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Article: Independence Day

by on October 12, 2011

I’m a huge fan of iOS devices in general, but I think that iOS 5 represents something long overdue—the ability to use an iOS device without a computer. This is both something new and something that a few users have been able to skirt for awhile, but I think the fact that it is an official, Apple-sanctioned feature is worth noting for a number of reasons.

Apparently, in the past, about 50% of iPhone users do not back up their devices to a computer. Since the iPhone is the only device of the iPod touch/iPad/iPhone family that is usually activated before a customer takes it home, many people don’t even think to connect that USB cable to their computer. You could argue that it’s just plain stupidity, but on the other hand, nothing explicitly says to back up your iPhone. Besides that, once you set up an iPad or iPod touch, you can get by without plugging them in, too.

Slow Sync

One deterrent is the sometimes slow and unresponsive synchronization and backup on iTunes. I’ve spent countless times watching the little progress bar not move waiting and waiting just to copy a few new songs onto my iPhone. Other times, when I’m actually copying more things to and from the iPhone, it seems to be plenty speedy. The lack of expiation is frustrating for a power user, but could let your average user believe that something froze up. Now, it can run in the background, sync with iCloud, and you don’t have to worry about it (since it always seems to take longer when you’re watching it).

Demoted Mac

As much as I enjoy the experience of using my Mac, it almost operates independently of my iPad now. Email is synced via IMAP accounts, RSS feeds are synced via Google Reader and the Reeder app, and lets not forget about Apple’s already-rolled-out iCloud features. Apart from adding some non-iTunes music, copying photos to my Mac, or a major software update, I really don’t need to plug in my iPhone or iPad. Still, I do have to backup regularly because I always prepare for the worst. By relying on iCloud, my data is someplace a little more unfamiliar and maybe scary, but if something catastrophic were to happen to all my gadgets and computers, I’d still have a starting point to rebuild from. Let’s not forget that this capability (like Dropbox) is free.

New Markets

As someone who generally is happy with what Apple is cranking out, giving iOS devices independence from their computers is a step in the right direction for getting them in the hands of new users. Now, iPads can become a standalone computer for those who don’t need a lot of extra capabilities—I know many folks who think an iPad would be a great computer for the over-50 crowd. Now, there’s no maintenance and you can hand someone an iPad or tell them to go buy one and not worry about explaining the setup with iTunes.

I’ve been excited about this since WWDC, and now that iCloud and iOS 5 are now available, everyone who has a recent iOS device ought to check out these new capabilities.

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