The Service-By-Service Breakdown
Both suites are actually pretty good. It’s no secret we love Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and other Google service around here, but if you’re an Apple user, iCloud is pretty tempting. Each individual service has its own strengths and weaknesses. Here are the big services in each service and how they stack up against one another.
You can grab extra storage for iCloud and Google, though Google’s prices are significantly better. $US20 a year will get you 10GB extra space with iCloud, but it’ll get you 80GB of extra space on Google. Check out Google’s pricing page and Apple’s pricing page for more info.
Mail vs Gmail
Of course, it isn’t without downsides. The web version of Mail is extremely basic, and even assuming you use Mail.app in OS X to manage your email, you’ll miss out on a lot of the advanced features Gmail has to offer. Whether it’s the increased organisational powers of labels over folers, super-powerful search operators, the ability to “send as” another email address, or even even the many Gmail labs like Send & Archive, Apple’s iteration of email is a bit less feature rich. Gmail’s spam filtering is also a big feature that you probably use, but don’t even notice — and iCloud won’t have that. If you were using Mail.app to manage your email anyway, you probably won’t miss most of Gmail’s advanced features. Just know they won’t be available to you, even on the web, if you use iCloud.
iCal vs Google Calendar
iCloud Address Book vs Google Contacts
The biggest problem between the two is that iCloud requires — for unknown reasons — that you only sync with iCloud. That means you can’t sync your Google contacts and iCloud contacts with your Mac’s address book simultaneously, which can be very annoying if you want to use both. However, few people really need this feature, and like I said, iCloud’s address book is potentially more powerful anyway, so it shouldn’t be a huge burden.
Documents in the Cloud vs Google Docs
This may sound like a downside, but it makes the process easy enough that it really isn’t a problem — and, in the end, your desktop office suite is probably much more full-featured than something like Google Docs would be. iCloud’s interface for storing your documents is very nice, and you can download a document with the click of a button. When you’re done editing it in Pages, Word, LibreOffice, or whatever else you choose, you can just drag it back into the web interface and it will replace the older file. It’s incredibly simple, yet gives you the flexibility to easily use whatever office suite you want. It’s only downside is that it requires you buy iWork for iOS, which is $US10 for each app — even if you only want to sync those documents between your computers. Though really, if you’re just syncing between computers, we recommend you just use something like Dropbox anyways.
The big advantage of Google Docs is the ability to edit documents right in the web interface, and collaborate on them with other people. You don’t get any of those great collaboration features in iCloud, and you can’t upload files of any type to iCloud like you can with Google Docs. Like the other services, it all depends on what’s important to you. If you need the collaborative features of Google Docs, iCloud won’t be able to replace it, but as far as cloud document storage and syncing goes, iCloud does a fine job.
Photos and iTunes in the Cloud vs Picasa and Google Music
After using iCloud for awhile, our conclusion is pretty much what we expected: Google’s services definitely win in terms of features, but when it comes to integration with your Mac and iOS devices, iCloud obviously has an edge. In the end, it’s pretty easy to determine whether you should switch: If you use your Google services on the desktop, with programs like Mail, iCal and iWork, then you should definitely switch. Everything will work a bit better than you’re used to (especially email), and you probably won’t miss anything from Google’s services, since you can’t access those extra features in desktop programs anyway. If you use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and others on the web, than moving to iCloud could feel like a big downgrade. Sure, you have better integration, but the change in feature set is much greater, and if you use any of Google’s more advanced features, you’ll really miss them. Of course, it’s all about what’s most important to you — iCloud’s one-click setup is really awesome — so you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Have you given iCloud a shot? Let us know what you think — and whether it’s convincing you to switch away from Google — in the comments. And, if you’re ready to make the jump, be sure to check back tomorrow for our full how-to on migrating all your mail, contacts, calendars and other data from Google to iCloud.