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Friday, July 29, 2011

What Apple's iCloud Means For You

If you own any Apple device, it's likely you own multiple computing devices – one or more Apple portable gadgets such as an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch, and a desktop or laptop PC.
And it's also likely you have some content on one of these portable devices – photos, music, documents, email, et al – that'd you'd like to access on all your Apple portable devices and PCs.
Apple's iCloud service, announced this morning (June 6), not only solves this one-to-one content/device relationship problem, but establishes a new way of thinking about where your content is stored and how you access it.
The idea is your content and personal data need not be trapped on whatever device it was created or purchased on. If you snap a photo on your iPhone, the photo is automatically propagated to all your computing devices. If you create a document on an iPad, it is automatically propagated to all your computing devices. If you update your Apple calendar or address book on your PC or Mac, that change is automatically propagated to the calendar or your address book on all your Apple portable devices. If you buy a song on iTunes, that song is automatically propagated on all your iPod-compatible devices.
In other words, all your content acts as your email does now – it's the same email regardless of which device you access or answer it, and it's always up to date. iCloud brings this universal email access to all your content. Whatever content you have, create or buy on one Apple device, you have access to on all your devices, even a Windows PC.
How? Like your email, all your content is stored in a remote warehouse – primarily Apple's new massive North Carolina data center facility – and you having a Wi-Fi or cell phone connection to both send your content there or to retrieve it, securely, wirelessly and automatically.
Apple's aim is to make accessing your content from "the cloud" as seamless as accessing it from the memory in your device or computer. In fact, that's the aim of a growing number of companies such as Amazon and Google. But Apple's ecosystem and reach makes its cloud concept easier to engineer and use.
Apple apps such as its iWork word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programswere used to demonstrate how documents created are automatically propagated to other devices. However, Apple is making its iCloud code to its App Store app developers, so expect to soon see a host of "iCloud-enabled" apps.

Music in the cloud
iCloud was just one of three major software upgrades Apple announced this morning. iCloud will be available along with a new operating system for your iPxxx device – iOS 5 – along with a new Macintosh operating system, Lion (officially OS x 10.7), sometime this fall.
iCloud will largely be free; the only fee is a $25/year subscription for accessing the music you've copied, or "ripped," from your own music collection into iTunes for storage in iCloud, a service called iTunes Match.
In other words, all the music you've bought on iTunes will be available on all your iPod/iTunes devices automatically (or once you tell your copy of iTunes to make it available). But Apple had to make deals with the record labels (reportedly spending around $150 million to do so) to let us store and access music we bought on CDs that we then copied into iTunes via iCloud.
With the iTunes Match subscription, Apple will scan your iTunes folder and find those tracks not purchased through iTunes and match them with tracks in Apple's 18 million-song iTunes catalog and make those available for you to access remotely as well. (How you get tracks you own, that iTunes doesn't sell, to iCloud isn't clear.)
Amazon and Google recently announced similar "cloud" music storage/access services, but didn't make deals with the record labels. This means you'd have to upload all your music to their "cloud," a process that could take hours or even days.

New iPhone without a new iPhone
iOS 5 will offer so many new (for Apple) features compared to the current iOS 4 that it will seem as if you've gotten a new iPhone.
Here are a few iOS 5 highlights, many of which already have been available on Android devices:
  • Camera: Instead of searching through all your apps for the Camera icon, just double-tap the Home button to activate it. Instead of the on-screen shutter release icon, you can push the "volume up" button to snap a photo. You'll be able to pinch the screen to zoom in, touch a specific part of the screen to lock the auto-exposure and auto-focus lock, then crop, rotate, automatically reduce red-eye reduction.
  • Notification Center: Things happen on your iPxxx when you're not looking at them – new email comes in, voicemails are recorded, app updates become available, text messages are received, etc. You'll be notified of all of this new stuff in one place –just swipe down on the home screen to see them all (like Android), then swipe across on the notification to take you to that specific app.
  • Reminders: Do you suffer "senior moments"? You'll now be able to set reminders for things you're afraid you'll forget. These reminders can even be location based – your reminder can be set to alert you when you reach a specific destination, for instance.
  • Wireless Updates: No longer will you have to plug your iPxxx into a PC to update the operating system or other software. What's unclear is whether you'll be able to wirelessly sync your personal data.
  • Twitter Integration: If you snap a photo on your iPhone, you can now Tweet it immediately from iPhone's camera app. There'll also be a Twitter Settings menu where you can store your user name and password, which can be accessed by whatever Twitter app you use.
  • Safari Reader/Tabbed Browsing: When surfing the Web, you'll be able to view articles on a single scrollable screen in a more reading-friendly environment, and save stories to read later, share it with your other devices via the cloud, or Tweet it. You'll also get "tabbed" browsing – instead of each Web page on its own screen that you have to toggle between, you'll get folder tab for each open page in a single browser window.
According to Apple, there'll be more than 200 improvements to iOS 5. But we'll have to wait a few months until it's available before we can explore them all.

[via lifegoesstrong]

New iPhone 5, iPad 3 Coming Soon?

What and how will the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 look like and act?Thinking of buying a new iPhone 4 or buying your first iPad?
The latest rumors have Apple unveiling its long-rumored iPhone 5 in mid-August at the earliest, sometime in September at the latest. A month later, there may be a next-generation iPad 3.
And all will run the new Apple mobile operating system, iOS 5, which you can read more about in "What Apple's iCloud Means For You."

To 4G or not to 4G?
Here's what the Apple cognoscenti doesn't know about the iPhone 5: whether or not it will connect to super-speedy 4G data cell networks for faster Web browsing, faster app loading and operating, and faster uploads and downloads.
As you might know, there are two different types of 4G an iPhone 5 could access.
There's LTE (which stands for Long Term Evolution, which you can now forget), the true next-generation 4G technology. Verizon launched its LTE network earlier this year, and has and will have the most extensive LTE coverage for some time.
AT&T, iPhone's primary carrier, has yet to officially launch its own LTE network.
Then there's HSPA Plus (High Speed Packet Access, which you also can now forget), essentially a souped-up version of the current 3G technology used in iPhone and by T-Mobile.
AT&T recently launched its own HSPA Plus 4G network.
You can bet your kid's college fund that the iPhone will NOT be LTE, even if the AT&T LTE network was ready. As anyone with an LTE device will tell you, the LTE connectivity drains battery life like Dracula sucks blood. At most, 4G phones continually connected to an LTE network will live, maybe, four hours.
For Steve Jobs, that kind of limited battery life is unacceptable.
So will the iPhone 5 be HSPA Plus 4G? It might solve some of AT&T's constant connectivity problems in major metro areas. But thus far there's been no indication whether or not the iPhone 5 will be a 4G phone.
If iPhone 5 is 4G, its got nomenclature problems (the 4G 5?). There has been speculation that the next iPhone will be dubbed the iPhone 4S, similar to the 3GS, which also offered speedier connectivity. A 4GS 4G iPhone? Makes a helluva lot more sense.
For the sake of consistency in no way reflecting my personal prognostication, for simplicity sake I'll just keep calling it the iPhone 5.

Other iPhone 5 attributes
Here's aggregation of current iPhone 5 speculation.
Form factor: Most observers believe iPhone 5 will look pretty much like the iPhone 4. But more recent rumors say iPhone 5 will have a completely different, thinner, more iPad 2-like sloping design, with a curved screen to keep adjacent prying eyes at bay and a tougher aluminum, instead of glass, back.
If the form factor remains the same, all of your current iPhone 4 cases and accessories will fit. A new design means having to shell out more shekels on new accessories. Thinner is nice, but I'd rather save some dough. But then, could you call a new iPhone with a radically new design an iPhone 4S? Wouldn't a new design demand a new model number?
My head hurts.

A larger screen: Considering the deluge of Android phones with 4- and 4.3-inch screens, Apple has to increase iPhone 4's suddenly miniscule 3.5-inch display.
If iPhone 5's form factor (and try saying that three times fast) is similar to the iPhone 4, Apple is space constricted. Apple can stretch the display bezel-to-bezel, increasing the screen about a quarter of an inch all around. That would create an iPhone 5 screen of about 3.7 or 3.8 inches. Nice, but I think we'll all be happy if iPhone 5 has a 4-inch screen – "4" is such a nice, round number, but which requires a redesign.

More power: iPhone 5 will certainly pack a faster processor, likely the 1.2 GHz engine currently found in the iPad 2, perhaps even 1.5 GHz (iPhone 4 uses a 1 GHz processor). This means everything loads faster and works faster. You will notice its zippy-ness.

More storage: I was really disappointed iPhone 4 topped out at 32 GB. But with the price of memory continuing to plummet faster than an iPhone dropped by a skydiver, the hope is iPhone 5 will be offered in 16, 32 and 64 GB versions, finally large enough to hold all 11,000 of my iTunes tracks. Although, with iCloud and the long-rumored Apple streaming music service, you may be able to settle for the cheaper 16 GB model.

Better camera: Or, at least a higher-resolution camera, probably 8 MP, which probably means full high-definition 1080p video recording (iPhone 4 records "only" 720p video).
But the better camera news is the rumor of a dual LED flash, which means brighter shots in darker locations. There's been some speculation the iPhone 5 camera will have 3D capabilities, to which I say BFD.

Better antenna: Or, more accurately, MORE antennas to minimize call drops and to access more global networks, which means…

More carriers: T-Mobile may become an iPhone vendor; there have been reliable reports of a T-Mobile iPhone being tested. But that doesn't mean we'll see one when the iPhone 5 launches. Verizon was testing iPhone for years before finally putting it on sale.
There has been a sprinkling of speculation surrounding a Sprint iPhone, which would be great because Sprint has a roomy 4G network (albeit with the same power-sucking issues as LTE), but I say it's unlikely, at least this year. Sorry, Sprint subscribers.
And that's all I've heard about iPhone 5 being ready, I can't tell you more 'cause I told you already, and here I am waving iPhone 5 rumors good-bye. Whoa whoa.

iPad 3 rumors
I apologize in advance for the cheap trick I'm about to pull. The headline, lead and photograph accompanying this article imply a new iPad 3 is coming this fall.
Yes, there may be. But if you want an iPad 2, go ahead and indulge, no need to wait.
If Apple unveils a new iPad 3 in the fall, it will likely be a more expensive "pro" version with a thinner, higher-resolution Retina display – 2048-by-1536 pixels, twice the resolution of iPad 1 and 2. An iPad 3 presumably also would pack a more powerful engine.

For most of us, that additional resolution and processing speed, especially for the expected price premium, is unnecessary. So forget I even said anything about an iPad 3.

[via lifegoesstrong]