Ultimate iCloud Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Calendars, Contacts and E-mail

With iCloud syncing, any change to your virtual DayTimer is automatically updated on all Apple devices, and in some cases on PCs. Add an appointment or contact on your computer, and it appears on your iPhone, or vice versa. This probably sounds familiar to Android users, as it’s been a free, built-in function of that OS from inception. If you have an Android phone or tablet you want to keep in sync, you’ll use Google’s service, not iCloud. And since Google and iCloud do not sync with each other, Android users will have to put everything on Google—even Apple devices—to sync across all the gadgets.

iCloud Settings

To sync only iOS 5 devices, go to Settings, then iCloud, then turn on whatever apps you’d like to sync: Calendars, Contacts, Mail, and Reminders. On a Mac, syncing with iCal or Address Books simply requires going to the preferences menu of each app, selecting iCloud under the accounts pane, and checking Enable This Account. Reminders also show up in iCal.

To set up syncing on a PC, download the free iCloud Control Panel for Windows (Vista or 7). It resembles the Dettings menu in iOS 5, with checkboxes to select syncing of e-mail, contacts, and calendars with Outlook. It can also enable Photo Stream and sync browser bookmarks between Safari on a Mac or mobile device and Internet Explorer or Safari for Windows.

iCloud can also sync e-mail, but people won’t need that feature if they already use a cloud-based service such as Exchange (for work), Google, Yahoo, or a type of e-mail called IMAP. Why switch to a new e-mail account to get a syncing feature you probably already have with the present account?

Ironically, getting e-mail, contacts, and calendars requires you to configure the -email, address book and calendar applications separately on a Mac. It’s actually easier with a PC, where one control panel handles it all.

Syncing Documents

It’s fantastically simple to  sync documents between iDevices such as an iPhone and iPad. For example, type something in Notes on one device, and it appears on the other within a minute. To find it on a Mac, however, you’ll have to look in, of all places, Apple Mail. There is no syncing with PCs.

The process is even more awkward with productivity software. Apple makes its iWork office apps for both iOS and Mac. On iOS, each app—Keynote, Numbers, and Pages—sells for $10. On a Mac, each goes for $20. iWork apps sync across iDevices. So, for instance, you can start a document on your iPad and pick it up on your iPhone. But iWork on a Mac doesn’t sync with iCloud. The best you can do is upload and download with iCloud using its web interface by setting up an account at www.icloud.com. But it’s a drag-and-drop process. No syncing. You can also use the web interface to move docs in other formats, such as Word, to or from a Mac or a PC.

iCloud Web Interface

To seamlessly sync documents across any devices, skip iCloud and spring for mobile apps like QuickOffice Pro ($20 for iPhone and Android phones, $25 for iPad and Android tablets; www.quickoffice.com). After they are configured with an online service such as Dropbox or SugarSync, the apps allow Microsoft Office files to sync almost instantly between Macs, PCs, and any iOS and Android devices.

Bottom line: iCloud works for keeping documents in sync but there are better and easier to use tools out there.

Backing Up Data

By definition, nearly everything covered in iCloud is a kind of backup, since copies of media, appointments, bookmarks, and more live on Apple’s servers. But iCloud also backs up some data that isn’t synced with multiple devices. For instance, it stores ringtones, SMS messages, and the arrangement of app icons on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. If you lose a device—or if it gets so mangled that you have to wipe it and install the OS from scratch—iCloud restores the way it looked and worked previously.

iCloud Backup

Non-Apple apps—such as the MadPad audio-mashup app, the Omnigraffle graphics suite, and the game PocketGod—can also back up data to iCloud.

Finding a Phone or Friend

Apple has long had a Find My iPhone feature to locate a lost or stolen iPhone (or iPod or iPad) using its GPS capability and to show the map on another iDevice or a secure website. That feature continues in iCloud, along with a new one called Find My Friends.

Find My Friends

Both services require free app downloads, and Find My Friends is opt-in. Someone sends an invite over e-mail, and the person who accepts will be visible to just the sender. You can also make yourself visible for a limited time, such as during a group outing when people tend to get lost.

Finding an iPhone, iPad or iPod is a dead-simple task that you hopefully will never have to do. Friend finding may become popular in the future, but for now the process of inviting, accepting, and trying to decide the time frame for visibility is a bit awkward.

Invite Friends

Is iCloud Worth It?

iCloud has two great aspects: It’s free (generally) and it comes in pieces. For no money, you can try out most parts of the service to find the ones that work best. And the most-polished parts—syncing apps and media—are probably the most important. iCloud finally banishes the awful sync cord that no one likes to use. (By the way, you will be able to update iOS 5 wirelessly, too.) Even if you have a mix of Apple and Android gadgets, iCloud at least makes managing the content on your Apple devices easier.

iCloud Guide

Email* (will not be published)
*Indicates required field
Submit Comments

  1. Clarisa Scala Says:

    Thanks, Jon. So to be clear, your view is that “cloud only” is viable for health data. Understood; I don’t mind different views. :&ndash)

  2. Cormac Says:

    How do I view my stuff in my iCloud account on my iPhone?

  3. Richard Hallam Says:

    How do I delete icloud app without losing all info on all my devices?

  4. Ken Landis Says:

    How do I pull a word document from iCloud onto my HP10 tablet to save on tablet?

All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options