Apple’s iCloud service can be considered an online-based file sharing service. However, for iPhone and iPad users, it can do much more than simply store data “in the cloud.” Some of the main tasks iCloud can handle for iOS mobile device users include:
- Automatically syncing app-specific data related to the Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, Safari, and Mail apps, as well as a growing number of third-party apps.
- Syncing and sharing iWork for iOS app-specific data (for Pages, Numbers, and Keynote), including documents, spreadsheets and slide show presentations.
- Maintaining a remote backup of an iPhone or iPad’s content and personalized settings.
- Allowing users to access the Find My iPhone/Find My iPad feature in order to almost instantly locate a lost or stolen device, as long as it’s turned on and has Internet access.
- Creating, managing, and viewing a Photo Stream, and being able to share images using the Shared Photo Stream feature.
- Accessing any content purchased from the iTunes Store, regardless of on which computer or mobile device it was initially purchased.
- Syncing Safari bookmarks and related content with Safari versions running on a Mac and/or other iOS mobile device.
- Syncing email in conjunction with the free iCloud email account provided.
Once content, information, and data is being synced with iCloud, in addition to having almost instant access to it on all of your computers and/or iOS mobile devices that are linked to the same iCloud account, you can access online versions of popular apps from any Internet-enabled computer or device. You can also have full access to app-specific data related to Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, and Notes, for example. To do this, visit www.iCloud.com and sign in using your Apple ID and password.
Set Up iCloud
In order to use the various iCloud-related features on your iPhone or iPad, first turn on iCloud on each of your mobile devices. Then, each iCloud feature needs to be turned on independently on each device. However, this only needs to be done once.
To begin using iCloud, you’ll need to first establish an active Apple ID account. If you’ve already set up an Apple ID account in conjunction with a Mac, iTunes, an iPod or another iOS mobile device, you’ll want to use the same account information. To set up or manage a free Apple ID account, visit appleid.apple.com, and click or tap on the Create an Apple ID button.
For iCloud to sync and transfer information, content, and data (including app-specific data from Contacts, Calendar, and other compatible apps), between your computer(s) and devices, they all need to be linked to the same iCloud account. On an iOS mobile device, launch Settings from the Home Screen. From the main Settings menu, tap the iCloud option.
When the iCloud menu screen appears, enter your Apple ID and password when prompted. Doing this will allow you to establish a free iCloud account or access your existing iCloud account on the device you’re using. As the account is being set up, you’ll be given a free iCloud-related email address as well.
What’s Included with Your Free iCloud Account
Every iCloud account includes 5GB of free online storage space for personal files or data. However, the additional online storage space needed for iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, and Newsstand content purchases, as well as to create and maintain a My Photo Stream and an unlimited number of Shared Photo Streams, is also provided for free by Apple.
Additional online storage space for personal data can be optionally purchased for an annual fee ($20 for 10GB, $40 for 20GB, or $100 for 50GB.) This can be done from the Storage & Backup menu within Settings on any iPhone or iPad.
Turn On the iCloud Features You Want or Need
From the iCloud menu screen within Settings, you’ll see a handful of menu options, most of which are associated with a virtual on/off switch. One at a time, turn on the switch that corresponds to the iCloud feature you want to turn on and activate.
The listed options include:
- Mail: To sync your iCloud email account with your other Macs and iOS mobile devices. You can also access your iCloud email account from any Internet-enabled computer or device by visiting www.iCloud.com, or use the Mail app.
- Contacts: Sync your Contacts database with iCloud, and make it available on all of your other computers and other iOS mobile devices. So, if you add a contact entry using the Contacts app on your iPhone, for example, that entry will sync with iCloud and become available as part of your Contacts database on your Mac and/or iPad. Likewise, if you update a contact entry on your Mac, it will automatically sync almost instantly with your other computers and mobile devices.
- Calendars: Sync your Calendar app-related data between all computers and iOS mobile devices that are linked to the same iCloud account.
- Reminders: Sync your Reminders app-related data between all computers and iOS mobile devices that are linked to the same iCloud account.
- Safari: All of your saved Bookmarks and Bookmark Bar information will be synced between your iOS mobile devices and Macs, plus the iCloud Tabs feature allows you to access open webpage tabs on any of your devices. For example, if you’re surfing the web using Safari on a Mac, you can access the same open web page almost instantly on your iPad or iPhone. iCloud will also sync your Safari-related Reading List.
- Notes: Sync your Notes app-related data between all computers and your iOS mobile devices that are linked to the same iCloud account.
- Passbook: Sync your Passbook app-related data between all computers and your iOS mobile devices that are linked to the same iCloud account.
- Photo Stream: When turned on, this feature allows you to create, maintain, and manage the My Photo Stream feature. My Photo Stream automatically stores up to 1,000 of your most recent images (for up to 30 days) on iCloud, and then allows them to be accessed, viewed, and saved on whichever Mac or iOS mobile device you’re using. If you snap a photo using the Camera app on your iPhone, it will almost instantly be made available within your My Photo Stream on your Mac, for example.
By tapping on the Photo Stream menu option displayed as part of the iCloud menu within Settings, you can turn on My Photo Stream, plus turn on the Shared Photo Stream feature separately.
iCloud’s Shared Photo Stream feature allows you to create online-based galleries (stored on iCloud) that you can upload selected images to, and then share them with other people. As an iCloud user, once this feature is turned on, you can create an unlimited number of Shared Photo Streams, include as many images within each of them as you want, and opt to share each Shared Photo Stream with one or more people.
- Documents & Data: This feature allows you to sync app-specific data that’s related to Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps with versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote running on your Mac or other iOS mobile devices. This feature can also be used to store or share other documents or files “in the cloud,” when using third-party apps.
- Find My iPhone/Find My iPad: When this feature is turned on, iCloud automatically tracks the whereabouts of your device in real time. So, if it is lost or stolen, you can visit www.icloud.com/#find (or use the free Find My iPhone app) to pinpoint the exact location of your device on a map. It’s then possible to remotely turn on the password lock feature, send a message to appear on the devices screen, have the device emit a tone, and/or erase all content from the device if it falls into the wrong hands. To use this feature, it must first be turned on from the iCloud menu within Settings (before the device is lost or stolen), and the device must be turned on and have access to the Internet when it’s missing.
- Storage & Backup: Using the iCloud Backup feature (in conjunction with the app-specific data syncing functions offered by iCloud), it’s possible to maintain a full remote backup of your iOS mobile device. As long as the iPhone (or iPad) has access to a Wi-Fi Internet connection, a full backup will automatically be created daily once this feature is turned on. However, at anytime, tap on the Storage & Backup option from the iCloud menu within Settings, and then from the Storage & Backup menu, tap on the Backup Now button to manually initiate a full backup of your device.
The backup files will be stored online as part of your iCloud account. These files will utilize some of your allocated 5GB of free online storage space.
In addition to these features, which you can manage from the iCloud menu within Settings, all content you purchase from the iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, and Newsstand are automatically and permanently stored within your iCloud account. So, if you purchase a song from the iTunes Store on your Mac, for example, you can set up iTunes on your iPhone or iPad to automatically download that song and store it on your iOS mobile device as well, without having to repurchase that content.
To set up the automatic downloading of iTunes Store-related purchases, launch Settings and from the main Settings menu, and tap the iTunes & App Stores option. Then, under the Automatic Downloads heading on the iTunes & App Stores menu screen, turn on the virtual switch associated with Music, Apps, and Books.
If you want this feature to only download new content when a Wi-Fi connection is available (as opposed to a 3G/4G LTE wireless data connection), turn off the Use Cellular Data option. This feature works with music, apps, and ebooks, but not with TV show episodes, music videos or movies purchased from the iTunes Store. These larger-sized files can be accessed manually via iCloud from your mobile device once they’re purchased by tapping on the Purchased option within the iTunes app.
To allow the iBooks app to automatically download all newly purchased eBooks from iBookstore, regardless of which computer or device they were purchased on, and also sync your ebook-related bookmarks in real-time as you’re reading, from your iPhone or iPad, launch Settings and from the main Settings menu, and tap on the iBooks option. Then, turn on the virtual switches associated with Sync Bookmarks, Sync Collections, and Show All Purchases.
Chances are, you won’t initially want or need to utilize all of iCloud’s features and functions right away. This is why Apple gives you the ability to turn on or off specific functions on each of your devices. However, for data to sync between an iPhone, iPad, and Mac, the same iCloud features need to be turned on separately on each device.
Sync iPhone/iPad App-Specific Data with a Mac or PC
On your Mac, to set up and customize iCloud’s features so that app-specific data will sync with your iPhone or iPad, launch System Preferences and click on the iCloud option. If you’re a Windows PC user, you can take advantage of many of iCloud’s app-specific data syncing and Photo Stream features, but you’ll need to first download and install the free iCloud Control Panel software from Apple’s website.
What’s great about using iCloud in conjunction with an iPhone, iPad, and/or a Mac or PC is that once each feature is turned on and set up, just about everything happens automatically and in the background from that point forward. As you make changes to your Contacts or Calendar database, for example, those changes will be reflected almost immediately on iCloud (and on the others computers and devices syncing data with your iCloud account), as long as each of the computers and/or devices you’re using has Internet access.
Since Apple first introduced iCloud, the service has evolved a lot. With each new version of Apple’s iOS and Mac OS X operating systems that have since been released, new and improved iCloud features have been added to make iCloud much more than a basic online-based file sharing service. As you’ll soon discover, using iCloud will change the way you interact with, back up, and share data when using your iPhone or iPad.