There’s usually a tinge of disappointment anytime Apple adds an “S” to a new product, like this morning, when Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook unveiled the iPhone 4S to a collective sigh. Structurally, the 4S is the same as its predecessor, but it will boast the same A5 dual-core processor found in iPad 2s and a consumer-friendly camera upgrade. These internal improvements will no doubt boost performance, but the real upgrade in look, feel and functionality will come from the new iOS5 operating system.
Slated for release on October 14th, iOS5 will come packaged with the new iPhone 4S and be available as a free upgrade for existing iPhone and iPod Touch owners. Besides an enhanced notification system and a completely overhauled voice “assistant,” the crown jewel for music fans will be the iOS5-friendly iCloud service that was unveiled at the World Wide Developers Conference in June. With the new cloud service, all the media you purchase (books, music, television shows, etc.), create (photos, videos) or curate can be automatically synced across your Apple devices. Also of note is a new service called iTunes Match that lets you sync music that you’ve acquired elsewhere. It compares your stash of tracks with the 20 million songs in its existing store, downloading the tracks to your devices in a fraction of the time a complete upload and download would take. Any songs that don’t match their database will be manually uploaded to one of their eco-friendly servers.
Whether you’re a casual listener who purchases music periodically, or a hardcore audiophile who can’t download enough, Apple’s iCloud service (coupled with iTunes Match) seems to be the best mobile streaming option available, especially for people who enjoy having actual files. Amazon and Google’s cloud services will require weeks of uploading for those with large libraries. Match avoids this headache.