Hello friends! Welcome to 2013. To kick off the new year, we thought we’d answer the question we hear all the time: What is iCloud, anyway?
iCloud is a free service from Apple, available to users of Macs (with at least OS X 10.7 Lion), and PC’s (with at least Windows Vista), and iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches (with at least iOS 5).
What can you do with iCloud?
- You can back up the following data that’s on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad:
Data stored in apps
Arrangement of icons
- You can keep the following things in sync automatically across your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Mac:
Contacts, and Contacts groups
- You can have documents created in certain applications available for viewing and editing on all your computers and devices.
- You can see all your recent photos on your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or computer — no matter what device you used to take the photo. (This is “Photo Stream”)
- You can find a lost iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac. It can show you where the device is physically located on a map, play a sound on the device, or erase the device entirely. You can even send a message to the person who may have found your phone. (This is “Find My iPhone”)
- You get a @me.com or @icloud.com email address, if you want it.
- You can re-download any apps, videos, or music you already bought on the iTunes store, on any computer or device – even automatically. (This is “iTunes in the Cloud”)
You also get these add-ons with a paid iCloud subscription:
- You can sync your music library, and have all your music available over the internet for download to iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, computer, or Apple TV (This is “iTunes Match”)
- You can get more storage space for backups, email, documents, and photos. This is especially useful if you take a lot of pictures.
At a minimum, it’s a good idea to use iCloud to back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. If something bad happens, and you need to replace your device, you just put in your Apple ID while setting it up, and boom, you get back all your apps in the places you put them, all your photos and videos that were in your camera roll, and everything is pretty close to how you left it.
Unless you’re extremely privacy-oriented, there’s also no real reason not to have Find My iPhone (Find My iPad/Find My iPod touch/Find My Mac) turned on. One day, you may be happy you did, even if it’s just so you can make your phone go beep in your home when you don’t know where it is.
Photo Stream is also pretty cool– a holding zone for your most recent 1,000 photos from the last 30 days. Anything that gets added to your camera roll on any device, or imported to your computer from a camera, syncs across all your devices. So you know you always have your most recent photos to show off, no matter how you took them.
iCloud is a great service that makes Apple products work well together, and the price is right. But it has limitations:
- It doesn’t back up your Mac — we still recommend a separate cloud backup service (such as the one included in IvanExpert Mac Wellness).
- It doesn’t back up any non-iTunes/App Store content that was loaded onto the phone by iTunes (e.g. iPhoto albums).
- Photo Stream is neat but it doesn’t actually give you synchronized photo libraries.
- iTunes Match is cool, but if you want to listen to something in your library when you’re in the subway, you’ll have to remember to download it in advance.
- Document sharing is seamless, but it only works per-application — that is, if you create a document and save it to iCloud, you can access it on another device, but only in that same app, and with only one level of folders. (By contrast, Dropbox-enabled apps let you save files you can open in any other Dropbox-enabled app, in folders as deeply nested as you like.)
So, should you use it?
We think so. It’s worth the peace of mind knowing you can get your photos back. Plus if you don’t have another service for synchronizing your calendar and contacts, then it’s a no-brainer.
As always, please let us know if we can help you get your head in the iCloud!