Getting to grips with iCloud

So, you’ve updated to iOS 5.0. Congratulations. It’s Apple’s finest mobile OS to date, introducing many new features, tweaks and improvements (especially for those with the brand spanking new iPhone 4S).

Hopefully, if upgrading an existing iPhone from the previous iOS 4.3.5, the process was fairly painless. As an early adopter I couldn’t wait until the day after release and joined the, probably, millions of others who bombarded the Apple servers in order to among the first to get their hands on the latest OS. With so many clambering to update it was inevitable that things didn’t go too smoothly, with many failed attemps, geek strops, error codes and an eventual very late night.

Anyway, we have iOS 5.0 and it’s excellent. There are a reported 200+ new features in the new OS, some small, others not so. The notification centre and customisable notification styles are a very welcome addition, as is tabbed browsing on the iPad, iMessage, Twitter integration and, of course, iCloud.

iCloud seamlessly synchronises your apps, photos, calendars, contacts, notes, documents, reminders, email and bookmarks. Apple very generously give you 5GB of storage for your backups. If that doesn’t sound like enough don’t worry, purchased music, apps and books, as well as your photo stream, don’t count towards your free storage and Apple store your backups and data in a way that is very efficient. It’s likely that 5GB will last most of us for some time. Upgrades to the free 5GB are available at very reasonable yearly rates, should you need more.

Setting up iCloud is very straightforward. Follow the short guide below or simply take a look at the Apple site for details on how to get started.

Setting up iCloud

First of all, and rather obviously, make sure your devices have iOS 5.0 installed.

Launch Settings and scroll down to iCloud. If you didn’t enable iCloud when you first installed iOS 5.0 then you will be prompted to do so. Sign in with your Apple ID (I recommend using the same Apple ID for iCloud that you use for purchases) and follow the instructions.

Once enabled, when you enter the iCloud settings screen you will be able to choose which services you want to sync.

All of the services you switched to “On” in the iCloud settings screen now sync seamlessly between your Apple devices (obviously you will need to go through the above process to enable iCloud on your other devices).

To enable backup to iCloud, tap on Storage and Backup and turn on iCloud backup.

Automatic Downloads

To enable automatic downloading of your music, apps and books, select Settings from the home screen and then Store.

What’s next?

That’s it. Once you’ve set up on each of your devices you’ll find that your apps, music and books are synchronised across your devices, your documents will be available on each device and any photos you take will appear in your photo stream, again across all of your Apple devices.

You will also find that, when connecting to iTunes, the process is much quicker as (if you’ve opted to backup to iCloud) iTunes no longer needs to run a backup as well as a sync.  An additional benefit of iOS 5.0 and iTunes 10.5 is that you can now continue to use your device during sync.  Previously, when syncing, you had to wait for iTunes to finish before you could use your device.

Access to your data, away from your iOS device

You can access your calendar, mail and contacts via as well as iWork documents.  Your photo stream can be managed via PC or MAC client (PC control panel available here) as can your contacts and calendars (requires Outlook 2007 or later and is restricted to Windows Vista and Windows 7…. us XP users are out of luck).

Enjoy iCloud, it really does make a big difference to ownership of Apple iOS devices.

I am @iCraigt on Twitter and you can find me on Google+ here.

By icraigt

Craig Thornton (@icraigt), Geek Dad, husband of @linsthornton, Principal Engineer at JLR, tech addict. All views my own.