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Tech Talk: The iCloud: How does it work?

Computer HardwareApple iCloudApple iPhoneTechnology IndustryApple iPadApple iPodApple Worldwide Developers Conference

This month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the coming of the iCloud. A free service launching this fall, which will be essentially a replacement for its surprisingly mediocre MobileMe. Jobs says that the iCloud "just works," but until it actually gets out of beta, we won't know for sure.

But, I've been playing around with the beta version of it and so far I'm extremely impressed.

Essentially, here's how it works.

For music: Let's say that a few years ago you bought Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" record from the iTunes store. You're out on a jog and you have a craving to hear "The Boys Are Back In Town," but it's not on your iPhone. In the pre-iCloud world, you would have to go back home and plug your iPhone back into your computer and sync your phone, and load that song into it.

But now, guess what! While you're running around in Riverside Park, just go into the iTunes app on your phone, do a quick search, and redownload it for free!

That's not the only thing Jobs is promising though. Let's say, you just discovered Thin Lizzy. You go into the iTunes store, and buy one of their greatest hits records. You see it download on your phone, and at the same exact time, it's downloading on your iPad, and your computer! Every device that's signed up with your iTunes account will have that song downloaded onto it.

"That's great, Dave," you're probably saying. "But my copy of Whitesnake's 'Slide It In' is in my iTunes from the old CD that I have. If I'm out and about and I really want to listen to 'Love Ain't No Stranger,' and it's not on my iPhone, what options do I have?"

Well, you're in luck because Apple is going to be offering a subscription service called "iTunes Match." For $25 a year, every song in your library, up to 25,000 songs, that you didn't purchase from iTunes but is available for sale in the store will be made available to you to download and redownload as well.

As far as that bootleg CD of that Motley Crue concert from 1986 though, guess what, you'll be able to store that in the iCloud as well. Apple is offering 5 gigs of space to all of its customers for storage. "But Dave, I have 365 gigs worth of music!" That's ok! Everything you bought from iTunes and your iTunes match songs do not count against that 5 gigs of storage!

For photos: Now this is where things start to get even cooler. Ever been talking to someone about that time you dressed your dog up like Darth Vader and you thought you had the picture to sure your friend and it wasn't there? Well with iCloud it will be. In fact, with iCloud, when you take that picture with your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, it's not only saved on your device, it's sent automatically to all your other devices and your PC. No longer will you have to wait for the email to load and for the email to send. With iCloud, it will be there faster than you can spell "Supercalafragalisticexpealadocious"

For Contacts, Calendar, and email. All synced automatically. Update your iCal? Make a change? Add a contact? Delete a contact? Jobs promises that these three apps in the cloud will be synced consistently and accurately.

"But why should we believe them? These are the same guys who brought us MobileMe!" Jobs quipped at the WWDC this week. While I'm sure that iCloud will not be nearly the same disaster that MobileMe was (when the subscription cloud-like service, for all intents and purposes, basically didn't work as promised), what I'm really curious about is what this constant syncing will do to the battery life of the devices. Even though the battery of the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 is pretty good, when the phone is constantly active, like it will be now, the battery will really be really taking a hit.

However, I don't think that will deter a lot of people though. There's chargers at home, chargers in the car, chargers at your desk...come to think of it, are these cell phones ever not plugged in? Makes you wonder sometimes why you ever got rid of that landline.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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