it. You can also do all of this on an iPad, iPod Touch, or another iPhone through the free Find My iPhone app.
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How iWork and Other Apps Work with iCloud
Another nice feature of iCloud is the ability to sync documents between devices. If you are typing a document in Pages on your iPhone and want to continue typing it on your iPad when you get home all you have to do is open Pages on your iPad (with iCloud enabled) and that document will be available to work on. As of this writing Apple’s iWork apps support this feature and only a few other apps.
If you are using iWork apps you can also access your documents on your Mac through the iCloud.com interface. Here you can download the document to your Mac to work on and reupload it to the site for later use on your iPhone.
Another benefit of this feature extends to games. A game can be iCloud enabled allowing you to play the same game on your iPhone and iPad and have each device continue where you left off on the other one. No more need to have two separate games per device. I really hope a lot of game developers take advantage of this feature.
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Backup Your Phone to iCloud
With MobileMe you had iDisk and you could always back up files to iDisk. There was even a backup program for your Mac for this task. However, this feature is gone with iCloud and in its place is a backup system for your iPhone.
If enabled, you can backup your iPhone and all of its settings to iCloud instead of to your computer via iTunes. This backup occurs when you connect your iPhone to a power source. This backup via iCloud is one way that Apple is making the iPhone a computer-free device.
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Photo Stream is a way to get pictures from your iPhone to your computer without connecting the iPhone to the computer, opening iPhoto, and downloading. When you take a photo on your iPhone it is instantly put into your photo stream. Your photo stream is then sent right over to your computer and is listed in iPhoto (assuming your iPhoto is up to date and has Photo Stream enabled). From iPhoto you can move photos from Photo Stream to an event by clicking and dragging your photo and it will be added to your iPhoto library.
Photo Stream will store your last 1,000 photos for up to thirty days. The one down side to Photo Stream is that you cannot delete photos from it. If you have a bunch of "junk" photos you took with your iPhone they will still be in your photo stream until you take enough photos to "push them out of the sequence." Hopefully this will change in a later version.
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iTunes and iCloud
One final feature of iCloud that is useful on your iPhone involves iTunes. With the help of iCloud you can now download and redownload any purchase you ever made (music, videos, books, and apps) to your iPhone. All you have to do is go to the appropriate store’s apps and look in that apps purchased section. You will see a list of purchases with iCloud icons next to them. Click that icon and your song, or book, etc. will download right to your phone.
In the near future you will also be able to use iTunes Match ($25/year) to have iTunes add your personal collection of non-iTunes music purchases to the available downloads list. iTunes Match will search your library for non-purchased songs and allow you to redownload them at high quality onto your iPhone. If iTunes does not sell the specific song you will be able to upload it from your computer.
These are the major features of iCloud that work with your iPhone. Hopefully, more features will be added in the future (for example, I would love to see MobileMe’s video sharing feature). Perhaps a video streaming feature will be added. The list could be endless, and it will be interesting to see how iCloud evolves.
Screenshot by author.
- Article based on writer's experience.