Everything You Need To Know About iCloud For iOS 5 [Review]

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With the release of iOS 5 comes iCloud, which is Apple’s answer to Google’s cloud-based backup service for their Android devices. Apple’s older web based services have been sketchy so far and while general notion may be the same for iCloud as well, the features and service being offered is actually very impressive. How it fares with the consumers is something only time can tell. For now, iCloud is up and running and we’ll show you exactly what it has to offer and how you can use it.

Before we start of with the instructions on how to set it up and consequently move on to the features at hand, we’ll just quickly tell you what the service has installed for you. iCloud will back up your entire device, much like an Android device where your messages, call logs, contacts, photos, calendars, notes all will be backed up. Furthermore, if you use apps such as Pages, Keynote and Numbers, iCloud can also make a backup of those documents. As for the apps, iCloud will not backup the app but its data, and when you restore from your backup, the apps will be downloaded from the App Store.

To set up the iCloud service, open the Settings app and get busy. iCloud will use your Apple ID as your account credentials and by default give your 5GB of storage. You can choose what you want to back up on iCloud and as you can see, it covers pretty much everything.

iCloud-iOS-5  iCloud

In case you’re wondering what Photo Stream is, enabling this will backup your pictures in the camera roll and all other albums, which are then automatically restored when you restore from iCloud, or you can see them in the album titled “Photo Stream.” Enabling Mail will prompt that you need to have a @me.com email address, which is the only service that can be synced with iCloud (you may sign up if you do not already have one). Documents & Data is the option to back up documents made on Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. Find My iPhone is a very convenient way of locating your iPhone, which we will probe deeper in a bit.

iCloud iCloud iCloud

Tap Storage & Backup and you will be taken to a page showing you the total storage space you have access to and what is left of it. Additionally, you may also buy more storage if you wish. You see that iCloud Backup button? That’s the key to making iCloud automatic backup functional, so if you do not enable that, you may toggle as many switches as you want in iCloud, but your pictures, accounts, documents and settings will not be automatically backed up. So if you want automatic backup of your data, make sure iCloud Backup is enabled. That said, before a factory reset, you may still want to hit the Back Up Now button to backup everything for sure before erasing all data and settings. Manage Storage lets you see in detail exactly what is occupying space on your iCloud account.

Once you have iCloud setup on your phone and have made your first iCloud backup, you’ll see how Apple’s iCloud is a step ahead of Google’s cloud backup for their Android devices.

One of the major appeals of iCloud, especially when compared to Google’s cloud backup, is the availability of your cloud storage as a web portal via a computer. Not only can you access the above laid out apps and the content backed up in them, you also have the ability to edit the data or content from within this portal. Any changes made are synced  to your iOS 5 devices as well. Namely, from this portal, you can access your Mail (@me.com address required), your Contacts, Calendar events, and iWork which houses your Pages, Keynotes and Numbers. So that leaves us with the mysterious Find My iPhone, right? If you have the Find My iPhone option enabled in iCloud, you can simply access the location of your device from the portal and alongside a few more options to go with it as well. We’ll go through all these one by one in detail.

Account-options_thumbAccount-Options-2_thumb

To set up preferences for your account on the iCloud portal, simply click on the username on the top right corner of the browser and a window similar to the above screenshot will appear. You may change the display picture associated with your account, along with the choice of selecting a different Language and Time Zone.

If you want a clean start and a fresh new backup of your pictures, you can click Advanced and select Reset Photo Stream that will remove all pictures previously backed up on iCloud.

Find My iPhone

Moving on, we take a look at how Find My iPhone exactly works and what else it can do. This service not only locates your device for you, but also enables you to send a message to your phone that displays as an unavoidable popup with an alarming tone – highly useful for times when you cannot find your phone, especially if it was set to silent mode. Once the message is delivered, an email is also sent to your Apple ID (email address), confirming that the message was delivered.

Other options include a remote lock that sets a password lock on the phone that you specify from the portal. Remote Wipe is a drastic measure to resort to for saving your data from getting into the wrong hands, as it will wipe the entire contents of your iPhone.

Calendar

Your Calendar app just got a big screen debut. This web-based app looks like it takes its cue from the new Reminders app mixing with the old Calendar app. Hit the cog wheel to bring up settings and quick access to whatever you want to add in the calendar. There’s a comprehensive reminder system integrated in it, as well.

Calendar-share

You can also share your reminders or calendar events with other iOS 5 users as well and they can edit the lists. Additionally, you have the option to let anyone see your lists, if you choose to do so.

Contacts

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Your on-the-go Contacts list can now stay synced with your iDevice and you can easily edit or add contacts without having to plug your phone into the computer. This would be particularly useful for frequent travelers, users who work with random, public computers, and those who are mostly on the go. With Contacts on iCloud, these issues become a thing of past.

Hitting the cog wheel here will bring up a list of options that you can play around with, such as, how to sort contacts, print their details, refresh (in case changes were made on your phone) etc.

Mail

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As we’ve said before, iCloud will only backup your @me.com email accounts, so if you want your emails backed up on iCLoud, you will need to sign up for an email address (if you do not already have one). The interface is actually very simple and well laid out. Other then that, it’s pretty much your regular email client.

iWork

iWork is your all-in-one portal for accessing all the content created using Keynote, Pages and Numbers. You can not only view the documents that you have backed up, but it also offers the ability to edit existing ones or create new documents from scratch, which can then be synced across your iDevices.

iCloud definitely boasts a lot of potential, especially with the iCloud web portal at hand. For now, the service seems well thought out and stable, based on our test run in Addictive Labs. For now, Apple’s initiation of iCloud is commendable, but it remains to be seen how the service will pan out as the user base grows. Only time will tell.

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  • Robin

    I would love some details about how much this will use up my data plan. I am on a limited 200MB plan and worry that this significantly increase my data usage.

    • Aatif

      It actually might, since this will be backing up all your selected data using your data plan. A good approach might be to use a traffic monitor app and observe data consumption.

  • scott porter

    I already back my Macbook to a Time Capsule. I have a single Macbook, with almost 400GB of music NOT purchased from apple in itunes, thousands of ebooks NOT purchased from apple and photos and documents not in apple apps. Is iCloud as useless a it appears to ME or am I missing something?
    scott

  • Sandra Alger

    Hello, I need to know how to access my backed up stuff in iCloud? Is there a cloud icon that should be on my iPad after I installed the cloud and ios5?

  • alan

    since we only start with 5Gb storage, I want to know how to backup everything EXCEPT apps, music, movies (and possibly books)…. which will keep things nice and lean and super-quick.

    I can back up my “heavy” data stuff on my pc from itunes anyway.

  • Bob

    Robin,
    You have to distinguish between backup and sync. Sync uses 3g so it will use up your data plan. But backup only happens via wifi, and when plugged into a charger. So, depending on how you set things up, 200mb might be enough. Right now I’m at 2gb with At&t syncing and backup arent making much of a dent.

  • Mark

    So, all my camera roll is stored in the cloud, but can I not get to them via a pc? How an I actually access them?

  • Henry

    If using iCloud means all my devices will have the same content, then I don’t want it. We have two iPads on one account, so both are synced as far as Apps, and can share music, etc., thru iTunes, but we don’t want the same data on both. Am I understanding correctly?

  • Hanbow1

    iCloud is all very confusing to me, I have an iMac,Iphone4,and ipad2. Very concerned about using up all my Data plan. Losing the ability to sync with tunes. I see no real benefit here! I think something like Time Capsule is more than sufficient. Starting to feel like i’m being held hostage by apple, the cost just never seem to stop!

  • Jkaren128

    I backed up my iPhone 4 today and iCloud was used. I had over 75 PAID songs from iTunes that are gone!! How can I get my songs back into my iPhone??

  • Jgiddens

    icloud Doesn’t support outlook!! just tried to transition to icloud from mobile me and wiped out my data in outlook! called apple (another harrowing story) and finally found someone who told me the truth: icloud not compatible with outlook. It’s an android phone for me. Screwed by apple again!!

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  • universa

    What’s the deal, if you use a Windows Calendar, it isn’t compatiable with the I CLoud.  This is very important,  How can an office all be on the same page, when they don’t have the I Cloud.  What calendars are you compatable with?

    • Cdorman1

      i can’t figure it out either… and the folks at the apple store told me finally, maybe i should just continue to sync. but today, syncing didn’t work. screwed or just not understanding?

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  • Eddchinnock

    I’ve backed up onto icloud and since that have no idea how to look through what’s on there. I’ve tried to follow this website but it doesn’t appear to be the same. Can anyone tell me how to get to that laid out app section or the account bit with language and time zones on?

  • Lottabc123

    Will my texts be synced to the cloud?

  • Ed Bryson

    I hate iCloud. I don’t have Lion and forced to switch I lost contacts. More difficult now to use online, which I do a lot. after 10 years on mobile me, it’s time to investigate to see if I can get what I need using gmail. I hate iCloud!

    • MobileMe was only a couple years old… but yeah before that it was .Mac, before that iTools.  Apple sucks at this… iCloud documents is a joke, and no replacement for iDisk (or better yet Dropbox).  You don’t need new apps or Lion or iOS 5 to share a document between your devices… and if you do need to build it into your apps your doing something wrong.

  • Eee Frederick

    if you back up your phone with someone else computer and they back your phone up, can they back up their phone so they can read your messages?

    • Shell444

      i have actually had ex hubby hand me his phone to charge on laptop which had set up to back up to my laptop every time connected then when he left i plugged in my phone and restored it to his back up and it is just like having a clone of his phone so i found plenty of things he didnt want me to see which is why he is the ex hubby !!! Just have to be sure to back ur phone up before you restore from his so you can go back and restore to ur phone again !!

  • Trish3

    Hello I have many photos in Facebook and have spent many hours trying to find how to upload these into ICloud with no success I am using photo gogo lite and when signing into the Facebook link on there I can see my albums but no photos can you advise me of what I am doing wrong thanks trish

  • Nancyenglefield

    very helpful but i have changed my email and cannot access iCloud because it won’t change the email to new one and it will only accept the new password connected to new email