No doubt the most welcomed feature of the latest iOS 5 update for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad is Apple rolling out iCloud and wireless Wi-Fi connectivity for its smart mobile devices and Macs. Many of us have experienced the pain of connecting our iOS device using USB to iTunes just to update a playlist or backup some related app files. It was almost like calling someone on a wired phone.
But now those days are getting behind us. Apple has made it possible to walk into an Apple Store, purchase a device and have it up and running by the time you walk out. If you are an existing iOS user, you only have to connect one more time to make the wireless iCloud connection. Afterwards, your eyes may get watery when you open iTunes and see your iOS device(s) connected without wires. But hold on, if you haven’t set things up, there are some things you need to know.
First off, to use iCloud, you will need to have a free MobileMe account. If you’re an existing iOS owner, you probably already have such an account, but if you don’t, you will be asked to set it up when you try to add iCloud to your system.
So now connect your iOS device to iTunes and complete the iOS 5 update. As usual, make sure existing content on the device is backed up by iTunes. After the update is completed, you need to click on the Info menu for your device.
If you plan on syncing your Address Book and iCal Calendar data using iCloud, you will want to uncheck the two sync buttons on that page.
Next, on the Summary page, click either “Back up to iCloud” or “Back up to this computer.” If you want to back up the content of your device to your iCloud device, remember that you only get 5GB of free storage, so depending upon how much content you have on your device, that might not be a good idea. On the other hand, backing up to iCloud means having another place to secure your data. So for the average user, backing up to iCloud should be okay.
If you are an existing MobileMe user, you might have more storage space, that is until Apple closes out all those accounts in June of next year.
Notice also you have other options before you apply the iCloud setup. You will want to of course check “Sync with this iPad over Wi-Fi” and probably all the other boxes under that.
In managing your music, you will need to go to the Music section and click “Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres” if you have a large iTunes library. Under Options, either select “Sync only checked songs and videos,” or “Manually manage music and videos,” which will prevent iTunes from trying to load your entire library onto your device.
The beauty of iCloud is that you can now add and delete songs for your devices over your Wi-Fi network connection. Unfortunately, you can’t do it over 3G. Once you have everything set the way you want it, click the Apply and Sync buttons to make your first iCloud connection.
After your data is restored to your device and it’s restarted, you should be invited to go through the process of setting up iCloud. But if some reason you did the upgrade and skipped this process, you can still go back and set it up using the following directions.
Setting Up An iOS Device
If you need to set up iCloud on your iOS 5 updated device, open the Settings app and tap on iCloud. Add your account and enable all the items you want to sync via iCloud. Do the same for your Mac or PC if you have data you want to sync from there (System Preference > iCloud.)
Enable the data that you want to upload to iCloud and sync between your computer and iOS device(s). In order to use Photo Stream, you will need to enable it also in iPhoto and/or Apple’s Aperture. Likewise, Documents & Data is for use with Apple’s iOS and Mac iWorks apps—Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
If you scroll down on the iCloud menu and tap Storage and Backup, you will get that described information, as well as an invitation to purchase additional storage.
You can and should enable iCloud Backup, which means the data on your device will back up to your computer or to iCloud your camera roll, accounts, documents, and settings when the device is plugged, locked, and connected to Wi-Fi. Notice also, you can manually “Back Up Now” if you need to quickly push data to iCloud and other devices.
Once the backup is complete, you can tap Manage Storage to double-check that all the items are now backed up in iCloud.
As stated above, iCloud synchronization works automatically, but you can also go into say iTunes on your computer and manually add songs or apps to your device(s) wirelessly. In my experience, however, the process of re-adding a single app on your Mac to a selected device is a slower process than simply going back into the App Store and locating an app you’re previously purchased and re-downloading it from there.
If you want to access your Mail, contacts, and calendar data online, simply go to iCloud and sign in using your iCloud/MobileMe username and password. You also go there to use the Find My iPhone, and to upload, download, and synchronize your iWork documents.
Sadly, in order to sync iWork documents with iCloud, you have to upload documents to your online account (click on the iWork icon, and then click on the gear button on the upper-right of the page to upload documents to iCloud.) You can’t upload documents to your account from within iWork applications.
If you’ve been using iWork, you will have to switch to iCloud if you want documents to automatically sync to all your iCloud supported devices.
Also, while we’re on the subject, if you’re a heavy iPhone camera user, you may or may not like the Photo Stream feature. It’s great that it automatically uploads all your iPhone photos to your corresponding devices and to your iPhoto/Aperture library.
But though it keeps those photos in your iCloud account for 30 days, it’s almost impossible to delete them from iCloud. You can turn off Photo Stream on your device to keep it from uploading images to iCloud, but it seems that images remain in iCloud until after 30 days.
There’s a lot more to iCloud, but hopefully this article has given you enough to get started. Let us know about your experiences using iCloud.