iCloud: Some parts you can keep, others you can replace
Apple's iCloud started as a synchronization service for browser bookmarks, contacts, calendars, and photos across iOS, OS X, and Windows, as well as -- just in iOS -- app documents. It's now been expanded to include OS X apps' documents (iCloud Documents) for not just syncing but also permanent storage, syncing Safari Reading List bookmarks and open Web pages (iCloud Tabs), and even syncing mail and other settings. It lets you move among your iOS and OS X devices while maintaining consistency of experience and documents. iCloud also provides an IMAP mail account.
You can use Google Contacts and Google Calendar to accomplish the same syncing for contacts and calendars across Android, iOS, OS X, and Windows. And you can set the Chrome browser in all those platforms to stay in sync -- both bookmarks and open tabs -- by signing into your Google account on each platform. Google Drive can be your cloud repository for your documents; many iOS apps support it. Alternatively, you can use Dropbox or Box for that purpose, as they work across all the common platforms, including most iOS productivity apps.
But can an Android smartphone participate in iCloud? Yes, for the parts that matter most. Here's how:
- You can add your iCloud email account to the standard Android Email app. To do so, add the me.com version of your address -- not the icloud.com version -- as the email address. The incoming server is mail.me.com, and SSL should be on. The outgoing server is smtp.me.com, TLS should be enabled, and you need to require sign-in using your me.com address as the username and your standard iCloud password for the password.
- You can have your Android Calendar sync to your iCloud calendar bidirectionally if you buy the $3.77 SmoothSync for Cloud Calendar app by Marten Gajda. His $3.77 SmoothSync for Cloud Contacts app does the same for iCloud contacts. Both work easily. My only hesitation in using them was that, as is true for most users, my iCloud password is the same as my iTunes password, and you need to provide your iCloud login credentials to these apps for them to work. It makes me nervous to share such a key credential when dealing with a small developer on a platform notorious for phishing-oriented malware. Apple does let you set up separate iCloud and iTunes accounts, though that is not the default -- I advise you to do so.
You won't be able to participate in iCloud Documents, but Apple limits that service in such a way that you're likely to use a cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox anyhow. (iCloud Documents requires that you use the same app on your OS X and iOS devices -- Keynote presentations can be opened only in the Keynote app, not in other apps that would support the file format, for example.)
On an Android device, you can't participate in Safari's Reading List or iCloud Tabs, but switching to the perfectly good Chrome browser on your Android devices, iOS devices, Macs, and/or PCs gives you the equivalent functionality.
Finally, you can't tie your Android smartphone into Apple's Find My Phone service, which is also part of iCloud; this handy tool lets you remotely find, send an alert tone and message to, lock, or wipe a missing iOS or OS X device from any iOS or OS X device or from the iCloud.com website. You'll need to use something like Lookout to do the same for your Android device should it get lost. But you can use your Android device to find, lock, or wipe an iOS or OS X device via iCloud.com.