It is a wonder the Internet didn’t just break yesterday. Apple updated both Mac OSX and iOS. Combined there was almost 1.5GB in downloads. If you have more than one machine or device, just multiply. The result was some seriously strained servers and a jittery iCloud debut.
But having gone to the trouble of upgrading, it is interesting to make some remarks on whether Apple’s latest Cloud foray is going to work. Here is how it is supposed to work — the ultimate vision — you sync your data to iCloud and you never have to worry about backups again. Of course, we are not there. First, contacts and calendars. You can do this but you have to be all-in on Apple. That means no Google contacts or calendars. This is a tough move because while the Google options ain’t pretty they are easily searchable and you’d want to be able to visit your Google pages and see the latest information. Use iCloud and that won’t happen. To be clear, this is a barrier for Apple rather than Google as synchronisation works pretty well between Google and Apple computers and devices.
Second, documents. At present, there are a number of services — SugarSync and Dropbox among them — that keep your documents both backed-up to the cloud and synchronised across computers and even devices. Does iCloud do that? Not quite. To be sure, you can write a presentation in Keynote on your iPad and it will appear on your iPhone for continuing editing or presentation. But what about back to your computer? Alas, that is not to be. You have to upload and download manually. What is more, Keynote on the Mac isn’t the same as Keynote on iOS so go one way or the other and it is broken. Why even these can’t be compatible, I have no idea. But that is destroying the vision.
Third, photo streaming. iCloud allows you to take photos on your iPhone and instantly back them up to your computer. But there’s a problem. If you are like my family where at least the adults want to share photos on the one computer, you are out of luck. Unless you share your iCloud accounts — and there are plenty of reasons not to (including being able to locate each other with Find My Friends) — then only one of you will have photos synced.
Fourth, app, books and music sharing. Like photos our family has one iTunes account for all purchases. Now you can continue to use iCloud to sync all of that across everyone’s devices but that means maintaining a separate account. That isn’t the end of the world but it is messy.
Fifth, you can back up your iPhone or iPad to iCloud. This is as opposed to syncing it with a computer. The benefits of this are convenience — you don’t need to remember to connect but you do need to be plugged in. Also, if you are travelling, you’ll hopefully be able to get an easy restore if you lose a device. That said, I did this for my iPhone and iPad and then got a notice that I was approaching my 5GB free limit on iCloud. This was a surprise given that 5GB was supposed to be enough for ordinary use.
The point here is that while the vision of cloud-synced nirvana is surely a sound one, we aren’t there yet — at least from Apple. That said, if you look at the iCloud login in page, it is very ‘app like.’ One wonders whether Apple has something in-store for developers that will grow that whole segment. If so, maybe solutions to these teething problems will be found.
On another note, there were lots of things to like about the upgrades that weren’t cloud related. Reminders — where you can set a notification to alert you do to something when you get home or to work or as you are leaving there — looks like a great innovation. Notifications are something Apple seems to have integrated well. iMessage — where you can send text messages to other iOS users without paying the carrier — has the potential be disruptive. And on your iPad you can type easily in landscape mode with the new ‘split keyboard’ feature. All very nice.