I’ve always wanted to write this post. I’ve spent years evolving my technology-based home media setup, and for some reason, instead of writing a long blog post about it I ended up posting it on The Verge forums, and you can find it here:
It provides a brief overview of the various components of my setup, and what it can do, from acting as a central iTunes hub, to allowing for remote streaming of movies and TV shows, to hosting a VPN server for secure web browsing anywhere in the world. Since this blog is really the spiritual home of a piece of content like this, you can find the post in its entirety below.
So the iPhone 5 has been announced and if you are reading this you probably know the deal. Taller screen, better display and camera, lighter, thinner, faster, bettery battery – you get the idea. All in all a very solid upgrade on the 4S. I’m not one for ‘reviews’ so instead I thought I’d do a post on the specific things that I think stand out, both positive and negative, from a hardware and software perspective.
Two factors are starting to have a major impact on the seamlessness of the technology experience: our increased usage of social media and the growing number of ‘screens’ we utilise.
The problem that I am starting to perceive is that all our devices are configured by default to receive alerts from the various services we subscribe to. For example, when someone replies to one of my tweets, I receive an email alert in my inbox and an iOS notification on my iPhone and iPad.
There are still loads of glaringly stupid things about using iOS that never get mentioned, so I thought I’d write this. This could be an ever-evolving post, but more likely I’ll get bored and move on so here it is, my stupid list of Apple stupidity.
Apple’s iCloud is now live, and provides syncing services to keep your data up to date across your iDevices and Macs. This includes contacts, mail and calendars, which is interesting to me as Google Sync has been providing the same service, on Apple devices, for a while now.
The question is, which service is better? Short answer? Google Sync. Why? Because Google Sync not only supports syncing across PCs and Android phones as well as Macs and iDevices, but that it also provides a more integrated approach when you are accessing your data on the web.
iCloud.com is very pretty, but if you are a regular Google Mail user you will appreciate the simplicity and speed of the webmail interface. Contacts and Calendars tie in very nicely with this, whereas the iCloud interface is very glossy and pretty but slower to use and, to be honest, immature. It is new and requires time to evolve.
Currently I can’t see any reason to choose iCloud syncing of contacts, calendars and mail when Google Sync does all of this better, faster and with a wider range of supported devices.
Apple has announced the most major software overhaul of its iOS devices in years – iOS 5 and iCloud. iCloud in particular represents a dramatic change in philosophy for Apple and data storage – they are truly embracing the cloud but in a way that is so effortless it almost doesn’t exist. As Apple put it in the keynote, “it just works”.
What was interesting to me was how much of iCloud’s functionality seems to be targeted at converting users who own iDevices but whose data resides with Google. Google’s email, calendar and contact services are all iOS-friendly and allow for instant syncing across not only iDevices but also the web and many other phone OSs. I can add a contact to my iPhone, then log into Google Contacts on the web and the new contact will already be there, using Google’s own hosted Exchange servers.
By adding this functionality into iOS 5 it does look like Apple are looking to draw more users away from Google and get more user tie-in to their ecosystem in the process.
Question is, will iCloud data be viewable on the web or on Windows or non-authorized PCs? I use web-based Gmail all day at work. If I signed up to an @me address, would I be able to check my email anywhere or just on an iDevice/Mac? If Apple want to steal away Google users, they need to replicate ALL the functionality, including sharing calendars on the web and not just on iDevices.
I have been holding out on subscribing to Spotify to see what Apple came up with yesterday at WWDC 2011, but it looks like Spotify still has the upper hand for certain use-cases.
With iCloud there is still a fundamental reliance on physically-stored data. To listen to a song you need to have a local copy stored on your device. All that iCloud does is let’s you sync it to other devices automatically behind the scenes.
Spotify, Google and Amazon have all embraced, in my opinion, a far truer representation of the “cloud” – you don’t have to physically own what you want to listen to. Your music is stored in the cloud only and streamed to your device.
The additional advantage of Spotify’s approach is that you only have a 2 step process to listen to any song (even one you don’t own) – you search for it, then play it. iTunes still relies on you to purchase the item first, download it, and then listen to it. This doesn’t seem very ‘cloudy’ to me.
iCloud also syncs documents. Again, the reliance is still on having physical copies of documents and other data on your local devices, which is then instantly pushed to other devices. Google Docs, for example, goes one step further by allowing you to directly edit the document in the cloud, so no local syncing is even required.
These are two very different visions of the cloud. Apple sees the cloud as a way of ensuring all your physically owned/stored data is replicated in real time across devices, whereas Amazon, Google etc see it as a way of removing the need for you to physically store this data in the first place. In my mind the latter is the more forward-thinking approach but there are limitations (offline editing for example). It’s just a pity that Google’s strategy isn’t orientated towards releasing refined solutions like Apple, so we may not see a really slick implementation of this purely cloud-based approach for some time.
I have no idea which method will prevail, but I find it suspect that Apple highlighted Google and Amazon as direct competitors when their services differ in such a fundamental way.