At the iPhone 4S event last week, Apple revealed that the much-anticipated iOS 5 and iCloud would become available on 12 October 2011, but apart from the release date, only one new marquee feature was revealed: a geolocation app called Find My Friends. Apple also spent quite a bit of time showing the new Cards app for iOS 5, which lets you order and have Apple send customized greeting cards.
We covered iOS 5 and iCloud at their introductions, and no additional light was shed on either the mobile operating system or the new hosting service beyond available dates. Apple said that iTunes Match, the separate subscription service for uploading your own library of iTunes music not purchased from Apple, would come online in iCloud in late October. (See “iOS 5 Cuts the Cord and Addresses Numerous Irritations” and “iCloud Rolls In, Extended Forecast Calls for Disruption,” both from 6 June 2011.)
The surprise Find My Friends app lets you track the location of anyone who knows you well enough to share their current location in real time. It’s undoubtedly based on the same core code that powers Find My iPhone, which some of us have used in the past for tracking family devices. But using Find My iPhone for tracking someone else requires that you know their MobileMe password, whereas Find My Friends will provide simple privacy controls to avoid the creepiness factor, allow temporary sharing of location information for people you’re with for only a short period, and set blocks of time when location sharing is active so it can automatically turn off at the end of the day. You can also flip off all tracking with a single click. Parental controls will allow tracking to be locked on.
Without poking too much fun at Apple, spending nearly five minutes of a keynote showing how one could use an app to design and order a greeting card that Apple prints and mails on your behalf seemed a little excessive. You can take a photo and use the app to place it appropriately on a template, and then add text. Cards cost $2.99 to purchase and mail in the United States, and $4.99 to send outside America’s borders. The app works only with iOS 5 and will be available when iOS 5 ships. Apple has tried its hand at ecards and printed cards for many years — some executive must have an obsession with the matter.