How To Get The Best Features Of iCloud Right Now

Apple finally detailed their long-awaited iCloud suite of apps today, but they sadly won't be available until iOS 5 drops. Luckily, there are already a number of apps that will let you sync your iPhone over the air. Here's how to get all those features now.

Some of these solutions require jailbreaking. If you're up for going the jailbreak route, be sure to check out our guide to jailbreaking your iDevice for instructions. If you're new to jailbreaking, you may also want to read about the disadvantages before you dive right in.

Mail, Contacts, and Calendars

MobileMe may be gone, but you've actually been able to wirelessly sync mail, contacts and calendars to your device using Google's Sync service for a while. To set it up, just head into your iPhone's Settings and hit "Mail, Contacts, Calendars". Create a new account and instead of choosing Gmail, pick Microsoft Exchange. Enter your Gmail username and password as normal, and hit Next. When it says it's unable to verify the certificate, punch m.google.com into the new "Server" box that pops up, and you'll be on your way. Just head back to the "Mail, Contacts, Calendars" section of Settings, click on your newly created account, and turn Contacts and Calendars on. Now, your mail, address book and calendars from Google will sync right down to your phone. You can even sync those Google services to your Mac's Address Book and iCal for the full experience.

Documents

If you want to sync your iWork files with the cloud, you can do so with a combination of Dropbox and the WebDAV service CloudDAV. We've mentioned how to do this before with a service called DropDAV, though that recently became more expensive. CloudDAV will get the job done for a one-time fee of $US5. Just get a Dropbox account (if you don't already have one), sign up for SMEStorage and buy the CloudDAV plugin, and connect it to your Dropbox account. You can then add your CloudDAV share to iWork on your iPhone or iPad, and copy documents to it to sync them to your computer and other devices.

Backup, iBooks, Photos, and Music

Most of iCloud's features aren't so much online storage as they are over-the-air syncing, which you can already get with the $US10 Wi-Fi Sync app for jailbroken iOS devices. We've run through how to set this up as well: just install the Wi-Fi Sync app on your iOS device, then install desktop application for Mac or PC. It will sync your iPhone with iTunes just as it does over USB, except it will work over Wi-Fi and 3G — which means you can backup your settings and sync your books, photos and music to your iPhone just like iCloud does. And, because it syncs the media both ways, you can then install Wi-Fi Sync on your other iOS devices to keep everything in sync without ever plugging it into a computer. It isn't perfect, and it isn't quite as stealthy as the in-the-background iCloud, but it will certainly get the job done.

The one problem with Wi-Fi Sync, and with iTunes Cloud, is that you still have to download music to your device either way, which means you're bound by how much space you have on your device. If you'd rather stream your music, you have a few choices. You could sync your iTunes library up to Dropbox, and then stream those songs to your iPhone with previously mentioned DropTunes, or you could stream your desktop music with Subsonic, Grooveshark Mobile, or Spotify. Price-wise, Subsonic is probably the best solution since it's donation-based. It's nice to have options, though. Grooveshark and Spotify may be more expensive, but they give you access to more than just your music library, which is pretty great.

What You Can't Get: Your Purchase History

The one thing we haven't found an alternative for in iCloud is the App Store Purchase History. While previously mentioned PKGBackup will backup apps from the Cydia App Store, giving you your purchase history from Apple's App Store is something only Apple can really do — so we'll probably have to wait for the Fall to get the full functionality of that feature.

These are our favourite replacements for Apple's 9 iCloud features, but there are probably a number of different ways to get each one. If you have a favourite app that we didn't mention here, be sure to share it with us in the comments.


Comments

    Should I renew my mobileme subscription that expires soon?

    Too late. You cant renew your service. I think it will stay active til June 2012. From what i understand, all your mobileme material can be transferred across including your email address.

    DropTunes is nice, but I don't like that it has write access to your Dropbox folder! I searched for months for an alternative, and then finally decided to make my own:

    http://www.groovypost.com/groovybox/

    Worth noting that DropTunes also just released an iPhone app. Not free though.

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