New iCloud Drive app will let iOS 9 users more easily manage files

The storage app will let users view and manage what they have stored in Apple's cloud.

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Users who store files in Apple’s iCloud Drive will have an easier time managing them when iOS 9 launches later this year.

The next update to Apple’s mobile operating system will include an iCloud Drive app that lets people view and manage all of the files stored in Apple’s cloud from a central location. Previously, iOS users could only access those files from inside an app that accessed iCloud Drive, which was released last year in iOS 8. OS X Yosemite, which was released in 2014, let users manage all of their iCloud Drive files in a special folder, similar to functionality offered by Dropbox and other cloud storage providers.

Toby Paterson, an engineering manager at Apple, announced the app during Apple’s Platforms State of the Union session at WWDC, and said it was aimed at Mac users who were accustomed to managing their files from a central location rather than doing so inside individual apps. Users can preview the files in their iCloud Drive from within the app, and open them in another application for modification. The app’s announcement was left out of Apple’s keynote Monday morning, where Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi unveiled iOS 9.

Launching a standalone app for the service pushes it closer to competitors like Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive. It’s another step on Apple’s transition away from its initial model for saving files to iCloud, which only allowed applications to access their own files, and kept them locked away from users. The launch of iCloud Drive last year largely eliminated that functionality, and this new app will let users take another step away from it by giving them access to all their files from one location.

All of this comes at a time when tech titans are all fighting to become the home for users’ files in the cloud. Apple offers users 5GB of free storage for their files, photos, and backups of their iOS devices, while Google and Microsoft offer 15GB of free storage. Apple is also pushing its customers towards greater iCloud use with its iCloud Photo Library service, which syncs a user’s entire photo library with the cloud storage service (though those images aren’t accessible through iCloud Drive).

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