Apple’s online-based iCloud service is available for free to all Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV users. While most people think of this service as a typical cloud-based file-sharing service, in reality iCloud can be used for a handful of specialized tasks as long as your iOS mobile device has Internet access.
As you’ll discover, some of iCloud’s features and functions can be used with an iPhone or iPad that’s connected to the Internet via a Cellular (3G/4G LTE) connection. However, other iCloud functions require a Wi-Fi Internet connection. The thing to understand about using iCloud is that regardless of how many different Apple computers or mobile devices you use, you only need a single iCloud account.
While iCloud offers an ever-growing lineup of features and functions, the following are five that you should definitely be taking advantage of in conjunction with your iPhone and/or iPad.
#1: Back Up and Sync Your App-Specific Data
If on your iPhone or iPad you use the Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, or Notes apps, for example, be sure to turn on iCloud functionality in conjunction with them. This serves three main purposes.
First, as long as your smartphone or tablet is connected to the Internet, your iOS mobile device will automatically back up and sync your app-specific data for compatible apps with your iCloud account. Thus, you always have a backup of your important data.
Second, once your iPhone or iPad is syncing your app-specific data with iCloud, that’s same data can automatically sync with your Mac(s) and other iOS mobile devices. As a result, your entire up-to-date Contacts database, for example, is always available to you, whether you’re using Contacts on your iPhone, iPad, iMac, or MacBook, for example.
If you create a new Contact entry on your iPhone, within seconds that entry will automatically be added to your Contacts database stored within your iCloud account and sync with the Contacts app that’s running on your other computers and devices. Assuming you turn on this feature for each app, this automatic syncing works with Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, and Notes, as well as with certain aspects of Safari and Mail. In addition, you can also set up app-specific syncing in conjunction with Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
Third, if you’re not near one of your own Macs or iOS mobile devices from any computer, smartphone, or tablet that is connected to the Internet and that has a web browser, it’s possible to visit www.iCloud.com, log in using your Apple ID/iCloud username and password, and then access the online versions of Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, each of which will be populated with the most current version of your data.
To turn on app-specific syncing for supported apps, launch Settings from your iPhone or iPad and tap on the iCloud option in order to access the iCloud Control Panel. Then, turn on the virtual switch that’s associated with each compatible app that you want to sync with your iCloud account. Keep in mind, this functionality utilizes some of your free 5GB of online storage space that’s provided by Apple as part of your iCloud account.
#2: Maintain a Backup of Your iOS Mobile Device
In addition to backing up and syncing app-specific data, iCloud can be used to maintain an automatic backup for your iPhone or iPad. Thus, if you ever need to restore your iOS mobile device from a backup, this can be done from anywhere you have access to a Wi-Fi Internet connection.
You only need to turn on the iCloud Backup feature once. To do this, from the iCloud Control Panel, tap on the Storage & Backup option. Then, from under the Backup option, turn on the virtual switch that’s associated with iCloud Backup.
From this point forward, as long as your iOS mobile device is in sleep mode, is plugged into an external power source, and has access to a Wi-Fi Internet connection, iOS 7 will create and maintain a backup of your device everyday and store it online within your iCloud account. This too utilizes some of your 5GB of free online storage space.
Once the iCloud Backup feature is turned on, you can manually create an online backup of your iPhone or iPad using a Wi-Fi Internet connection at any time, without having your device plugged into external power. To do this, from the iCloud Control Panel within Settings, tap on the Storage & Backup option, and then tap on the Back Up Now option.
Later, if you need to restore your iOS mobile device from a backup, as you’re setting up iOS 7 and (re)activating your iPhone or iPad, select the Restore from iCloud Backup option.
#3: Take Advantage of Shared Photo Streams to Share Digital Photos with Others
While the My Photo Stream feature of iCloud allows you to back up and share up to 1,000 of your most recently shot digital photos, Shared Photo Streams allow you to select a specific group of images and then share them with other people via the Internet, regardless of whether they’re using an iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, or PC.
It’s possible to create as many Shared Photo Streams as you desire, as long as your iOS mobile device has access to the Internet via a Wi-Fi Internet connection. Creating Shared Photo Streams does not utilize any of the 5GB of free online storage space that’s provided as part of your iCloud account.
Each Shared Photo Stream can contain as many photos as you wish. As you’re creating a new Shared Photo Stream, the Photos or iPhoto app allows you to determine exactly who will be able to access and view each Shared Photo Stream. Then, at anytime, you can add additional people to view that Shared Photo Stream, or revoke access to others whom you’ve previously invited to view your photos.
To create a Shared Photo Stream from the Photos app that comes preinstalled with iOS 7, launch the Photos app. Then, you have multiple options to select which photos to include. For example, you can tap on the Albums icon, and then open and view images from a specific album, or tap on the Photos option to view all of the images stored on your mobile device.
As you’re viewing the thumbnails that represent your various images, tap on the Select option, and then choose (tap on) the images, one at a time, that you want to include within your Shared Photo Stream. When all of the desired images have been selected, tap on the Share icon and choose the iCloud option.
When prompted, enter an optional Comment to accompany your Shared Photo Stream, and then tap on the Post option. At this point, you can either add the selected images to an already created Shared Photo Stream or create a new Shared Photo Stream with a custom name.
Finally, when prompted, enter the email addresses for the people you want to invite to view your Shared Photo Stream. If the invitees already have an entry within your Contacts database, instead of typing each email address, simply type each person’s name. Each person you invite will automatically receive an email inviting him or her to access your Shared Photo Stream. It will contain a unique website URL or link to view your images.
Mac, iPhone, and iPad users can utilize their own version of Photos or iPhoto to then access and work with your Shared Photo Stream. Windows PC users will be able to view your images as an online gallery.
To later modify who can access an existing Shared Photo Stream, open that Shared Photo Stream Album on your iPhone or iPad and tap on the People option. Then, from the Edit Photo Stream menu, tap on the Invite People option to grant more people access to your Shared Photo Stream, or tap on a subscriber’s listing, scroll down to the bottom of his or her Info window, and then tap on the Remove Subscriber option to revoke viewing privileges.
Also at any time, you can also delete an entire Shared Photo Stream and remove it from the Internet altogether, or add and delete images from it.
#4: Activate iCloud Keychain to Store Your Website Usernames and Passwords
As you’re surfing the web using Safari on your iPhone or iPad, iCloud can be used to back up and sync your Bookmarks menu, Favorites Bar, Reading List, and open tabbed browser windows (using the iCloud Tabs feature). In addition, you can set up iCloud Keychain so that Safari will automatically remember every username and password you use to log in to various websites.
Then, if you shop online from specific websites, iCloud Keychain can be set up to automatically and securely store your credit card details, so when you place an online order, it’s no longer necessary to re-enter this information.
To turn on this feature, launch Settings and tap on the Safari option. Then, from the Safari menu, tap on the Passwords & AutoFill option. From the Passwords & AutoFill menu, turn on the virtual switch associated with Names and Passwords. If you haven’t already done so, launch Contacts and create a detailed Contacts entry for yourself that includes your full name, address, phone number(s), and email address.
Then, tap on the My Info option and select your own Contacts entry so that Safari will be able to access your personal details and automatically plug that information into various fields as you surf the web and need to fill out online forms, for example. Next, turn on the Use Contact Info option.
Then, if you want, also turn on the Credit Cards option so that iCloud Keychain will store your credit card details.
If you opt to turn on the Credit Cards option, you’ll then need to tap on the Saved Credit Cards option and enter your credit card information. When using this feature, is a good strategy to also turn on the Passcode Lock feature of your iPhone or iPad to keep unauthorized users from using your smartphone or tablet in order to shop online using your personal details and credit card information.
What’s nice about iCloud Keychain is that in addition to maintaining a database of your website-specific usernames and passwords, and then making it easier to quickly log in to the websites you frequent, this data gets securely stored within your iCloud account (online), and automatically syncs with your other Macs and iOS mobile devices that are linked to the same iCloud account.
#5: Use the Find My iPhone/iPad Feature
Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence for an iPhone or iPad to get lost or stolen. If you turn on the Find My iPhone or Find My iPad feature on your mobile device before this happens, your chances of recovering your device improves dramatically. In addition, when this iCloud feature locates your lost or stolen device, you’re given a handful of options to recover your device, lock down the contents of your device, or erase the contents of your device altogether in order to prevent it from being accessed by unauthorized users.
To turn on Find My iPhone or Find My iPad, launch Settings, tap on the iCloud option, and from the iCloud Control Panel, turn on the virtual switch associated with the Find My… feature.
Then, if your iOS mobile device does get lost or stolen, as long as it’s turned on (or in Sleep mode) and has Internet access, you can use iCloud to determine its location and access the various Find My… features by visiting www.iCloud.com/#find. Log in to this website using your Apple ID/iCloud username and password. It’s also possible to use the Find My iPhone app (available from the App Store) for this purpose.
Thanks to iOS 7, iPhone users who determine their smartphone has been stolen can remotely activate the Activation Lock feature that prevents someone (other than you) from resetting the iPhone and re-activating it for themselves.
For all iPhone or iPad users, iCloud offers an ever-growing selection of useful features and functions, which for the most part are free of charge and very easy to use. Plus, once you set up each feature, it continues to function automatically in the background and on an ongoing basis, because iCloud functionality is integrated with the iOS and OS X operating systems, the iWork apps, and many of the preinstalled apps that come with Apple’s operating systems.