iPhone OS, as it was previously called, is a stripped down version of Apple’s popular OS X. It was renamed iOS after the operating system was ported to run on iPod Touch and the iPad. Since its inception in 2007, iOS has had six major updates, where loads of features were added. One of the selling points was the way iOS devices communicated with PCs and Macs.
What is ‘sync’?
Sync or synchronization, is the process of copying or replicating the data on one device to another. Starting with the iPod, Apple has been making file transfers to handheld devices a child’s play. Although the early iPods could only read ACC and MP3 files, video and photo viewing capabilities were later included; long before the introduction of the iPhone. Initially, iPods were Mac only and used a firewire cable to sync. Soon, Apple realized that there was a potential market for their music player and made the iPod compatible with both Windows and Mac, and with it came the 30-pin USB connector. This connector was used for a good 10 years, and has now been replaced with a smaller port that Apple calls Lightning. Content, which includes, audio, video, iCal appointments, contacts, apps, eBooks and other user created documents can be transferred to iOS devices through iTunes (or third party file managers).
Syncing content from iOS device to your computer
The easiest way to sync/transfer content from your iOS device to your computer is through iCloud. Photos for example, are stored on the cloud for 30 days and when you enable Photo Stream, the photos are automatically downloaded. Similarly, documents created through Pages, Keynote, Numbers and even Notes on iOS devices are stored on iCloud and they are automatically downloaded to the computer.
On the other hand, if you want to sync apps, you can use iTunes. The moment you plug your iOS device (or wirelessly, if you have Wi-Fi sync enabled) you’d see it displayed under Devices. By clicking on Transfer Purchases under the right click menu, you can transfer the apps and music that you downloaded through the App Store and iTunes Store.
You can also sync photos from your iOS devices using iPhoto and Aperture, and you even have the option of adding your Flickr or Facebook account through which you can directly upload to your web album. Voice memos, iCal events, Mail and Contacts can all be synced either through iCloud or iTunes.
One limitation that you have with iOS devices is that they can be synced only with authorized computers. Using an Apple ID, a maximum of five computers can be authorized. If you want to sync your iOS device with a computer that is not authorized, you need to log in with your Apple ID and have an existing computer unauthorized. It’s only after this can you log in with your ID, authorize a new computer and sync it.
Although iTunes helps you sync and transfer data from your iOS device to your computer, some people may not like the restrictions that Apple forces. In those cases, you can always resort to third party file managers.