Apple iTunes Match on iCloud

After reading about iCloud and iOS 5 that are coming out this fall, I found out about a new feature that helps these two integrate with iTunes a lot better. Let’s get right to the point.

iTunes Match

This new service is probably the biggest change since iTunes was created! It’s actually a super cool service that allows you to upload your existing songs (songs not purchased on iTunes) to iCloud. Of course iCloud only gives you 5GB of free storage and your music collection probably far exceeds that, so why is this service so great? Well, iTunes Match only uploads music it doesn’t find in the iTunes library! So the chances that some of your music does not match with something in the 18 million plus songs in iTunes is pretty slim. Anything that does match is instantly available on all of your devices at the iTunes Plus bitrate of 256Kbps.
iTunes Match ServiceHere’s a real world example: Currently, if you bought 100 songs on iTunes, these songs are available for download on all of your devices. With iCloud, these purchases can be set to download automatically on all your devices instantly! Now with iTunes Match, let’s say you have an additional 10,000 songs that you’ve ripped to iTunes over the years or purchased from other music sites. iTunes Match will search the iTunes library for these songs and if it finds them, it will instantly give you access to 256Kbps versions without ever touching your iCloud storage space!! Any songs it doesn’t find will need to be uploaded to iCloud if you want them available on your devices, but this will affect your storage space.

The ONE major downside to all of that great access is that there’s a charge for it! iTunes Match costs $24.99 per year. However, the major benefit is that you no longer have to carry around gigs of music on your laptop nor do you have to wonder if everything on your laptop is the same that’s on your desktop—all of you music will always be available to you through iTunes. I forgot to mention the minor downside: you’re limited to 25,000 songs. Sorry!

My two cents

My personal music collection has topped over 100gigs and I know that’s probably nothing compared to some of you hardcore music lovers/torrenters out there, but it is substantially more than the average user. I honestly haven’t even done a recent count, but I’m sure I’m up in the 15,000-20,000 song range, so that should give you some perspective as to how large that 25,000 song cap is.

At any rate, the service is pretty awesome, but unless you plan on listening to all your music on all your devices everywhere you go all the time…then $25 a year might not be worth it. Then again, paying $2.07 per month for musical convenience just might not be such a bad deal!

Apple iOS 5 Features

Apple is really great at giving you things you never thought you needed. I remember thinking with iOS 4 and 4.3 came out with all their new features, that we must have everything now. The phone is awesome and what else could you really want or need?! I guess that’s the way life is with technology—just as you settle in with your new device, along comes another one to make you feel like you’re behind the curve again.

There are over 200 features with the new release of iOS 5 coming out this fall, so I won’t touch on all of them, but here are my top 5 favorites:

iOS 5 Features

iOS 5 Notification CenterNotification Center – As it is right now, whenever you’re using an app or playing a game on your device, you will be rudely interrupted if you get a text message or some other app notification. To retrieve your message, you have to exit the app and then come back to it and some apps might not return you to where you were. With Notification Center, all messages and alerts appear at the top of the app in a little information bar which you can then pull down with one swipe, reply to a text, acknowledge an alert or whatever else you need to do and then make it disappear having never to leave your app or game!

Another great feature of this is that these notifications also appear on the lock screen. They are fully functional too, so you can listen to voicemails or read texts without having to unlock your phone and access them directly. I wonder how it’ll handle privacy for those of us who don’t allow the content of text messages to appear on a locked device.

iOS 5 Quick Access CameraCamera – How can you better a camera that already has physical specs that can’t change? Oh yeah, make it available to use without having to fumble around with passcodes and icons. Such a simple solution to a really annoying problem. There’s an old saying that says “The best camera is the one you have at the moment.” and how true is that when you’re out and about and you see something you really wanted to take a picture of, but you missed it because you took your phone out and you spent 30 seconds trying to enter your passcode and then remember where you put your camera app icon?

No more worries with that one! iOS 5 allows you to access your camera right from the lock screen and what’s even better is the ability to take shots using the volume-up button! Adding to this amazing feature is the ability to use grid lines to compose a shot and then perform basic editing like redeye removal, cropping and autoexposure to clean up your photos. When using iCloud, all the photos you take are instantly sent to all of your other iCloud devices. How much better can this get?!

iOS 5 iMessageiMessage – Text messaging has replaced phone calls, but for those of you who don’t like paying for texts or maybe you’re an iPod Touch user or non-3G iPad user and you can’t use text. Or at least if you wanted to, you had to download an app for it. Well not anymore! With iMessage, you can now send texts from any 3G or wi-fi connection to and from all iOS devices and just about any other 3G text-capable device. Plus, you can now see when the other person is typing. Another neat feature is the ability to start a text conversation on your iPhone and continue it on your iPad—no more fumbling around between devices.

A couple of other cool features are the ability to track sent and received messages through tracking receipts and the universal ability to send group messages as well as photos, locations, contacts and videos to all iOS devices.

iOS 5 NewsstandNewsstand – For those of you that have digital subscriptions to magazines or newspapers, you now have a better place to get the latest issues. Before, you were probably downloading them one by one or having to use the publisher’s app to get the latest edition, but now Newsstand will organize all of you subscriptions in one central location. When a new issue comes out, it’s automatically sent to Newsstand with an image of the newest cover automatically. If you want to manage your subscriptions or purchase new ones, you can do so right from Newsstand or access the new subscription store in iTunes.

I only feel sorry for today’s paperboy!

iOS 5 RemindersReminders – There are literally tons of reminder apps out there—some are free, some you have to pay big bucks for. What I never understood is why didn’t Apple ever make their own a long time ago?? Now, we don’t have to worry about that. Reminders makes creating to–do lists super easy. You can create any number of things you need to do complete with due dates, locations and alerts. What’s really cool about the location feature is let’s say you create a grocery list and you map it to your favorite grocery store. On the off-chance that you forgot you actually made the shopping list, you might have gone shopping and didn’t remember some items, right? Not with Reminders!! With location mapping, as soon as you pull into the parking lot of that store, you are sent an alert that reminds you about your shopping list.

This app appears to be absolutely amazing; especially for someone like me who always forgets the little things.

My two cents

From what I see so far, iOS 5 is just more proof that Apple keeps delivering great features with every new update they put out. I know a lot of Droid owners will probably read this and say they’ve had features like this for a long time now, but what I love about Apple is these features are integrated into more than just one device and the they are created by Apple directly. I for one would prefer not to use third-party apps because sometimes they don’t always play well with devices.

At any rate, I can’t wait for this release and if you’re interested in seeing the complete list of features within iOS 5, check out Apple’s website.

Apple iCloud Features

This fall is going to be a big deal for Apple. Not only will they likely be releasing the iPhone 5, but they are officially launching iOS 5 and another nifty little software suite called iCloud. That’s right folks, MobileMe is out and iCloud is in! Cloud computing has been taking off in the last year or so with what seems to be Facebook leading the pack when it comes to networking your social media presence.

Using Facebook as an example, anyone who has an account can see just how easy it is to connect EVERYTHING about our personal lives to just about almost anything on the Internet. Remember the days when you used to have to create new user accounts at every site you wanted to sign up for? Now, it seems just about every website allows you to sign in using your Facebook account. This is a slight example of cloud computing—being able to connect to everything wherever you’re located. However, even the almighty Facebook has its limitations.

Cloud computing as a whole is much more than connecting your wall to Twitter. It involves the centralized storage of your documents, emails, pictures, videos, etc. while connecting (or syncing) these items to all of your devices. In the old days, you had a computer at home and some sort of sync software that you would use to send documents to each one of your devices one at a time. The problem was that whenever you wanted to update something or make other changes, you had to wait until you got home to re-sync everything again.

While Apple iCloud does not purport itself to be an all-inclusive solution to address everything cloud computing can offer, it does provide a very simple and intuitive way for iOS users to wirelessly sync information to smartphones, laptops, computers and Internet storage. I’m hesitant to use the term “sync” because iCloud actually performs this process live, which means you don’t actually have to do anything for your stuff to appear across all of your toys—except to provide a wi-fi connection to the Internet.

iCloud Features

Likely the biggest feature of iCloud will be the free 5GB of online storage you have alongside the free iCloud software itself. However, this is a far cry from the two MobileMe plans that were available: a 20GB individual plan and a 40GB family plan. But as with any online storage service, this is just the basic offering and we can be sure that for some money, you can add more features and storage to your account.

  • Photo StreamPhoto Stream CloudPhoto Stream is probably the second biggest feature to come from iCloud. To explain it simply, I’ll quote Apple: “With iCloud, when you take a photo on one device, it automatically appears on all your other devices. No syncing. No sending. Your photos are just there. Everywhere you want them.” The best part is that all of this works with PCs as well! If you add an AppleTV to the mix, you can create visual slideshows to display on your tv for all to enjoy!
  • iTunesiTunes CloudiTunes in iCloud allows you to purchase anything you want from the store and have them appear on all registered devices. So imagine you’re at work and you buy a new song on your iPad. This song gets stored on iCloud and then gets synced automatically to your iPhone, which will come in hand for your ride home when you want to plug the phone into your car.
  • Wi Fi Backup – Now you don’t even have to connect your device to a computer to do your backups! When you go to sleep at night, your device will automatically back itself up over your home wireless network.

My two cents

I love the concept of cloud computing because it’s less hardware for me to own and that means less trouble when it comes to connecting devices and making sure that every computer has all of my updated files. I’m happy to know that iCloud still has many of the features I wanted to use when MobileMe came out, but didn’t want to pay for. We have yet to see what kind of “premium” services iCloud will bring to the table, but as it stands now, I think the free, basic service will be just enough for my usage.

Apple iOS 5

Not much is known at this time about what iOS 5 will bring to Apple’s devices, but one this that is becoming certain is that Apple plans to bring software updates directly to your device “over-the-air”.

Currently, you have to plug into iTunes, wait for a 600MB+ download to finish and then proceed with the backup, sync and update of your device. With iOS 5, Apple could send updates like this right over the 3G network. The problem as you might imagine is the 600MB file size!

With AT&T already capping their data transfer rates, consumers could potentially exceed their cap without even knowing how or why. This is all of course if the carriers go for the idea anyway. One way that Apple could “sell” the idea to them is to have many more, smaller updates be released over various lengths of time.

On the surface, this idea doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, it sounds rather convenient for those on the go, but that’s all relative as to how the updates would implement. As it stands now, updates require the phone to not be in use and then a full restart follows the software installation. I can’t imagine what it might be like if iOS 5 needed to restart every day after seemingly insignificant updates. However, for anyone that runs OSX knows, there are few updates that don’t require a system restart!

Another question up for debate is whether a new iPhone will be released with iOS 5. AT&T has already been quoted as saying: “Apple has informed us that they do not plan to release the iPhone in the June to July timeframe.”

Others have speculated that a new iPhone might be in the works for a September release and it may only be a refresher phone much like the 3GS was in comparison to the 3G. Personally, it doesn’t matter to me. I’ll be waiting either way. I like the iPhone 4 and I can’t see any major reason to upgrade anytime soon.