So what is iCloud?  Well, it used to be called Mobile Me, but it wasn’t automatic and it cost $100 a year.   But starting next month, iCloud is Free.  And simply put, it’s your archive online.  It stores everything you want and syncs it to every device you need, whether your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac, or PC.  You take a picture at Disneyland of the kids with Mickey?  iCloud will automatically sync it to you Desktop at home.  Get a new client’s information with a fist bump to your iPhone?  It’s automatically synced to both your iPad and Desktop.  Download a great song you heard at Starbucks?  It’s on your iPod almost immediately.   And with a simple login, you can transfer all your apps and media to your new iPad from your iPhone.

That’s iCloud.  More than just a hard drive, it’s a syncing service.  And the best part is, it’s free.  Well, up to 5GBs worth that is.  But here’s the kicker on that – your purchased music, apps, books, photos and TV Shows don’t impact your 5GB space.  Just documents you share and CDs you rip.  After that, you need to pay a nominal fee (between $20-100 a year) for more space.  And here’s the awesome thing – with an upgraded plan, you can also just list the CDs you own and iCloud will automatically go get them.  No ripping required.  Man, that’s completely worth the upgrade price!

Although Apple’s iCloud won’t officially launch until Apple releases iOS 5 next month, there are several features which iPhone and iPad fans can enjoy right now. Here’s how …

Finding previously purchased Apps on your iOS device

If you want to re-download an App you’ve purchased before on your iPhone , iPod Touch, or iPad

  1. Go into the app store and navigate to the “updates tab.”
  2. There, you will see a new button called “purchased apps.”
  3. Touch that and it’ll take you to another screen that will list every app you have purchased and downloaded.
  4. There are two tabs – all apps and then apps not on this phone. Find the app you want and then click on the download icon.
  5. The app will begin to download.

Finding previously purchased music on your iOS device

The huge development that iCloud is bringing is that users can now re-download music that they’ve purchased.

  1. Just go to iTunes on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and click on the new “purchased” tab. You will see a listing of all the media you have bought divided up between music, movies, and TV shows. Select.
  2. You will then see two tabs, “All” and again, “Not on this iPhone (or iPad)”. You’ll also see stats on how many you’ve purchased and how recent to break it down further. You will also note your songs broken down by artist and how many purchased.
  3. Select an artist and you will get menu that shows the number of songs and each one listed with a download icon. If it’s on the iPhone or iPad already, it’ll be grayed out with “Downloaded.”
  4. If not, you will see an iCloud icon to redownload it. Or, you can select the “Download All” option at the top of the screen.

Finding previously purchased music/apps in iTunes on your Mac or PC

  1. Enter iTunes and log in.
  2. On the main iTunes page you will see a option on the right that says “Purchased.” Click on it.
  3. You will then see your media broken out into All Media, and Not in my Library. Then, it’ll further be broken out by Music, TV Shows and Movies, Apps and Books. You will then see it further organized, like in your mobile device, by artist and the number of each per artist.
  4. Select your artist and you’ll get a separate page with each song or media broken down and a button to either download or you’ll see you’ve already downloaded. Then you can re-download whatever you’re missing, or turn on automatic downloads and they’ll download immediately without further action.
  5. And in the lower right hand corner you’ll also see a download all button to download anything you’re missing off your desktop. This is advantageous if you’ve bought apps or music directly from your phone and you need to get them onto your desktop as a backup and to enjoy in iTunes directly.

In addition, downloading is complete, the song or app will also be automatically synced to all of the other devices using the same iTunes account via iCloud, for up to 10 devices.

Automatic downloading of previously purchased App/Music

To sync purchases to all your iOS devices and your Desktop, you’ll need to enable Automatic Downloading, and here’s how …

  1. For the iPhone or iPad, go into Settings.
  2. Then, scroll to the Store menu and tap.
  3. There, you can enable automatic downloads and decide if you want to use Cellular as an option to download them over 3G. If this is disabled, you will only be able to download via WiFi.

What to expect in October

And coming in October, users will be able to sync up to 1,000 pictures and videos up to iCloud and share them with those same devices through an app called PhotoStream. Documents, emails, calendars and contacts will also be synced to the cloud through iCloud.

Users will be given 5GB of iCloud storage for free, with additional space charged as follows:

10GB – $20/year
20GB – $40/year
50GB – $100/year

Additionally, users can buy iTunes Match for about $25 a year, with unlimited iCloud storage space and the ability to sync all music, not just purchased but also ripped music from CDs or purchased from other stores like Amazon. And users won’t have to upload them. iCloud will merely scan your iTunes account and add whatever is missing to other iCloud devices – up to 25,000 songs per account. Brilliant!

And the best part is, you don’t have to enable anything except automatic downloads. Starting with iOS 4.3, iCloud functions became available.

James DeRuvo