Recently Apple launched the beta of its iCloud service, a host of web apps that help with productivity and managing your ‘idevice’. But if what if you’re an Android user?Surely you don’t have access to great features such as Mail, Calendar, automatic photo syncing. In fact many of Apples iCloud services are very similar to already existing Google Products. Here’s how ‘I beat’ the iCloud.
Mail & Contacts
Gmail comes pre-installed on virtually every Android phone and is accessible by all desktop web browsers. Not only does this allow you to check your mail, it also syncs your contacts. No matter if you edit a contact on your phone, tablet or PC, the change will appear on all devices.
Google Calendar comes pre-installed on Android devices, and just like Gmail it syncs across all your devices. It’s easy to access once within the Google ecosystem. Launch any of Google’s web apps and Calendar should appear on the black navigation bar.
The Android Market creates a backup of all your installed apps, so if you wipe your phone, install new ROM or buy a new phone your apps will start downloading right away. Unfortunately the market won’t backup app data but there are many apps available to do that. I personally recommend Titanium Backup as it has the capability to sync the backups with dropbox – keeping it in the cloud.
Photos and automatic syncing
The Google+ Android app will automatically sync photos taken on the device. In addition to this, you can sync existing photos from the device, even if they weren’t originally taken on it. Synced photos will make their way to your Picasa account where you get a free 1GB worth of photo storage space. The great thing about Picasa, being a web service, is that a client isn’t needed to download or view the photos, so they can be easily viewed in the web browser of your phone, tablet and PC.
If you’re looking for more space (5GB) you can try ‘Sugar Sync‘. It’s a free app that has the capability to sync photos from your Android device to your PC, however you will need the desktop client to use it.
For a long time now Google has offered Google Docs, a comprehensive suite in which you can word process, create eye catching presentations, manage spreadsheets, create forms and even design with a web app comparable to MS Paint. All these can be saved in a variety of common formats. Google Docs can be edited on Android phones & tablets as well as PCs and it’s all synced.
If you don’t like the interface of Android’s Google Docs, there are many alternative apps which provide Google Docs syncing. I personally like ‘Documents to Go‘. For Google Docs syncing you need the paid version, but its well worth it. The editing interface is far superior than that of the Google Docs Android app or web interface.
Some Android devices will come with Google Books built right in, if not, it’s a free download from the Android Market. You can read downloaded books on all your devices and reading locations are saved so wherever you read up to on your tablet will be exactly the same on your PC. As well as the thousands of new books downloadable from the service, there are 3 million ‘classics’ available for download for free. While speaking of free, some of the ebooks can be downloaded into ‘epub’ or ‘PDF’ format for transferring onto dedicated eBook readers.
Alternatively there is no harm in trying other eBook apps such as Amazon’s Kindle app or the Nook app. These services may have a slightly different selection of books, but the multi-device experience wont be as seamless or as widespread as Google books.
This is the most killer contender with Apple. Apple has grown massive recently, undoubtedly a large portion of growth came from iTunes, Apple’s popular music service. Probably the best option is Google Music. It’s currently in ‘beta’ but it works pretty much all of the time. The only negative is the need to upload all of your music to your own personal library; a lengthy process. A recent update was made to the Android Music app where your uploaded music shows in your music library. Aside from the app Google Music can be accessed through a web browser.
If you want wireless syncing to your devices SD card try ‘Double Twist Air Sync‘. While Double Twist is free the air sync portion of the app needs to be downloaded separately for £3.07. Buy hey, who needs music stored on your device when you can use Google Music streaming.
Remember these are my choices to emulate an iCloud experience on Android. There are literally thousands of alternatives available in the Android Market. Do you have a favourite app? Leave your comments below.