iOS 9: A Take Control Crash Course
by Josh Centers

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Table of Contents

An Introduction to iCloud

iCloud isn’t a singular thing, but rather a suite of services: email, calendar sync, password sync, file storage, and more, all accessible from and synced between any of your Apple devices signed in to the same iCloud account. With iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Music Library, you can even sync your photo and music collections between devices, although these last two generally require a fee.

iCloud is so important to Apple that CEO Tim Cook has called it “a strategy for the next decade.” But that strategy hasn’t been executed flawlessly—services sometimes go down or syncing doesn’t work as it should. Here’s an overview of iCloud—for comprehensive coverage, read Joe Kissell’s Take Control of iCloud.

Signing In

To sign in to iCloud and work with your iCloud settings, tap Settings > iCloud.

When you first visit the iCloud screen, if you are not signed in to iCloud, you can sign in with an existing Apple ID or create a new one. Once that’s accomplished, you see your sign-in name near the top of the screen.

iCloud Services

For the most part, the iCloud services are listed on the Settings > iCloud screen with switches that control whether a service is on or off . Let’s consider each option, from top to bottom—you can toggle most of these options as you read along.

**①** Once you’ve signed in, the iCloud screen offers a long list of options. Your list may be different from what’s shown here.
Once you’ve signed in, the iCloud screen offers a long list of options. Your list may be different from what’s shown here.

Family Sharing

I explain this interesting collection of iCloud-driven features in All in the Family Sharing, later.

Storage

Your iCloud account includes 5 GB of free disk space—located on Apple’s servers—for storing device backups, app data, iCloud Drive files, iCloud Photo Library photos, email, and more.

Tap Storage to view what’s using your iCloud space, delete unwanted data, or buy more storage.

iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive provides a cloud-based storage area that works like a normal drive for files created by iOS (and Mac) apps that support iCloud Drive. Files stored in iCloud are accessible on any Apple device signed in to your iCloud account (or in Windows with iCloud for Windows), although the details vary by device and operating system.

In this respect, iCloud Drive is unlike the popular Dropbox cloud-storage service, which lets you sync files created in any app. Dropbox also lets you share folders with other people, which iCloud Drive does not allow.

Photos

Tap Photos to see these options.

iCloud Photo Library
My Photo Stream

My Photo Stream automatically syncs new photos (but not videos) to your other Apple devices. It works only over Wi-Fi, and although it can be tricky to grok its 1,000-photo/30-day limit, it is free and doesn’t take space in iCloud Drive. It’s probably best to leave it off if you use iCloud Photo Library.

Upload Burst Photos

With this switch on, your device adds photos taken in Burst mode to your My Photo Stream. See Snapping a Photo. (This switch appears only if My Photo Stream is on, and if the device supports Burst mode.)

iCloud Photo Sharing

iCloud Photo Sharing lets you share photo albums from the Photos app and see photo albums shared by others. I recommend leaving iCloud Photo Sharing on in case a friend or family member wants to share photos with you.

Mail

Apple gives all iCloud users a free @icloud.com email address. Leave it enabled even if iCloud is not your preferred email provider, because Apple may use it to contact you .

**③** Even though my Gmail address is associated with my Apple ID, Apple chose to send email to my iCloud address when I set up two-factor authentication.
Even though my Gmail address is associated with my Apple ID, Apple chose to send email to my iCloud address when I set up two-factor authentication.

Contacts

iCloud Contacts syncs your contacts with your iCloud account, and from there to your other Apple devices. You can also view these contacts on the iCloud.com site (as long as you sign in with the same Apple ID).

Calendars

This service syncs your calendars with iCloud and thus with your other Apple devices, much like contact syncing. You can also view these calendars on iCloud.com .

**④** iCloud Calendars lets you sync calendars across devices and share calendars with other iCloud users.
iCloud Calendars lets you sync calendars across devices and share calendars with other iCloud users.

To share a calendar in a read/write fashion with another user (someone not using your Apple ID), you have to go beyond just turning on the Calendar switch. See Joe Kissell’s Digital Sharing for Apple Users: A Take Control Crash Course for how to share calendars.

Reminders

The built-in Reminders app is handy for tracking to-do lists and tasks. This service syncs your reminder lists with iCloud.com and between your devices.

Safari

The Safari service syncs bookmarks and open tabs between copies of Safari on your Apple devices. If you use Safari, it can be helpful to turn on this service, but if your battery tends to drain quickly, constant bookmark syncing may be part of the problem.

Notes

This service syncs notes in the Notes app between devices and with iCloud. If you don’t use Notes, turn it off.

News

The new News app can use iCloud to sync favorites and saved articles between your devices.

Wallet

Keep this switch on if you wish to keep your Wallet cards synced between your devices. (Wallet is not available on the iPad.) See iOS 9: What’s in Your Wallet?

Backup

Perhaps the most important iCloud service, and the most reliable, iCloud Backup automatically backs up your device to Apple’s servers once per day if it’s plugged in, on a Wi-Fi network, and the screen is locked. You should absolutely enable iCloud Backup if you have enough iCloud storage space.

(You can also back up to iTunes on your computer; Apple has a nice support article about iOS backups.)

Keychain

Keychain syncs passwords that you’ve saved in Safari among your Apple devices. It also syncs any credit card information that you’ve stored in Safari—see Other Safari Features. Note that Keychain requires that you set a passcode for your device.

Find My iPhone

This feature—called Find My iPad or Find My iPod touch on those devices—makes your device discoverable if it’s misplaced or stolen . It also shows the location of devices owned by family members if you use Family Sharing.

**⑤** If enabled, Find My iPhone shows the location of your devices in the Find My iPhone app.
If enabled, Find My iPhone shows the location of your devices in the Find My iPhone app.

I recommend keeping Find My iPhone on, even if you’re not worried about theft. I often use it to make my iPad chime to find it in my house. See Using Find My iPhone.

Location Sharing

Under Share My Location (at the bottom, under Advanced), you can choose whether to share your location and from which of your Apple devices to share your location.

If you have an iPhone and iPad, for instance, you probably want to share the iPhone’s location, since you are more likely to take it along when you leave the house.

When location sharing is enabled, you can also see who among your family and friends can view your location; that’s controlled in either the Find My Friends or Messages apps.

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