June 08, 2011, 9:58 AM — On Monday, Apple introduced its iCloud wireless data sync service at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference.
So what exactly is iCloud? How does it compare to MobileMe? How much will it cost? We answer these questions--and many more--below. Because much of iCloud won't be up and running until this fall when iOS 5 ships, there will still be lots of unanswerable questions, but here's everything you need to know right now.
What is iCloud?
iCloud is Apple's name for a number of Internet-based services for syncing files and data across iOS devices, Macs, and PCs.
Isn't that what MobileMe does?
Yes and no. iCloud will offer some of the same features as MobileMe, but not all, and it will add new features, as well.
What does this mean for MobileMe?
MobileMe will be going the way of the dodo. More on that in a bit.
What does iCloud offer?
As with MobileMe, iCloud can sync your contacts, calendars, e-mail, and Safari bookmarks between iOS devices and computers. But it will also offer document storage, photo storage, and music-syncing features, along with backup features for iOS devices.
Will iCloud store and back up any file I want it to?
Not quite. Apple says that iCloud will sync documents created with Apple's apps (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, for example) as well as any third-party apps that are adapted to take advantage of iCloud. Presumably, most iOS and Mac developers will get on the iCloud bandwagon, but there will be a transition period where some apps will sync with iCloud and others won't. That means users will need to be careful not to assume that all their files are automatically saved to iCloud, because only some apps will do the job.
How much will I be able to store on iCloud?
5GB. That covers mail, documents, and backup. Purchased music, apps, books, and Photo Stream photos (more on that below--won't count against your 5GB limit.
What if I need more storage? Will there be a way to pay for more?
It looks like there will be. In the iOS 5 beta, buried within the iCloud section of the Settings app is a "Buy More Storage" button. Which makes a lot of sense, since some users will hit that 5GB ceiling rather easily. The Dropbox cloud-storage and file syncing service offers 2GB of storage for free, and charges $10 per month for 50 GB or $20 per month for 100 GB. Apple will probably offer extra storage at similar prices.