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Apple iCloud stores and syncs all your data across all your devices -- for free

Apple iCloud wirelessly syncs everything on your iPhone or iPad to all your other Apple devices -- and it's free. Its hotly anticipated music features are US-only though, at least for now.

Apple iCloud has appeared on the horizon. Apple boss Steve Jobs revealed that iCloud and iTunes in the Cloud replace MobileMe, wirelessly syncing everything on your iPhone or iPad to all your other Apple devices, and automatically adding new music to all your devices in one go. Best of all: it's all free!

iCloud stores all your data from apps, all your video and pictures, all your contacts and calendars and email... basically everything on your phone is pushed to the cloud and synced to all your other Apple devices. Even your music is being pushed into the cloud -- but only in the US for now.

iCloud incorporates several apps, starting with the App Store. Buying an app online makes it appear on all your other devices -- so buy an app on your iPhone over Wi-Fi, and it will magically appear on your iPad. iBooks does the same, also syncing your bookmark when reading on different devices.

Your devices will back up wirelessly to the cloud too, so even if you lose your phone you'll be able to simply get a new phone and pick up where you left off.

iCloud introduces Documents in the Cloud, which syncs your Pages, Numbers and Keynote files across each computer or mobile device. One thousand photos are automatically backed up by Photo Stream for 30 days and synced to your devices before disappearing from the cloud, but they'll be stored permanently if you file them in an album.

iTunes in the Cloud

Finally, iTunes in the cloud lets you buy a song or album once and download it to all your devices in one fell swoop. It also scans the music you've already bought and lets you download a new copy to up to 10 devices. Contrary to rumours before the event, there isn't any music streaming in the new service. iTunes in the Cloud is available today in iOS 4.3 -- but only in the US.

Apple will now also recognise music from somewhere else, matching it with music in the iTunes database. iTunes Match costs $25, but again is US-only for now -- UK availability was not announced today.

The silver lining

Jobs revealed that iCloud will replace MobileMe -- and unlike that much-maligned and costly service, iCloud is free. iCloud will be part of iOS 5, which you can get today if you're a developer, or autumn if you're not. Hopefully it'll be worldwide too.

Announcements were also made today about iOS 5, the new version of Apple's mobile software, and Mac OS X Lion, the operating system for laptops and computers.