Monday, October 17, 2011

iCloud for families

I watched through Facebook as my friends and acquaintances struggled through their iOS5 upgrades the day that it came out and I told myself that they were all crazy and that upgrading to iOS5 in the first few days was a mistake.  Let someone else figure out all the issues.  I upgraded my iPad that night, of course.  The upgrade went very smoothly, but required some of patience.  It does a backup, upgrade, restore, then re-installs all the apps and media as a separate step and is not very clear that it is still processing so your may think that it is hung when it is not and stop the process early.  All in all though it went fine.  Now I will qualify that the iPad was only 2 weeks old so I really didn't care if I screwed it up, so it was a safe upgrade. I managed to wait 5 days to do my iPhone. 

The most confusing part of the upgrade is the addition of iCloud for wireless syncing and backups.  If you only own a single device and have a single iTunes account then the process is pretty simple, but really, who only own a single device and has a single account these days?  In my case I have an iPhone 4 and iPad 2, and 2 of my kids each own an iPhone 3GS, and we have another iPad 1 for the family and 2 iPod touches (though these are 1st generation devices and can't use the cloud).  I have 2 iTunes accounts, one for myself and one for my wife.  I usually use mine to sync all the devices.

I would like this setup such that that the devices that I use can share documents and bookmarks and photo's and such, but do not share with the kids accounts.  The kids phones should only sync with themselves, as should the iPad 1.  All of our devices will use the same iTunes account so that we can share apps.  I think that covers everything.

I have all my devices set to NOT automatically install music, apps or books since not everyone would want to install everything that everyone else purchases (ok, I admit it, I purchase the explicit versions of songs and don't want the kids to have them automatically).  Instead, apps can be downloaded selectively on each device by using the 'Purchased' tab on the App store.  Note that apple has quietly (at least I had not heard) added a 'Purchased' tab to the iTunes store as well, so you can download purchased music and video to up to 10 devices linked to the iTunes account.  Gone are the days of purchasing, downloading, syncing, and they syncing to every device you want it on... maybe.  In theory, with the ability to reinstall media and such from the various 'Purchased' tabs, you don't really need to sync to your local computer anymore, except that it may be easier to add or restore a bunch of apps and music by syncing than it is by downloading.

So far I have only setup my iPad and my iPhone for syncing and it appears to be working properly.  The first backup takes some time, subsequent backups are differential and go pretty fast.  They should run automatically at night when you are plugged in and locked, or you can run them manually.

One cool note, I read on my phone a lot using iBooks and have always had a bit of Kindle envy in that I wanted be able to open my books on any device and be on the same page, which kindle does automatically for books purchased from the kindle store (not from personal content though which was a show stopper for me) and iCloud appears to accomplish this between my iPhone and iPad (though I cannot seem to determine the auto sync interval).  And this is one place that I think that I will still need to sync since most of my books are purchased outside of iBooks, converted to iPub, then loaded into iBooks through the Sync process.  I am not sure how I can get not iBooks content into iBooks without syncing.  I guess I'll tackle that soon.

So, the family iCloud setup summary according to Justin is:

- Separate iCloud account for each user with each user's devices syncing to their account.
- Single iTunes account for the Family so that apps and music can be shared.
- Backup to the cloud (who really remembers to backup their devices, right Leslie)
 (note: I use exchange for my contacts, calendar and reminders so I am not backing these up to the cloud).
- Do not automatically download purchased content, get it manually.
I see that I have the ability to have multiple iCloud accounts on a device.  It may be possible to consolidate the backups all onto one account, but allow the bookmarks and document syncing and such all take place on a separate account for the kids so that we do not mix things, though I think that I would prefer to not have my iCloud account anywhere on their phones so that they cannot inadvertently access my content.  I'll have to play around with this a little to see what makes the most sense.

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