Friday, April 15, 2011

Efficient Wireless Sync And Streaming Takes Time And Valuable Battery Life

(This is a must read post from Apple fan, John Gruber on "Cutting the Cord".  It a very good analysis on why we're just are not to leave the PC behind when trying to get media onto our mobile devices.  I've offered a few notes myself below.)

One of the issues with regards to mobile is that a lot of them requires the user to still sync it with a PC.  Specifically, we are talking about Apple iOS ecosystem here.  Android, on the other hand, is all set to go once you get it out of the box.  Having said that, there is a distinct difference between activation and sync and loading up the mobile devices with apps and media.

To date and as far as I know, all Android devices are ready to be used once the user activates it wirelessly.  There is no need plug it into a PC first.  Simply type in your Google information (or set one up if you don't have one) and you're off to go.  And in the background, data is by synced.  

On the other hand, all iOS devices require that you put them into a PC and let iTunes do all the work for you.  It's why at the Apple store, they offer to get things up and going for you.  Simple as it is, it does take an extra step.  

Now comes the hard part of syncing that I think no mobile problem has solved.  Say you've got a lot of apps, music, and video.  What then?  Here is where iOS have an advantage that over other devices and why we still cannot cut the cord yet  

Say you've got 28 GB of apps and media you need to sync with your new device.  Or 60 GB if you've got a 64 GB iPad?  Let's take it a step further.  120 GB should someone come up with a device capable of hold that much storage.  You seriously want to sync all that from the cloud?  

And even if you want to, there is no way to do that just now.  Amazon just launched its music cloud storage (which I recommend everyone take a serious look at it).  Amazon is taking the first step towards a future some of us want.  Still, we are a long way off.  5GB from Amazon for free is nice but it's still a far cry from the 300 GB media library that I've got.  

And yes, Apple and Google are probably working towards their own cloud solutions for mobile users and I suspect that we'll stream most of the media should that day come.  But that is still a long way off until the solutions are robust enough.

So that's one reason why we're not ready for wireless syncing.  What's the other?

Wireless and Battery life.  Imagine trying to sync GBs of data.  One, never mind that carrier's monthly limitation would be in one day but the wireless networks simply aren't ready to handle the load of cloud storage.  So that means we'll be stuck on WiFi.  That means being at home or office.  That also means being near a PC.  And with Thunderbolt on Macs now, why would you use the slower WiFi sync when you can speed things up with a faster Thunderbolt connection?

Then there's the battery life.  If you're on a tablet like the iPad or Xoom that offers 10-ish hours, you might be okay with cloud syncing or streaming.  If you're on an power-hungry Android device, you can bet you'll be plugged into an outlet.  That horrendous 3 hours of battery life some Verizon Thunderbolt users are now getting?  Try living with two hours or less if you're on the LTE network while streaming an HD video.  

So when can we cut the cord?  No one know where Amazon is going with their music locker.  So far, Amazon has not received licensing from the music studios and it has said it does not require an additional agreement to offer it.  I agree.  But we still have to see what its competitors plan on offering.

Google is rumored to be close to offering its own solution.  And my money's on Google leveraging its massive cloud system that we already use for our webapps.  I've already got like 8GB on my Gmail that I don't use.  I can totally see Google easily offer another ten or even fifty GB of storage just for Android users.  

As for Apple, who knows.  Wall Street guys would have us believe they know.  My guess is as good as theirs.  At the end of the day, only Apple knows how they want to approach cutting the cord.  I know this about Apple's solution to this and cloud storage.  When Apple is ready to unveil it, it will be seemless and easy to use and tied into the iOS-iTunes ecosystem.

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