iOS 5 hands on: How iCloud works with the iPhone

As per the October 4 launch of the iPhone 4S, a look at iOS 5 -- which offers deep iCloud integration.
Topic: Apple
1 of 42 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

iOS 5 is the most advanced Apple mobile operating system to date, boasting over 200 brand new features and improvements. But arguably, iOS 5 is the killer feature behind the next-generation iPhone 4S, and perhaps even the upcoming iPhone 5 -- expected in 2012 or 2013.

This gallery will walk you through the hands-on experience of using iOS 5, in what it can do and getting started. In this gallery, we will be using a 4th generation iPod touch.

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Location Services are core to the experience of using iOS, allowing weather, maps  and other features to be activated by where you are. It also compliments certain features within applications, such as Facebook, allowing you to check in to where you are.

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Naturally, the iPhone 4S (and all other iPhone versions) will include 3G capability. In this case, however, we can connect to a Wi-Fi network to get the most out of iOS 5. 

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Because iOS 5 has native iCloud integration, we can set up our new device from an iCloud backup, or restore it from iTunes. In this case, we're going to set it up as a new device so you can see all the iCloud related stuff. 

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Your Apple ID is core to the iOS 5 experience, allowing all of your content to be synchronised from your Mac, your iPhone or any other iOS device, as well as iCloud. It keeps your content connected, and your iTunes up to date.

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Entering your Apple ID will allow your iOS 5 device to keep up to date with applications you have bought, and download them straight to your device.

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In some cases, due to the new iCloud improvements, you may be asked to link a new email address to your iCloud account. But this can, of course, be the same email address you use for existing iCloud users, old MobileMe users or another email address of your choosing.

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The terms and conditions must be agreed to before you continue. You can always have these sent to you by email, considering the terms are extremely lengthy. Many don't read them anyway, as popularised in a recent South Park episode.

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But Apple makes sure that you read as much as you can -- asking you again whether you want to proceed. Of course, you don't sign away your life and soul to Apple, but it's better to cover your back nonetheless.

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Depending on the speed of your cellular network or wireless network, it may take a few minutes to set up your Apple ID with your new phone. This streams content, applications and iTunes purchases through to your iPhone or iPod touch.

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iCloud is the main feature in iOS 5, which brings your contacts, calendars and all of your other content to your devices. Though you have the option to opt-out of using iCloud, for the sake of this gallery and all that is holy in iOS 5, we're going to go ahead and use it.

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You also have the option to 'Time Machine' your iOS 5 device, by allowing iCloud to back up your device on a daily basis. You can always have it back up to your computer, if you do not want to back up your device to the cloud.

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"Find my iPhone" allows you to use iCloud on a Mac or PC, or use another iOS device to locate your device should you lose it behind the sofa or elsewhere. You can also buzz your phone with a sound, a message or remotely lock or wipe it.

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Diagnostics help make future iOS operating systems better and more functional. Having said that, there is no reason to use it if you do not want to. It can also take up wireless data, so in this case it is being opted-out of.

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Once you have gone through the setup steps, you are ready to use your new iOS 5 device: dubbed "the most advanced iOS ever". 

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But don't panic if you don't see any major improvements yet. There are a few additions, over 200 features in fact, for which will become apparent as this gallery runs through a few of them. The main screen looks mostly the same from previous versions of iOS, so the vast majority of users will not be thrown off at a wild tangent.

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Twitter is deeply integrated into the new iOS 5. Though there is little sign of Facebook, other than being able to download it through the iTunes App Store, Twitter is natively ready to go and be installed.

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It will appear, once you begin downloading it, on the main screen. Depending on your mobile network speed or your wireless network at home or work, it may take a few seconds or a few minutes to download. Once it is installed, you will be able to tweet almost anything from anywhere else in iOS 5.

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The settings show the core of what is new in iOS 5 -- particularly that of iCloud and Twitter integration. Instead of falling to the rest of the application settings, Twitter takes pride of place in the main box of settings, along with FaceTime, Safari and the new Messages feature.

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Jumping into iCloud, we can see the main account is already linked to the device as per the setup menu. You can synchronise your @me.com email account, your contacts, calendars, reminders, bookmarks and notes, as well as your photos and other content. You can always switch these off, however.

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To get going with iCloud Mail, you have to set up your email address, or link in one that is already associated with your account. Because one has not been created yet (since MobileMe stopped introducing new customers), we can go along and set one up here.

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Provided it has not been taken already, we can set up a new email address here, using the @me.com email address.

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You can synchronise a vast amount of content associated with iCloud, including your documents and data, which includes Pages, Keynote and other Apple software. You can also remotely manage your storage and backup solution here, too.

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Photo Stream turned on allows you to upload your photos automatically to iCloud and download them to all of your devices. So, you can take a photo on your iPod touch or iPhone and it will near instantly appear on your Mac or other iOS devices, too.

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iCloud also lets you upload your Pages, Keynote and Numbers documents and other data in the cloud, letting you take your documents with you wherever you go. Think of it a bit like SkyDrive, except Apple is now jumping on the cloud computing bandwagon.

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iCloud storage and backup management also comes to iOS 5. Considering the mobile device is the core of everything that iCloud focuses on, it makes sense that you can manage how much storage you have from your iOS 5 device, as well as increasing the space you have. 

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iCloud users are given 5 GB free to use. It may not seem like much, but it goes a surprisingly long way. It synchronises your music (kind of -- with iTunes Match, it doesn't upload your music directly per se, just "knows" which music files to download) and other content, like pictures, documents and other data.

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As users are given 5 GB free, it goes a long way. Having said that, you can store even more data, documents and photos to the iCloud by purchasing even more storage. At 10 GB, 20 GB and 50 GB additions, add on your free 5GB and you can have a lot of data space at your disposal. Also, for what you are getting, it's surprisingly cheap.

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You can buy more iCloud storage on the go, as well. If you are ever running short, all you have to do is confirm how much you want, and enter your password -- and in most cases, it can update you automatically and instantly.

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iCloud storage can be updated almost instantly, usually within a few seconds. Because you should already have your Apple ID and payment cards already stored in your device, it should be as easy as tapping a few buttons and you are set.

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In some cases, you may need to verify your payment information, especially if you are a first time iCloud user. Don't worry -- you are still given the final option of whether you want to buy more storage at the end.

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Your payment information is securely pushed to your device. This is all protected by your Apple ID password, so others cannot just pick up your phone and access it. 

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Here's the confirmation message -- allowing you to proceed and buy more storage. Your storage space will be reserved straight away, and reflected on your device within a few moments.

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Taking the first option to buy an additional 10 GB of data now pushes the total content of space I can use up to 15 GB. Apple includes the free 5 GB as part of the total amount.

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As you can see at the bottom of the screen, it is instantly updated with the amended amount of data at your disposal. With more space, you can now backup your iPhone or iPod touch, as well as your other iCloud related data. It even tells you how much data will be used in the backup size, and displays a meter at the bottom showing how much data you have space on iCloud.

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iTunes Wi-Fi Sync allows you to synchronise your iTunes with your iPhone or iPod touch over your local wireless network. It includes applications you have downloaded, photos, ringtones, movies and iTunes U (podcasts for university students) too.

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Notifications are a new feature, similar to that of Android or BlackBerry phones, allowing you to see all of your notifications -- from text messages to missed phone calls, Facebook, Twitter and other applications -- all in one place. 

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For email notifications, you have the option to display 'traditional' notifications as alerts, or you can display them as banners. They ultimately show as part of the Notification area as you slide from top-of-the-screen downwards.

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iTunes in iOS 5 has remained vastly unchanged, but it does offer a few surprises. You can of course have iCloud integration, and it will offer iTunes Match -- allowing you to download better quality music from your pirated music collection, if there is one available.

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Newsstand is similar to iBooks in a way, but allows you to download up to date magazines and newspapers in the App Store.

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Looking at the Notification Area, you can see that reminders from your calendar automatically display, and remind you (obviously) to do something. It also displays stock and share prices and the local weather. The weather widget is updated based on your location, if you choose to enable the service.

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Reminders are a new feature in iOS. They act similarly to Tasks in Exchange/Outlook for Microsoft users, but synchronises with iCloud. One feature that seems to be missing, however, is the ability to geo-remind, by tagging your location -- and once you move from that location, to alert the user of that reminder. Never mind.

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