Apple's iCloud explained

Apple's iCloud explained
It's not a secret that a lot of our virtual activities have gradually moved to the cloud during recent years. More and more of our information and data, apps and resources have steadily transitioned from our local machines to the gigantic network of the internet, and why not? After all, with life requiring us to become increasingly mobile and use multiple gadgets throughout the day, staying organized and in sync when it comes to accessing our data on the said devices has been getting too much of a hassle.

Apple, staying true to itself, wasn't very quick to offer a cloud-based back-up solution for its devices. This has never been a real problem for the Cupertino-based company though, as some new technologies are being adopted relatively slowly by the mainstream customer, and the mainstream customer is who Apple is after. Anyway, it seems the right moment has finally come for Apple to introduce such a service, as we're now witnessing the so-called iCloud arrive bundled with iOS 5.

Apple, staying true to itself, has made sure to offer something more polished than what we've seen up to this point in the area of cloud-based storage and back-up services. However, in its effort to pack quite a few treats for consumers in its solution, Apple has made certain elements of iCloud a bit hard to fully understand. That's why we wanted to devote a separate article to the service. Here, we'll just run through each and every aspect of iCloud, trying to present it in a clear and easy-to-understand way.

Introduction to iCloud

First up, we should say that the main purposes of iCloud are to allow you to have all of your content safely backed-up in the cloud, as well as to have it seamlessly synced across your iDevices. But even if you only have an iPhone, for example, and no other Apple device, iCloud is still a very cool service, as it will help you restore all of your information and content to you new iPhone, should you decide to upgrade. You just get your new handset, log in with your Apple account, and that's it, as if you've never left your old device.

The basic, free iCloud account comes with 5GB of cloud storage. This storage is used for the content that you create on your device (images, video, documents, etc.), as well as the data that your apps generate (purchased books, in-app downloads, etc.). But this cloud storage is not used to store your apps or music, for example. Since all apps and music are already available on Apple's servers, iCloud simply remembers what apps and music you have, and that's all. It doesn't duplicate the content by copying it to your account as well. Of course, should those 5GB turn out insufficient for you, you can always add 10GB more for $20 a year, 20GB for $40 a year, or 50GB for $100 a year.

How iCloud works

Taking over control of the MobileMe services, iCloud now offers back-up of your Contacts and Calendars. It also allows you to create an “” email account, which can also sync your notes. The other basic stuff that iCloud backs up are your reminders (created in the Reminders app), and your Safari bookmarks.

Things can get a bit more confusing when it comes to backing your photos and video up. This is largely because Apple has also developed the Photo Stream service, which is an additional way of keeping your photos in the cloud. The thing is that the photos and video you've taken with the iPhone's camera are being backed-up to the cloud by default. Naturally, this counts against your cloud storage. If you want, you can turn Camera Roll backup off, which will free up some space on your iCloud, but of course, your images and video will remain stored locally, on your iPhone. This is where Photo Stream comes in. The service actually lets you have your photos (sorry, no video) backed-up in the cloud, without this taking from your precious cloud storage. However, there are some limitations to Photo Stream that should be considered. First of all, Photo Stream only keeps each photo that's been uploaded (upload happens automatically) for 30 days. After that, your photo is removed from Apple's servers. The other limitation is that you can have up to 1000 photos in Photo Stream. Should you exceed that limit, the oldest ones start to disappear. The way to actually save your photos from disappearing is to manually move them to an album on your device. This will safely place them on your local storage. On one hand, these rules may seem annoying, but on the other, we shouldn't forget that this is just an additional treat for customers, allowing them to have their photos in the cloud, albeit for a limited time, without this taking any cloud storage.

Overall, document management is also greatly simplified with to iCloud. For example, if you're working on a Pages doc on your iPhone, and you're done for the moment, but plan to continue later on your iPad, you basically won't have to do anything, because the doc will automatically sync with iCloud, and from then – with your iPad. Right now, apps from the iWork suite support this functionality, but third-party programs should be able to add support soon as well.

Thankfully, you have the option to disable back-up for each app separately, so that you can choose to sync only what you wish. And that is pretty much all there is to iCloud. We believe it's a pretty useful service that can greatly simplify the user experience with our Apple devices. It's not perfect, of course, it has its own limitations and peculiarities, but on the whole, it's one very polished and streamlined offering. What are your thoughts on iCloud? Are you looking forward to taking advantage of it, or rather, don't find much sense in it? Feel free to sound off in the comments below!

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35. psinger

Posts: 1; Member since: Dec 04, 2011

While I like the synch'ing capabilities of iCloud, I have not seen any changes to email, which is still rubbish. Doe anyone else have to reboot email 3 or 4 times a day when accessing it via a PC. I am really disappointed that Apple did not make any upgrades to mail with iCloud. Also, if you use MicoSoft applications iCloud is not very useful. My assessment: A for synchronization, D- for everything else in iCloud. Would be interested in other people's thoughts on how iCloud has improved the user experience across multiple applications and platforms, which is what I believe the "cloud" is supposed to do.

34. pandamaja unregistered

iDropbox right? There's merit to syncing vs streaming for sure, but I wonder if the decision to make iCloud a syncing service was motivated by profiteering. That is, by syncing instead of streaming local space is still relevant. Now apple can sell 16,32 and 64GB models of their phone. Obviously the main benefit to local storage is that you don't need to be connected to access your media. But how often does one find themselves without cellphone signal and/or access to wifi?

33. Hellokitty unregistered

I do not like the new iCloud service. I find it useless and it messed up my phone and my husbands phone. We lost our pictures, contacts are merged, there are duplicate contacts with duplicate phone numbers, a whole bunch of freaking problems. Photostream only stores 1000 pics? Stupid. iCloud is confusing for people who have two of the same device but wants to keep things separate. ICloud should give u an option to let you choose what to sync within those features they have. Oh and to create a mobile me account to sync notes? Stupid. This is very confusing. I'm not using iCloud unless they make this a lot easier. Especially now when you sync its more confusing because of all these new pop up questions on iTunes.. Do u want to merge or replace? Sync on iCloud or this computer? It's all over the freaking place. I'm not a apple genius so yes, it would be much easier for people like me if they made it more comprehensive.

31. Cali_E

Posts: 196; Member since: Sep 24, 2008

it is funny to see E.N. and remixfa still on this site arguing with little fat kids that really don't know the first thing about smartphones. it would be awesome if these site had you do a proficiency test in smartphone and cellular technology before they are allowed to register or post. hahaha that would be so dope!

30. Cali_E

Posts: 196; Member since: Sep 24, 2008

this website has been biased to the iphone since it came out years ago. i rarely comeback to this website anymore cause it really just seems like an extension of apple that is forced to do articles on android and other products. this site has gone to crap and its a damn shame cause i used to come here daily. oh well

28. fan unregistered

My thing is phonearena has gigged every other manufacturer for these simple hardware upgrades but all of a sudden apple does it (after a year and a half) & here comes the praise. Please keep your ratings fair phonearena. Sure u will give this phone a 9.5 or 10. Can't wait to rate the vigor or hd

27. phonearena6 unregistered

Good Luck!!! in this accomplishment--You can just register 30 different user names with an email address......taco50 will find a way We try to moderate all: 1/ trolling 2/ offtopic 3/ offensive comments. If you believe there are "anti-Android" comments that should be moderated - report them. We are working on a new system, which will ban users who do not respect others and the rules. This will help us make the discussions better. Please be patient.

26. DROIDX0430

Posts: 469; Member since: Nov 24, 2010

ios4 and 5 use the same os across the whole apple ecosystem accept probably for pc's and laptops or macs (whatever the name they are using now)--doesn't the itouch, ipad, and iphone all use the same operating system...So how can a tablet use the same os as a cell phone or music player--because basically in a nutshell they are all the same--itouch--plays music-- ipad--plays music/adds internet, iphone-adds talking to the aforementioned apple products...Google/Android however has a optimized os for tablets solely--HONEYCOMB and with ICECREAM (forthcoming os for Android) combining a little both of GINGERBREAD AND HONEYCOMD for an even better cell phone experience--leaving android tablets not behaving as a glorified smartphone

18. rican

Posts: 132; Member since: Jul 02, 2011

is it me or does it seem like micheal h. has inspired writers in PA to write better. nice write up

20. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

It's you

15. thesnakeeyes unregistered

I think phonearena is doing the right thing. I mean why are android users commenting on an iphone article ? If u dont have an iphone just shut up and enjoy ur phone but instead of commenting on every small article related to the iphone.

13. gvk unregistered

PA sucks! They are not talking about mode of data transfer like 3G or WIFI and do we have setting to switch between.

10. Libra501

Posts: 14; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

This is the freedom of speech, what phone arena thinks they r speaking, but its like some android fan want phone arena not to speak about apple, is that way a freedom works.

8. ghost_uwi

Posts: 47; Member since: Nov 05, 2010

I think someone should create a mathematical model to show the relation between iPhone's popularity and iPhone haters. My guess is as increase in haters is directly proportional to the popularity increase in iPhone.

6. unregistered

Bashing are always on every Apple and Android related articles. And both Fanboys are bashing one another. My point is should not be banning any comments that are against Apple or against anything. Never seen them ban anything against Android so this obviously shows that they are biased in favor of Apple. Just wanna see fair treatment here. Hope you're getting the point.

4. unregistered

This sad but true, is now becoming Moderators are banning comments that are against Apple since yesterday. What the hell!? Where is the freedom of speech here?

5. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

its all any of the fandroids have to contribute. the 4s launch was huge news, so they are covering every related story. there is no need for apple or iphone bashing in every comment section of every article that is related. it even shows up in android articles. it is really out of control.

7. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

ayephoner, dont be so disengenuous. it shows up from both sides in every article. it has nothing to do with right now.. your just choosing to focus on right now. Apple users will always find reasons to bitch about android users and vice versa. What i find funny is the hypocracy of some of you ibots. When android introduced voice commands 2 years ago it was "unneeded and useless" even though it controlled the entire phone.. now that apple has bought siri and incorperated it into their OS like they actually invented it, those same ibots are hailing the new age of voice commands like its something new. Like always, you dont need it unless apple provides it.

12. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

1. im not an ibot (or an exclusive fan of apple)? 2. fandroids have a much larger presence on PA than iphone fans (ibots or isheep or iDiots...) 3. i see android articles with no android bashing all the time. in fact, the apple bashing even shows up in android articles that should be a venue for excitement about android. 4. the same thing you described happens in reverse. you guys say iOS sucks because it doesnt have this or doesnt have that. then apple gets it (notifications) and you bash them 10x more for stealing and being unorginal. the industry is moving forward. apple pushes android and android pushes apple. having both options is good for every consumer.

19. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

You know iPhone had voice commands in 2009?

9. PhoneArena Team

Posts: 258; Member since: Jun 27, 2006

We try to moderate all: 1/ trolling 2/ offtopic 3/ offensive comments. If you believe there are "anti-Android" comments that should be moderated - report them. We are working on a new system, which will ban users who do not respect others and the rules. This will help us make the discussions better. Please be patient.

14. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

awesome. i love the site and im very happy to hear that. ((((i know i get sucked into the back and forth and can be as bad as anyone, i'd just like to see it calm down a bit)))))

17. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

I guess 90% of the user base will be moderated since they're android trolls

22. wassup

Posts: 565; Member since: Jun 23, 2011

i think you might be moderated taco.

21. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

Banning I see you guys are taking the fascist Apple route.

32. this is iPhonearena unregistered

iPhonearena sucks. tolerating trolls, fanboys and jerks like taco50 and the chicken-head (was it gallito or something?) give this site a very bad name. that's why i go to other websites for impartial and non-biased reviews. your reviews on phones suck. except with an appe sign. maybe if there's an iphone5 you give it a 100/10. and good thing steve jobs is dead. death to copycats. and he's the first copycat.

3. davecann2

Posts: 460; Member since: Mar 15, 2011

First I want to say that i am a little disapointed with the upgrades of both iPone and iOS. With that said... I dont see anything wrong with upgrading the chip and a few additions and adding a "S" at the end of the device name. My disapointment is due to wanting the rumors of the iPhone5 to be true.

11. Phoneguy007

Posts: 218; Member since: Jun 02, 2011

I agree sad thing is we all really knew it was gonna be another s model but the rumors made most think that it could possible be a 5

1. arcq12

Posts: 733; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

nice nice nice..

16. John unregistered

Dear Phone Arena, Please do an article about WP7 Skydrive. -Long time reader

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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