A new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could reveal the user interface for Apple’s upcoming iCloud service, in addition to a feature for “partial song syncing.” Entitled “Local Storage of a Portion of Streamed Media Items,” the application depicts an iTunes-like user interface and describes a feature that would store a sample of each of your songs locally on your device to ensure you get a seamless iCloud experience.
The idea behind a cloud-based music service is that you store your songs in a ‘digital locker’ online to save precious storage space on your device, and then access them from internet-connected devices such as the iPhone or iPad. So, surely storing previews of all of your songs locally defeats the object? Well, it does a little bit, but it will take up significantly less space than storing complete tracks and will ensure you get the smoothest possible experience.
The idea is that by storing a sample of each song on your device, when you skip between songs your device will begin by playing the preview while the rest of the song buffers in the background. This means that if you change the track and iCloud isn’t expecting it, you won’t have to wait a few seconds in between tracks for each song to load.
It’s a simple idea that I’m sure will make a huge difference to our user experience, and will be one the little details that makes iCloud better than its rivals from Amazon and Google.
Apple’s patent application describes the problem with these rival services:
When the electronic device is unaware of the next media item to play back, the electronic device can require undesired pauses between media items. Similarly, when a user skips to a different media item for playback, the electronic device can require a long pause during which no media item is played back as the new media item is streamed to the device.
I think you’ll agree that this sounds like another one of Apple’s simple but fantastic ideas. The only thing that I think does need work is that user interface. I know that it’s only a black & white patent image, but it looks like it needs a bit of work.