If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, it is beneficial to have a basic grasp of which iCloud services are available to you on those devices, and how to turn each setting on and off. When you use iCloud on your iPhone, you are allowing Apple to back-up some of your information to the Apple servers somewhere in the US. Once the initial back-up is done, you can also ask iCloud to sync all your Apple devices so that you will the same information across all devices.
In this video, I cover all the different settings which are available to you on iPhone / iPad, and how to customize them for your needs:
Over the years, iCloud has grown to include a broad set of features which are all pretty useful, but you may not necessarily want or need to use all of them. So, we’ll look at what each service does, and you can decide whether you want to turn it on or not.
- iCloud Drive: This is Apple’s answer to other cloud services such as DropBox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. This service allows you to easily back-up files and documents from your computer and mobile devices to the the Apple servers. Those files an documents are then synced across all your devices on which iCloud drive is turned on. If you tend to save a lot of large files onto iCloud Drive, you may at some point need to buy extra storage space for iCloud.
- Photos: This allows you to sync either some of your photos and videos, or all of your photos and videos to iCloud. If you turn on the iCloud Photo library, all your pictures and videos will be stored on iCloud and then synced across all your devices on which iCloud photo library is turned on. Turning on the iCloud Photo library can help clear space on your devices, particularly on iPhone and iPad if you’re running out of room.
But it is important to keep in mind that if you turn on the iCloud Photo library on all your devices, once you delete an image or video from one device, it deletes from your other devices as well. Your Photos library will be identical on all devices on which this feature is turned on.
- Mail: This feature is available if you have one of the Apple supplied email addresses that are available for free to anyone. These addresses end in @icloud.com, @me.com, and @mac.com.
If you use one of these email addresses, your emails will then be synced across all devices. You can also save previous emails in folders as a back-up should you ever need to retrieve anything.
These use the IMAP protocol, just like a Gmail address or a Yahoo address, which means that when you delete an email from one device, it also deletes it from everywhere else.
- Contacts: When you use the Contacts application (formerly known as Address Book) on your Mac, you can either save contacts to your Mac or to iCloud. The advantage of saving your contacts to iCloud is that your contacts will always be in sync on all your devices, and also become available on www.icloud.com. For the vast majority of people, you will probably be using the cloud to back up and sync your contacts. But it can also be used in conjunction with contacts you may have stored with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange and many other providers.
- Calendar: The Calendar app lets you can create events, appointments, and to do’s in a simple scheduling app. You can create calendar events either just on your Mac, or create them using iCloud, which will then sync across all your devices. Again, I strongly recommend that you use iCloud for your calendar events so that everything syncs across all your devices.
- Notes: Same as the previous two, most people should store their Notes in the cloud, unless you are really worried that someone could gain access to your iCloud account. You can create super simple notes, or far more intricate notes with tables and attachments in the latest version. It’s a pretty powerful tool which many people are starting to use instead of something like EverNote because it integrates so well with all your Apple products.
- Siri: Turning on Siri in the iCloud panel allows Apple to learn your voice across multiple devices. The way that Siri is supposed to work is that it learns your voice over time and gradually gets better at recognizing your voice and the way you ask it questions. If you’ve been using on iPhone for some time, and you get a new device, having Siri turned on in iCloud means that it doesn’t have to start from scratch and learn your voice all over again on that new device. Slightly spooky maybe, but pretty useful …
- Keychain: Keychain is password manager built into Apple products, which allows you to save only certain passwords. When you create or enter a username and password on a website while using Safari, you can save that username and password to your Keychain so that Safari will enter it automatically for you the next time your visit that sit. Your Keychain can also remember wi-fi passwords and various other internet related usernames and passwords. You cannot use it to store just any passwords like you can in some other applications like 1Password or LastPass. But it’s still a very handy feature.
- Back to My Mac: Hardly anyone uses this feature, because it hasn’t always worked very well. But, in theory, if you have 2 or more Macs using the same Apple ID, you can access your Macs remotely. So, if for example you’re on the road with your MacBook Air, and you have an iMac at home… If both are turned on and using that same Apple ID, you can access and operate you iMac from your MacBook Air. You can grab files from your home computer while you’re away basically. Again, it’s not used much, but it can be very useful for some people.
- Find my Mac / iPhone / iPad: With this feature turned on, you’ll be able to track down your Apple devices and see them on a map when you log into www.icloud.com, or by using the Find my phone feature on one of your mobile devices. Of course, your device needs to be turned on and within reach of a network for this feature to work. For most people, I’d recommend you have this feature turned on in case you ever lose your device.