Like the look of iCloud & iOS 5 but using an Android device? Here's how to take advantage of some iCloud-like alternatives on your chosen device.
The announcement of new features in iOS 5 and iCloud has given the iPhone the shot in the arm that it needed to stay competitive with Android and other mobile operating systems. Does this mean it has leap-frogged over the competition? It depends on who you ask, but those in Team Android don’t have anything to worry about. Most of the features in iOS 5 – particularly over-the-air software updates, notifications, and Twitter integration – have been available in Android for some time now, and in respect to the latter two, are arguably better-implemented. Most of the rest of the features in iOS 5 and iCloud can easily be added with third party software.
Perhaps the biggest new feature in iOS 5 is iCloud. This has a number of features, which we’ll go through one by one – starting with the ones that Android already offers. The ability to see past app purchases has been included in Android from day one, as has the push synchronisation of mail, calendar and contacts through Gmail. Android doesn’t have an iBooks equivalent that works in Australia (Google Books is available in other regions), but the Amazon Kindle app (available for all mobile platforms, as well as Mac and PC) offers the same ability to automatically sync last page read, bookmarks, annotations and purchased books across devices that iCloud does.
Android still wins the sharing stakes: a share menu option is nearly always available.
iCloud’s Photo Stream feature seamlessly syncs any photos that you’ve taken on one device to all of your other devices so you don’t have to go to the hassle of manually transferring them over. Android doesn’t have this feature (although any photos in your online Picasa album show up on your phone), but SugarSync for Android does, and surprisingly, this feature was available over a month before Apple announced it at the WWDC! The only difference is that it extends beyond photos – you can also specify different folders to apply the auto-sync feature, so you could include your documents folder (which takes care of iCloud’s ‘Documents in the Cloud’ feature, especially since it saves the last five versions of each file and works with any document editing software), and music folder (another iCloud feature), as well as any other folders you specify.
Like iCloud, SugarSync offers a free 5GB account, and you can easily upgrade to a 10GB account for free using their ‘TrialPay’ scheme, or 30GB for $50 a year. It also offers business-friendly features that iCloud doesn’t, such as the ability to share files and folders with other people. The one thing SugarSync can’t match iCloud in is backing up your app data, homescreen and app organisation and text messages. But again, there are third party apps that offer all these features, such as Sprite Mobile Backup for saving your text messages and call records.
SugarSync offers a free 5GB account and you can upgrade to 10 or even 30GB.
iMessage is another powerful new feature that tackles BlackBerry’s BBM messaging service head-on, offering a way to easily send messages and photos to other iPhone and iPad users over 3G or Wi-Fi so you don’t have to pay for SMS. But really, why lock yourself into messaging only friends with iPhones (or BlackBerrys, for that matter)? WhatsApp Messenger offers the same features as iMessage and BBM, only it’s available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Symbian smartphones too.
The ability to tweet from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube and Maps in iOS 5 pales in comparison to Android’s powerful sharing capabilities. From almost any stock Android and third party application, a ‘share’ or ‘share via’ menu option is available to share what you’re currently viewing with other people, and this extends beyond Twitter to many other third party applications and services (depending on the content you’re trying to share) like Evernote, Facebook, Dropbox, Gmail and Messaging.