While the new iCloud service from Apple is garnering attention for the ability to use the cloud to keep your devices in sync with apps, music, documents and more, it’s not the first time these features are available. Apple has done a good job of pulling these services together, but if you want to replicate iCloud on Android you can do it with the help of a few apps.
How to Get an iCloud Experience on Android
Google has been out in the lead on this one for a while with free online backup and access to your Contacts, Calendar and Mail. The Gmail experience is an integral part of Android and because of this you get a much better Gmail experience on Android.
All of your contacts, calendars and email are stored in the cloud and accessible with your Gmail account. Changes made on one device will automatically be made across your other devices.
On Android you can choose to back your apps up to the cloud from most phones. On older devices and occasionally on very tweaked devices you can’t backup to the Google Servers, but on most new devices you can sign into a new Android smartphone and within a few minutes your apps will start downloading from Google to your device. This also works if you grab a new Google Android tablet and sign in.
The best option in this space is to use the free Google Docs app which will connect to your online Google Docs account to provide on the go access to word documents, spreadsheets and presentations. You can edit word documents and spreadsheets, but presentations are limited to view only. For most users this will be enough, since it is difficult to edit a presentation on such a small screen.
As an added bonus, you can take a picture of a document to create a word document. This feature isn’t perfect, but it is pretty handy.
Music – Google Music, Amazon or Rhapsody
On the music side, you can go with Amazon Cloud Music or Google Music as free options, which will work with your own music. You will need to upload your own files which can be a pain. Amazon works similar to iTunes in regards to music you purchase from the service.
If you want a similar wireless syncing to iTunes feature, you need to checkout DoubleTwist which offers the ability to sync songs, photos and videos to your Android device from the DoubleTwist desktop app. If you want to sync Android to iTunes without wires, DoubleTwist Air Sync is your best option. This is best if you have a collection of DRM free music you want to sync to Android.
The best solution I have found is Rhapsody. For a monthly subscription of $9.99 you can get access to over 10 million songs on your Android smartphone or tablet. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can also grab access there too. The service is great because you can get almost any song and you can stream them or download for playback later. If you have an iTunes library already built up Rhapsody will scan your computer to find matched songs that can be added to your Rhapsody library and accessible on your Android device with the Rhapsody app. You can read more about my music habits and preferences to help put this pick in perspective.
Photos – SugarSync
The iOS 5 Photo Stream service, which streams your photos to the cloud and makes them accessible on an array of devices is pretty cool. We have been doing something similar with our photos on Android with the SugarSync app. This app will automatically upload your photos to SugarSync and then on to your computer or accessible with the SugarSync app on the iPad or other tablets.
You can get 5GB of free SugarSync storage and there is an option to only upload over WiFi connections which is great if you are on a limited data plan.
On the book side of things, you can use an array of book services to keep your purchases and pages in sync. Personally I have been using Kindle to purchase and keep books in sync across devices, but Google Books and the Nook app are both good options.
To the Cloud – Why You Should Use the Cloud
It’s great to see Apple bringing the cloud to more consumers, mainly because losing data due to device failures or lost devices is horrible. It’s also a great move because you can avoid the need to plug your device in all the time. While Android users already have many of these options, the extras, especially photos, is an important addition to make.
No matter which OS you love, iOS or Android, we should celebrate the competition as it only results in more features and improved user interfaces over time.