Apple iOS 5 review: First look

GSMArena team, 10 June 2011.
Pages: 12345678

Tags: Apple, iOS, Touch UI

iCloud

Now, let's pay due attention to the iCloud. What is it, how you set it up and what you get?

iCloud is Apple's cloud-based content management - the service, which comes free with iOS 5 will further reduce the need of a PC/Mac and iTunes. Effortless syncing and backup/restore - along with pushing content to all devices associated with your Apple ID.

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You iCloud account and settings - you choose what to sync

Apps on iCloud

Until now you synced all your apps with a single computer and its iTunes. If you had more than one iDevice you've done two (or more) separate sync processes. Well, this is no more.

You've probably noticed the new Purchased list already in the App Store's Update tab. Now Apple knows exactly what apps you've purchased, what you have installed on an iDevice and what you've deleted for some reason. Apple knows this for each one of your iDevices.

So if you chose to sync with iCloud, Apple will sync only the app's personal data, not the entire IPA file (as iTunes did). Here is an example:

You have Angry Birds installed on your iPhone. It has a save data of 50KB. Apple will sync only this file. If you delete the game and later install it again (free, from the Purchased list), your iPHone will download the original IPA from the App Store and will get back this 50KB file too - a lot more natural process to sync an app rather than keeping the whole image. If you use an app as USB storage (Filer or even CineXPlayer), then the whole content will backed up (have that in mind).

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The Purchased list in the App Store The app data The actual app data iCloud will sync

There is one more thing with the iCloud app sync - when you buy a new app, it will be pushed to all of your iDevices automatically (if available).

Contacts, Calendar, iBooks, Photos and Documents on iCloud

The iCloud is capable of syncing all your contacts, calendar events, books, photos and documents. The content will become available on all of yours iDevices automagically. The iCloud stores new photos automatically for 30 days, enough time to connect your other iGadgets so they can get the photos too.

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Activating Photo Stream will backup your latest photos you choose what to backup

iCloud free email

iCloud offers a free me.com email that will also sync automatically across all your iDevices. You will be offered this when you activate the iCloud for the first time and the setup process is done in one easy step.

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iCloud Mail iCloud Mail settings

iCloud Music

Music syncing is probably the trickiest part of the iCloud sync. Along with the tracks purchased from the iTunes store you surely have a collection of your own (ripped music, etc.) that you sync with your iOS device via iTunes. Apple cannot backup that music offers the iTunes Match service exactly for that reason.

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Activating the iTunes music sync

The music you've purchased from iTunes Store will be easy to sync automatically across all your iGadgets - it will sync the same way the other content syncs. But you will need to use the iTunes Match service for the rest of your music collection if you want it synced too.

iTunes Match will scan your collection and sees if your songs match to songs in the Apple's iTunes Store (currently 18+ million songs and growing). If there is a match, the iTunes song will be synced, if not - well, you will need to use the standard computer depended sync.

So the iTunes scans yours songs and push them to all your other devices if they match. If some of your songs are with lower quality than 256Kbps, the iTunes will download the song with better quality (256Kbps). The iMatch service costs $25 per year and seems unique in the music store world.

iCloud Backup/Restore

You can back up your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch with the iCloud. It will store all of your settings and other important stuff, so if you need to restore wirelessly (if you got a new device for example) - it's the easiest way. The backup is automatic and is done once a day.

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Activating iCloud Backup Choosing what to backup

5GB free storage

Apple gives you 5GB free storage for iCloud sync. Now this may sound not enough for you, but actually it's more than enough. Your purchased music, apps and books don't count in this storage (except the app's personal data such as saves, settings, etc.). So the things that eat that storage are app's data, contacts, mail, photos, calendar events, backups and personal documents. Of course, there is an option to buy more iCloud storage, but Apple is yet to announce the storage plans this fall.

Apple iOS 5
You have 5GB free iCloud storage

And here is a demo video for various iOS 5 settings:

First impressions

It looks like lots of little tweaks but combined they do make a difference. And this is a BETA version for developers to optimize their apps. Come September, there will probably be more new stuff to talk about.

Surely, many of the updates we covered here have been already available in the App Store by third-party contributions. Apple copied a thing or two from other platforms too, like Android and WP7.

It all depends what your priorities are, of course, but to us it seems the iOS 4 had more weight as an update. But then - it came on an awesome new phone, which kind of stole the spotlight.

It looks like the iOS 5 will be filling the blanks and connecting the dots. And it's not a job to be ashamed of. The updates show enough promise and we wouldn't mind getting surprised in September either.

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