iCloud Frequently Asked Questions

What you need to know about Apple's cloud-storage service

iCloud

Apple, Inc.

iCloud is a web-based service from Apple that allows users to keep all sorts of data (music, contacts, calendar entries, and more) in sync across their compatible devices using a centralized iCloud account as the conduit for distributing the content. iCloud is the name of a collection of apps and services, not of a single function.

All iCloud accounts have 5 GB of storage by default. Music, photos, apps, and books don't count against that 5 GB limit. Only Camera Roll (photos not included in Photo Stream), mail, documents, account info, settings, and app data count against the cap.

How Does It Work?

To use iCloud, users must have an iTunes Account and a compatible computer or iOS device. When you add or update information in iCloud-enabled apps, the data automatically uploads to the user's iCloud account and then downloads to the user's other iCloud-enabled devices. In this way, iCloud is both a storage tool and a system to keep your data synced across multiple devices.

How to Use iCloud with Email, Calendars, and Contacts

Calendar entries and address book contacts sync with the iCloud account and all enabled devices. Since iCloud replaces Apple's previous MobileMe service, it also offers a number of the same web-based apps that the old system did. Web versions of email, address book, and calendar programs will be up to date with any data you back up to iCloud.

How to Use iCloud with Photos

Using a feature called Photo Stream, photos you take on one device appear on others that access the same iCloud account. This feature works on Mac, PC, iOS, and Apple TV. It stores the last 1,000 photos on your device and your iCloud account. Those photos stay on your device until you delete them or replace them with new ones.

The iCloud account only retains the photos for 30 days.

How to Use iCloud with Documents

With an iCloud account, when you create or edit documents in compatible apps, the document syncs to all devices also running those programs. Apple's Pages, Keynote, and Numbers apps include this feature. Third-party developers will also be able to add it to their apps. You can access these documents via the web-based iCloud account. On the web, you can only upload, download, and delete documents. You can't edit them.

How to Use iCloud with Data

Compatible devices will back up music, iBooks, apps, settings, photos, and app data to iCloud over Wi-Fi every day when the backup feature is turned on. Other iCloud-enabled apps can store settings and other data in the user's iCloud account.

How to Use iCloud with iTunes

When it comes to music, iCloud allows users to automatically sync newly purchased songs to their compatible devices. First, when you purchase music from the iTunes Store, it downloads onto the device you bought it on. When the download is complete, the song syncs to all of the other devices using the iTunes account via iCloud.

Each device also shows a list of all songs purchased via that iTunes account in the past and allows the user to download them, free of charge, to their other devices by clicking a button.

All songs are 256K AAC files. This feature supports up to 10 devices.

How to Use iCloud with Movies and TV Shows

Just like with music, iCloud stores movies and TV shows you purchase on iTunes. You can redownload or stream them to any iCloud-compatible device.

Since iTunes and many Apple devices support the 1080p HD resolution, movies redownloaded from iCloud are in the 1080p format, assuming you've set your preferences accordingly. This feature is similar to the free upgrade to 256 kbps AAC that iTunes Match offers for matched or uploaded songs encoded at lower bit rates.

One nice touch of the movies feature of iCloud is that iTunes Digital Copies, the iPhone- and iPad- compatible versions of movies that come with some DVD purchases, count as iTunes movie purchases. They'll live in your iCloud account, too, even if you didn't buy the video at iTunes.

How to Use iCloud with iBooks

As with other kinds of purchased files, iBooks can move between compatible devices without an extra fee. Using iCloud, iBooks files will carry over information like bookmarks. The syncing means that you can start reading a book on your iPhone and then pick it up where you left off on your iPad without doing anything extra.

How to Use iCloud with Apps

Apps you download join your list of purchases on your iCloud account. You can download them to other devices free of charge, provided they're compatible. For example, if you buy an iPhone app and it's also compatible with the iPad, you won't have to pay for it again to use it on the tablet. You can just download it.

How to Use iCloud with New Devices

Since iCloud can contain a backup of all compatible files, users can easily download them to new devices as part of their set-up process. Just like downloading an app you've already bought on your iPhone to an iPad, you can also install it again on a new iPhone if you replace your current handset.

You can also store backups of your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch in iCloud. If you replace the hardware, you can download your previous settings, apps, contacts, and other information directly to the new device without having to set everything up again from scratch.

What is iTunes Match?

iTunes Match is an add-on service to iCloud that saves users time in uploading music to their iCloud accounts. While music purchased through the iTunes Store will automatically go to iCloud, music ripped from CDs or purchased from other stores won't. iTunes Match scans the user's computer for these other songs and, instead of uploading them to iCloud, adds them to the user's account from Apple's database of songs.

Apple's song database includes 18 million songs and offers music in 256K AAC format. Along with saving time by not having to redownload all of your music, iTunes Match may also get you higher quality versions.

iTunes Match supports matching of up to 25,000 songs per account, not including iTunes purchases, for an annual fee.