Could iOS5 Eliminate the Need for iTunes Sync? Could iCloud Include Facebook-Style Apps? [Speculation]


Concept mockup of new iCloud service

In an unprecedented move, last Tuesday Apple outlined what they would be announcing at next week’s WWDC keynote. This, in combination with plenty of plausible rumors floating round the blogosphere, leaves little left to speculate about. But I’m going to have a go anyway. I think the main theme for iOS5 will be independence from iTunes and the Mac/PC, and the big surprise for iCloud will be Facebook-style apps.

Read on after the break.

Currently in order to set up or to backup an iOS device, you have to hook it up to a Mac or PC with a USB cable. This may be acceptable for iPhones, but it is very limiting for iPads, which are increasingly used as a replacement for a regular computer. In order for the iPad to achieve its true potential, it must be freed from its USB umbilical cord to iTunes.

That is why I predict that the main theme of iOS5 will be to liberate your devices from iTunes syncing. And iCloud will perform a core component of this strategy…

iCloud Sync (Goodbye iTunes & USB)

The iCloud logo, revealed at the Moscone Center this week, has a circular brushed metal background that is reminiscent of the old iSync icon’s background – perhaps a clue to iCloud’s syncing role.

A basic free version of iCloud could be available to anyone owning an iOS device running iOS5, enabling you to setup and configure your iPhone/iPad via a web interface, sync it and perform backups via Wi-Fi to Apple’s cloud. This free version could include syncing/back-up of contacts, calendars, preferences, apps and files. I explored the possibility of an iCloud file system for iOS5 in a previous post. Since then, Apple has released an update to the iOS version of iWork, which introduces support for folders, making the idea of an iCloud file system even more likely.

Syncing apps could be very speedy because they could be auto-matched with the master copies on Apple’s servers, so they don’t need to be transferred.

iTunes for iCloud

For an extra fee, as rumored, you could use iTunes for iCloud to sync your music to the cloud, using the auto-matching method. Music synced to iTunes for iCloud could then be transferred to up to five authorized devices (and possibly unlimited iOS devices).

iCloud Apps (Think Facebook Apps)

The revamped version of could become a virtual version of iOS, with a new app-launcher home screen, and the ability to run web versions of iOS apps. One of the WWDC announcements could be an API to enable developers to produce versions of their apps that can run on (similar to Facebook Apps or Google App Engine). This will enable users to access data contained in their apps online, even when they don’t have their device to hand. Apps that store user data like passwords, accounting, fitness, dieting etc are all natural candidates for iCloud apps.

iPod and iWork for iCloud

While third party apps may be the big story for iCloud, Apple will likely get the ball rolling with some apps of its own. In addition to the apps that already come with, as rumored, they could add a new iPod app that enables users to listen to all their music streamed over the Internet, (providing they’ve subscribed to iTunes for iCloud).

iWork for iCloud will take the fight to Google, with the first serious competitor to Google Docs. The big advantage of iWork for iCloud over Google Docs is its tight integration with the iPhone, iPad and Mac versions, offering the best of both worlds (web and native apps), with access to your documents, whichever platform you are using, whether you’re online or offline.

iPhoto for iPad and iCloud

In order for iOS5 to fully liberate the iPad from syncing with a PC, it needs to enable users to do more than just view their photos. It needs to offer full iPhoto functionality so that you can organize your photos directly on your iPad. That’s why in iOS5, I anticipate the Photos app will be replaced with a fully fledged iPhoto app.  Any while we’re at it, why not offer an iCloud version of the app, that could give sites such as Flickr and Picassa a run for their money?

What do you think?

This is all just guesswork and speculation for fun, and yes, the pic above is only a Photoshop mockup. What do you guys think? The comments section is below… you know what to do…

  • pirodeity

    i like the possibility of iCloud Apps, but in this instance i hope they don’t let developers create their own – there’s literally no need for Angry Birds for iCloud.
    where did you get the iCloud image at the top from btw?

  • theoPhobia

    But if, for example, game center used it, then you could sync game saves (and other things) between devices. It is pretty annoying now, having to start all over when moving between iPhone and iPad for the same game.

  • Adrian Park

    Losing the USB cable is inevitable, if not now then soon. iTunes for iCloud would make me very happy as I could revive my MP3 collection which has been gathering dust since Spotify. Using space on a mobile device for music is just passé!

  • Hampus

    The part of getting rid of iTunes syncing I wonder the most about would be podcasts.
    They have to make it so subscriptions synchronize across all device and also a podcasts watched or unwatched status synchronizes between devices so something i watched on my computer doesn’t show as unwatched on my iPhone.

    As for iCloud/MobileMe, I hope they make the simpler functions as mail, calendar and idrive free, having tightly integrated services working with your device is a great selling point, but not when they cost 100/year and you can get the same stuff (just not quite as integrated but almost) for free from other providers.
    That the music part has to have a cost is understandable but the rest really doesn’t.

  • foster

    I think that iCloud is not neccessarily going to provide ‘apps’ for your data.

    As we know, Apple’s strategy is to provide a complete eco-system, mac, ipad, iphone and appletv.

    I think that iCloud will be mainly a system for syncing your data across these various devices be it app data, or media. The iPhone, iPad and mac all have the app store, and I think that Apple strategy is to have dedicated apps on each of the devices, rather than web-based, but will use iCloud to enable developers to sync each instance of the app that a user has.

    This goes for media, such as music, films and TV too, where all the data will be stored in the cloud, making it accessible across all your devices.

    The strategy is to have your data centralised in the cloud, and making it accessible from all the devices in the apple eco-system, with specialised apps designed for each device, not having a web-app (except for some basic functionalities such as mail, calender, current mobileme).

  • Hampus

    Yea, game save syncing would be awesome, a few games actually have it but it would be neat if gamecenter could provide such a feature for any and all games using it.

  • Leon Green

    Totally agree about replacing Photos with iPhoto on the iOS device range. I’d love it if along with this they added instragram/photoforge style image enhancements such as filters, frames, lens effects too. It would make the app a real competitor in the growing market of mobile photography.

  • aramishero

    iCloud is a Media and Document storage and player. That’s simple.

  • grahambower

    The image is a MacPredictions/Cult of Mac original mockup. Did it myself. Totally agree there’s no need for Angry Birds for iCloud. I’d see it more for apps like 1Password, Wallet, Things, Scanner Pro, etc…

  • Peter Obermeier

    Sounds all great. This “Speculations” show that there is more than just streaming of music in the could.
    The web based iWork could replace “ beta” and enable all users to see the Keynote documents in full beauty, even for windows users. 

    And, yes, same with iPhoto. That is really missing and over due.

    Thank you for sharing.   

  • prof_peabody

    There’s a lot of really wild and crazy *guessing* here.  

    Rumours should get more conservative and more concrete as we get closer to the date, not the other way around, and they should be based on *something.*

  • Ozzie Apple Boy

    Agreed. Stuff this stupid cable syncing and storage i love the idea of wireless syncing, potentially OTA updates and the iCloud access of photos, files etc etc is awesome.

    I am so pumped for all these potential ideas I really hope Apple blows us away here. They slightly re-did photos in iOS 4 but seriously who uses the events or places tab. I personally think iPhoto will come to iPad and i guess iPhone but it’ll be paid for. Apple does need to generate a profit here guys…like iMovie

    But giving basic users (free of charge i mean) syncing OTA and the ideas u mentioned sounds so effective. PLEASEEEEEE wireless syncing! JB has it for pete sakes!

  • Vicente

    Goodbye cable? Only if they put inductive charging in it finally.

    I don’t know about y’all, but I have to connect a cable daily for charging.

  • davidafenton


  • kcdk99

    Totally love this concept. It would be awesome to have files automatically synced across computers and available online.  On whatever device or wherever I went I would be able to access my programs and files without having to go “back to my Mac” or download individual files.

  • Allan Cook

    Some or all of this may come to pass tomorrow. All of it will be commonplace in two to five years and there will be one system app for mobile and less-mobile devices. We’re almost done with cables, disk drives and synching in iTunes.

  • IDontWorkAtApple

    I have it on good authority that one major surprise tomorrow will be that data sent/received between iDevices and iCloud will NOT count against your data plan limits!  (Initially only in US.)  Apple has cut a side deal with AT&T & Verizon to compensate them for the cost of any data sent through their mobile network to/from iCloud.   

  • cheesy1

    i could live without the itunes sync but then again i expect it to be around forr awhile

  • Aric

    My guess is the Apple TV won’t be left out of the loop either. Think about it, iCloud seems like a perfect fit for a device which now only has as small amount of internal storage. All your films, music and photos seemlessly transfered directly from Apples servers. I think what the article speculates about apps coming to icloud could be spot on too. The apple TV is crying out for apps. BBC iPlayer app, 4oD and TED, steamed to your TV needs to happen.

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  • Martin Topinka

    i think that all these [speculative] new features are too nice to be true, but maybe i’ll be nicely surprised.

  • lemoon

    Hmm, Im so surprised and excited about the iOS 5 update! The iCloud is so cool, would be a amazing Media and Document storage and player, then maybe I don’t need to do repeating conversion with my iFunia video converter to different device~