Apple’s iCloud Fully Explained

iCloud has been around for years now and it’s become essential to how many people store photos and documents, send emails, and sync and backup their devices. However, many Apple users don’t understand iCloud or don’t use it to its fullest ability; and it’s easy to see why.

Apple describes iCloud as “a breakthrough set of free cloud services that work seamlessly with applications on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC to automatically and wirelessly store your content in iCloud and automatically and wirelessly push it to all your devices.” But what does that even mean?

While Apple is generally great at making and marketing top-notch products and services, iCloud is a convoluted, beautiful mess.

This post will explain iCloud’s many features, how to use iCloud effectively, and attempt to describe how iCloud is designed to make your digital life easier.

What Is the Cloud?

To understand iCloud, one must first understand what the cloud is. For many consumers, the term “cloud” is thrown around a lot, but hardly ever explained. Simply put, the cloud is the Internet—or rather the hardware and software that make the Internet function.

Many cloud services or Internet-hosted services exist. For example, cloud storage simply refers to networked servers that are used to store data remotely.

Cloud services can also include data syncing, email services, and other network applications that require an active Internet connection.

Many modern cloud services utilize both the Internet and your local device to make their services run as smoothly as possible. For example, while your email may be stored online it can also be downloaded to your device and randomly accessed without an Internet connection via an application known as an email client.

Of course, you may be thinking that email messages and attachments download to your device automatically as needed. This is because many cloud services decide what is best for you and handle streaming, caching, and downloading automatically so that you don’t have to. This allows you to check your email, snap a photo, or edit a document without ever worrying about what happens in the background. When implemented correctly these services “just work.”

What Cloud Services Are Available?

There are many cloud services available today. Cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Drive, and OneDrive allow you to store files in the cloud to be accessed from virtually any computer that has an active connection to the Internet.

Cloud storage services may also let you sync your devices’ files or your phone’s camera roll automatically.

Email services often integrate contact, calendar, and tasks syncing—such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! as part of their cloud-based service.

While email and storage may be the most common forms of cloud services, other services also exist, such as note taking/syncing (Evernote), VoIP and video calling (Skype, Oovoo), messenging (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik), video streaming (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube), online learning (Duolingo, Udemy), password managers (1Password, LastPass), and more. You might be thinking by now that the cloud seems a lot like the Internet, that’s because it is in fact the Internet.

What Is iCloud?

So now that we understand “The Cloud” in general, what is iCloud? It’s pretty much everything above and more rolled into one neat package that works well with all of your Apple devices; while still providing access to some of your data from non-Apple devices and services.

Is iCloud for everyone? No. But, if you you have a lot of Apple devices or if Apple is your primary ecosystem, it will likely be the best option for you.

iCloud offers email, cloud storage, photo/video syncing, password management, browser syncing, game syncing, video calling, VoIP audio calling, note syncing, contact syncing, calendar syncing, and more.

In addition to all of that, iCloud creates and stores encrypted backups of your iOS devices, helps you locate your devices and close friends, and integrates with almost every Apple app and service to make this possible.

How Much Does iCloud Cost?

All of the features of iCloud are free and include 5 GB of online storage space. Apple offers the following additional storage plans all under $ 10 per month and that iCloud storage can actually be shared with up to four other family members.

  • 50 GB for $ 0.99 per month
  • 200 GB for $ 2.99 per month
  • 2 TB for $ 9.99 per month

Less than one dollar a month is an amazing deal to be able to store 50 GB worth of photos, videos, backups, and files. Keep in mind, syncing contacts, purchasing iTunes media, email, etcetera doesn’t count toward your storage, so in a sense you get a lot more than 50 GB considering you can access your entire iTunes music and video library in the cloud.

How Do I Setup iCloud?

Setup is pretty straightforward. When setting up a new Apple device you’ll have the opportunity to sign in (or sign up) for iCloud.

You can also sign in using the Settings app on your iOS device or the System Preferences on your Mac. Once signed in, enable the features you want to use.

In an ideal world that would be it; but, unfortunately it’s not. There are two things you should be aware of:

First, you can’t change your iCloud email address, so choose wisely as this account will be used to sync your favorite content, important settings, and more. And creating a new iCloud account later may not be a desirable experience.

Luckily, you can add up to three email aliases at a time. These aliases are essentially alternate email addresses you can send and receive with. Emails will be received in the same inbox as they are all associated with the same account.

Second, many people have had an iTunes account for years that they’ve used to purchase music, movies, TV shows, books, and Apps. Sure you can use your new iCloud account to make these same purchases; however, you won’t be able to merge your old iTunes account purchases into a new iCloud account.

Because of this slight oversight, there are two options. First option is to begin anew and only use your new iCloud account (this could get expensive if you have a lot of purchases). The second option is to continue using your old iTunes account for purchases. By doing the second option you’ll have to sign in with two accounts, but you’ll be able to keep your purchases and Apple has made it easy to do so in recent iterations of iOS.

Enabling iCloud

Once you have an iCloud account you will want to login on all of your Apple devices and make sure the features you wish to use are enabled.

To enable iCloud features on your iPhone go to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud.

iCloud settings on your Mac are located in the System Preferences under Accounts.

iCloud Enabled Apps

The following sections will go over the different things you can do using your iCloud account and some of the applications available on your Mac or iOS device that utilize iCloud services.


Email is a core feature of iCloud and has a variety of functions that help make it one of the better email services available today. Email with iCloud is very straight forward and can be accessed via the web ( or through an email client such as the Mail app built into all iOS and macOS devices.

iCloud mail offers the option, known as MailDrop, to send large attachments by storing them in iCloud allowing recipients to download large files by simply clicking a link.

It also has a variety of customization options and allows users to markup PDFs and other documents on their iOS device. In addition, the macOS and iOS Mail clients allow users to add multiple accounts in addition to their iCloud account, making it a great place for all of your email needs.

Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, and Notes

With an iCloud account all of your appointments, contact cards, reminders, and notes are synced between your Apple devices. This is a nice feature because if you buy a new device you don’t miss a thing or have to ask who’s texting you.

Notes is especially nice. The latest iteration of the Notes app includes categories, style formatting, checklists, collaboration, drawing capabilities (including Apple Pencil support), image support, and more. You can even add rich links to notes from Safari or other apps.


Today people take more photos than they know what to do with; and according to Flikr, 47% of Photos shared to their site in 2016 were taken on an iPhone. Photos of people’s family, their vacations, and even what they ate for breakfast are being taken and stored at an alarming rate.

With so many important—and some not so important—photos, it’s equally important that they don’t get lost. When logged into iCloud you can choose to enable iCloud Photo Library which will sync your library across devices and back them up to the cloud (if you have enough iCloud storage). You can also upload new photos and choose to optimize storage on your devices.

iMessage and FaceTime

iMessage and FaceTime allow for seamless communications between Apple devices. With iCloud, you can choose to send and receive text and multimedia based messages, video calls, and audio calls (yes FaceTime does VoIP-style audio calls) using your Apple ID. Of course, this is one of those iCloud features that’s just built into the service using your Apple ID.

Files and iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive is a cloud storage solution that allows you to sync files and folders across various devices. By default your Mac syncs the Desktop and Documents locations; however, you can choose which directories to sync.

In iOS 11, you can use the new Files app to manage files stored on your iPhone, in iCloud Drive, and on supported third-party services such as Dropbox.

This is an awesome feature that ensures your files are always within reach when you need them most.


iCloud Backup is amazing. But the initial backup (and restoring) can take some time even on a high-speed Internet connection. After this, backups occur in the background at times when the phone is not in use and generally happen pretty quick.

What makes iCloud Backup so fantastic is that it backs up everything (settings, apps, data, etc.) and it just works. One thing to keep in mind: text messages/iMessages are also backed up. It’s probably best to clear all unwanted messages before backing up and restoring a new device as messages are part of the initial restore and can make it take a lot longer. One other tip: don’t disconnect from your current Wi-Fi connection when a restore (or backup in some cases) is taking place; it can cause the restore to fail.


iWork is Apple’s productivity suite and includes Pages (written documents), Keynote (presentations), and Numbers (spreadsheets). Currently iWork is also available in iCloud — so it can easily be accessed by virtually any device with a web browser — and has apps for iOS and macOS. It also supports real-time collaboration much like Google Docs.


There are many password management applications available ranging from Last Pass to 1Password. But few people realize that Apple integrates its own robust password keeper right into macOS and iOS.

It’s called Keychain and it seamlessly integrates with Safari, and many third-party apps and browsers. Additionally, you can choose to encrypt your Keychain and sync it across devices using iCloud.

Using Keychain is pretty straight forward, with iPhone X Face ID usually starts automatically when it detects a login screen that you have a login for. Otherwise look for the key icon that appears on your iOS keyboard’s suggestions.

You can add new logins manually using the built in Keychain application on macOS or by going to Passwords in your iPhone’s Settings.


Safari remains possibly the best browser for iOS. Most other Internet browsing applications for iOS are built on top of it and don’t have all the features and privacy options that Safari offers. Safari works with Keychain (as mentioned above) and its data can be set to sync across all of your macOS and iOS devices.

In addition, Safari has an excellent “reader” mode that formats articles so they’re easy to read. You can also save articles and sites to a reading list. This reading list is also synced via iCloud.

Find My iPhone / Activation Lock

If you don’t have Find My iPhone (or Find My Mac) enabled for your iPhone, iPad, AirPods, Apple Watch, or Mac, stop what you’re doing and go enable it. Once enabled you can locate or disable your Apple devices from the Find My iPhone app or by going to

Enabling Find My iPhone (or Mac) also enables Activation Lock. With Activation Lock you can keep your devices secure in the event they are lost or stolen. Activation Lock makes the phone unusable to anyone without access to your iCloud account. Once triggered it won’t allow anyone to disable Find My iPhone, erase your device, or reactivate and use your device until the Lock is disabled and the device is safe in your hands.

To enable Activation Lock simply login to iCloud or the Find My iPhone app and put the missing or stolen device into Lost Mode. Using the App or website you can see the current or last known location of your devices on a map. You can also make the device play a sound (if it’s still online), erase it (if it’s online or when it comes back online), or get directions to the current or last known location.

In addition to your own devices, there is also the option to be able to see family member devices as well if you are using iCloud’s family features.

Find My iPhone is a great way to prevent your expensive iOS or macOS device from becoming lost or stolen.

Find My Friends

Like Find My iPhone, Find My Friends helps you locate or share your location with select users for a specified or indefinite amount of time. You can also choose to be notified when a user enters or exits a location using geofencing. For example, you could be notified when your kids arrive home after school or your spouse leaves work.

In terms of privacy, you can stop sharing your location at anytime; however, parents can use the iPhone’s restrictions settings to keep Find My Friends from being disabled by their children.

Find My Friends is also a great way to find and meet up with groups when in crowded areas such as amusement parks, airports, or convention centers.

iTunes, TV, and Apple Music

With iTunes and Apple Music, all of your favorite media is available to purchase, rent, or listen to anywhere and anytime. Apple Music and iTunes purchases are available on your iPhone, iPod, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. Apple Music is also available on Apple Watch.

Many movies on iTunes are now available in 4K HDR (or Dolby Vision) and cost $ 19.99 or less. Look for sales and you’ll find movies for as low as $ 4.99. What makes movies purchased from iTunes better than DVDs or Blu-rays is that they are available in the cloud for streaming or download. Additionally, they have extra content like their disc counterparts, but they don’t have previews. Gone are the days of fast forwarding through previews, fumbling with discs, or losing your movies. As an added bonus, Apple often makes updates for free, like resolution updates, content updates (iTunes Extras), and more.

TV shows from iTunes are a little different. While the TV App is great for finding movie and TV content from a variety of platforms, purchasing TV content will vary from person to person. This is because if you have TV or on demand services you can generally find shows for free. iTunes television content is competitively priced, but can often be found for free elsewhere.

Then there’s iTunes Music and Apple Music. Music Streaming is quickly taking over the world and Apple Music and Spotify are the gold standard for the service. Apple Music offers an Apple-like experience from the UI design to the quality of the content. If you you’re part of the Apple ecosystem it may be the best way to go. It’s $ 4.99/mo. for students, $ 9.99/mo. for individuals, and $ 14.99/mo. for families of five or less.

Apple Music allows you to stream and download content, create playlists, listen to online radio, play Apple exclusive content, and more.

Content purchased or added for iTunes and Apple Music doesn’t count toward your iCloud storage so you can have a huge library of content available right at your finger tips.


If you enjoy reading on your iPhone or iPad, iBooks is awesome and like iTunes syncs with iCloud. You can sync bookmarks, highlights, notes, and more. Books purchased in iBooks are always available to download again and your library can be synced across devices using iCloud.

News, Home, and Game Center

While Apple’s News app doesn’t require an iCloud subscription, it still helps make the experience a little more magical. Apple News started out as Newsstand, an app for subscribing to magazines. Since then, it’s evolved into a news aggregator so that users can get all of the news that’s relevant to them in one place. With iCloud, your preferences are remembered and synced across devices automatically. If you buy a new device you can pickup right where you left off.

The Home app is also one where iCloud works it’s magic in the background. Thanks to iCloud your smart home devices can be accessed on any device and if you purchase a new one you’re good to go right after logging in.

The same logic applies to Game Center. Game Center remembers what games you’ve played and can be used as a Single Sign On (SSO) of sorts for some of your games. However, unlike other features in this article you don’t have to use your main iCloud sign on. You can choose to use another Apple ID for Game Center.

Family Sharing

iCloud isn’t just a service for individuals. Apple recognizes that people have families (up to five members) and that they may want to share content, payment methods, and more.

Family Sharing allows you to access content from your family’s account. Additionally, younger family members can request to purchase an item and that request can be approved or denied from a parent device.

With an Apple Music family plan, your family can each have their own personalized Apple Music experience.

Third Party Integration

What really makes iCloud a winner is that it doesn’t stop with Apple-created apps and services. Third-party app developers can take advantage of iCloud’s syncing and storage for their apps.

When done right you can delete an app or game and reinstall it without losing any data. Additionally, apps can sync data across devices using iCloud so you’re always up-to-date. It’s quick, easy, and seamless, and it’s what makes iCloud a complete package.

iCloud isn’t perfect and it’s always evolving. But it’s a treasure trove of features and services that some still haven’t discovered. Using iCloud to its fullest can help to make you a true pro-user when it comes to your Apple products.

iDrop News

Microsoft and Qualcomm’s ‘Always Connected PCs,’ explained

A couple of days ago, Qualcomm and Microsoft announced they were collaborating on a category of computer called the ‘Always Connected PC.’ In other words, a PC that behaves more like a smartphone. That could have potentially massive implications for the way we use our computers, but there are some important drawbacks as well. Let’s break it down. What exactly is an Always Connected PC? The ‘Always Connected’ bit is basically a marketing term Microsoft is using for a new batch of Windows PCs running on processors with ARM architectures – the same type of super-efficient chips on our mobile devices.…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Microsoft
The Next Web

20 Years Ago Steve Jobs Explained the Importance of ‘Saying No’

Steve Jobs was a remarkable man who achieved great success in his life — whose innovations and contributions in the areas of technology, computing, and design have made a lasting impact on the lives of billions.

But there’s a lesser-known secret about Jobs you should probably know: he didn’t achieve anything in his life by tackling it all at the same time and divesting his efforts, or by shifting from one project to another without giving it a second thought.

Jobs believed, rather, that one’s power to achieve focus over a task — and to see it through until completion — is what will determine the project’s success.

But how on Earth does one “achieve focus” over a project or task?, you might ask, In a world full of people, possessions, and stimuli constantly clamoring for our attention?

The answer, according to Jobs, is that you must learn how to “say no.”

The Art of Focus

Jobs’ rationale was delivered on the sidelines of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, 1997 — the year he returned to the helm of Apple after having been ousted from the company amid a tense power struggle some 12-years prior.

He was fielding questions from some of the developers in attendance, many of whom were concerned about the future of Apple, when one dev raised their hand and asked Jobs about his decision to pull the plug on Apple’s software engineering platform, “OpenDoc.” However the answer Jobs gave was likely much broader and more impactful than the dev expected.

“I know some of you spent a lot of time working on stuff that we put a bullet in the head of. I apologize. I feel your pain,” Jobs begun, while going on to explain that “Apple suffered for several years from lousy engineering management. And there were people that were going off in 18 different directions–doing arguably interesting things in each one of them. Good engineers. Lousy management.”

“And what happened was, you look at the farm that’s been created, with all these different animals going in different directions, and it doesn’t add up. The total is less than the sum of the parts. And so we had to decide: What are the fundamental directions we’re going in? And what makes sense and what doesn’t? And there were a bunch of things that didn’t. And microcosmically they might have made sense; macrocosmically they made no sense.”

Watch the whole exchange from WWDC 1997 in the YouTube video here.

Just Say “No”

From Jobs’ perspective, the ability to focus on a task, without getting distracted or regressing into a procrastinated state, is by simply “saying no.” No, to the shiny objects, pesky people, and the seemingly limitless number of voice constantly vying for our attention.

“Focusing is about saying no,” Jobs concluded, which ultimately proved to be one of the iPhone inventor’s greatest skills. Rather than divest his efforts, Jobs was known for paying close attention to everything he achieved  — whether it was the iMac G3, the iPhone, iPod, Apple Watch, or any of his other brilliant creations.

“Steve was the most remarkably focused person I’ve ever met in my life,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, and the man Jobs once described as his “spiritual partner” in an interview with Vanity Fair.

“What focus means is saying no to something that you [think]–with every bone in your body–is a phenomenal idea,” Ive concludes, adding that Jobs used to ask him ‘How many things have you said no to?’ today.

“And you wake up thinking about it. But you say no to it because you’re focusing on something else.”

Jobs’ wisdom is certainly relevant, and holds true even to this day, regardless of what we seek to achieve in our lives. Simply “saying no,” of course, is no easy feat — especially for those who tend to bounce from one idea to the next, or try to ensure that everybody’s happy.

But at the end of the day, according to Jobs’ infallible wisdom, the goal should be to channel your thoughts and feelings to work for you instead of against you. Then, as Inc.’s Justin Bariso puts it best, “instead of trying to do it all, you can simply do it right.”

iDrop News

Networking Terms Explained: Bandwidth, Latency, Jitter, and Flapping

It’s 2017 and Internet in America still isn’t as good as it could be. A large contributor to this may be that consumers don’t really understand networking or what to expect. Even the “tier one” support representatives at major ISPs (Internet service providers) don’t fully know what to look for when you’re having an issue.

If you’ve ever called your ISP because things don’t seem to be working as expected, odds are they’ve had you run a speed test; and if the results are within a few megabits per second of what you’re paying for, they’ve sent you on your merry way, had you reset your modem/router combo unit, or offered to have someone come and “take a look.” Problem is, a speed test isn’t conclusive and there’s a good chance the problem may be something within your control.

This article will attempt to explain some basic networking terms and concepts to help you know what to do the next time your streaming-movie or online multiplayer game doesn’t function the way you expect.


What is bandwidth? Let’s start with the basics. Many people refer to bandwidth as speed. This isn’t really right or wrong. A better way to describe bandwidth is capacity.

Think of having two large soft drinks in front of you, one has a big wide straw and the other has a smaller skinny straw. Because the larger straw can transport more liquid at a time, the drink will likely be consumed quicker.

A lot of bandwidth means more data can be transported simultaneously. Most devices support up to 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) although some are less (10/100 Mbps). If you have a 10 Mbps connection and try to stream three HD videos on Netflix at about 5 Mbps each you will fail since you don’t have enough bandwidth for the data to be transported simultaneously.

In this case it has nothing to do with speed and everything to do with capacity.


So what terminology do we use to refer to speed? In networking we use the term latency to refer to how long it takes data to travel from on location to the next. These locations are physical routers that make up the Internet referred to as “hops.” The standard set by ISPs is less than 100 ms. The closer to zero the better, especially when it comes to realtime traffic such as VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) calls, video calls (like Skype or FaceTime), or online gaming.

Bandwidth vs. Latency

When thinking in terms of bandwidth and latency it helps to imagine driving down a highway. There are many factors that will determine how fast you drive and how many cars can be on the highway at once. The amount of lanes can be seen as how much bandwidth is available. The amount of cars will affect congestion. The distance you go will affect latency. And all of these things, including speed limits (some servers are slower than others) will affect your overall speed.

In other words, latency and bandwidth both contribute to your connection speed.

Jitter and Flapping

When a network isn’t working as expected it’s easy to blame your bandwidth and in some cases this may be the cause. But what do you do when you have plenty of bandwidth for what you are trying to do but still experiencing issues? Well it depends, if sites simply aren’t loading you may want to check your browser settings, your computer’s connection, or your router’s configuration. But if you’re experiencing choppy call quality on your video call or your VoIP phone, or your character is jumping around in your online game, you may be experiencing an unstable connection.

Network stability often utilizes the terms jitter and flapping. These refer to issues with your network latency. It may be happening on your local network or it may be happening along one of the hops along the route your connection takes.

Jitter refers to variations in latency. When sending and receiving data to and from a specific location the amount of time should be pretty consistent. If it’s not it can cause data packets to arrive late or out of order.

Flapping refers to large spikes in latency that can cause packet loss (when data times out and doesn’t make it) or issues with data arriving heavily delayed.

If you notice choppy quality with your realtime data it may indicate poor network stability likely caused by jitter or flapping.

Troubleshoot Your Network

Troubleshooting network issues can be difficult, but here are some helpful steps that can help you avoid a call to the ISP or help you better isolate the cause of the issue:

  • Check what devices on your network are consuming data and make sure they’re not using more than what your network is capable of. Again, if you pay for 20 Mbps and a device on your network is trying to stream a 4K Netflix movie, it’s probably not going to work. Netflix recommends a minimum of 25 Mbps for UHD (ultra high definition) streaming. Even if you have 25 Mbps, remember it needs to be shared with all the devices on your network.
  • Try unplugging your modem and router for about two minutes or more. Some SOHO (small home/home office) and ISP provided equipment build up static electricity overtime, leaving them unplugged for a few minutes can help with this and also serves as a reboot.
  • If you’re not using more data than you have capacity or available bandwidth for, now is the time to run a speed test. net is a great choice for this. If you’re showing significantly less than what you pay for, it might be a good time to call your ISP.
  • If you’re experiencing choppy real time data (such as a video call or gaming), run some ping tests to Google’s primary DNS server ( to test latency. This can be done by typing “ping” in a Terminal window on your Mac or Linux machine and pressing enter. Alternatively you can run a ping test in Windows’ Command Prompt by typing “ping -t”. This will send a series of pings, they should for the most part be less than 100 ms and shouldn’t vary by more than 10 or 15 ms for optimal stability. The closer to zero the better. Ideally, you shouldn’t see any packet loss.
  • If your ping tests are high or show a lot of jitter (variations in latency) you may want to run a ping test to your router’s IP address to see if the issue is internal or not. Internal pings are usually less than 1 or 2 ms. Ideally you shouldn’t see any packet loss. If you see packet loss or high pings this could indicate faulty cabling or equipment (router, modem, wireless access point (WAP), port, or switch). Before replacing things you may want to try rebooting your device(s) and networking equipment. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re running the latest firmware on all your devices and equipment.
  • Also, wireless networks are not as stable as wired networks. For gaming and other realtime streaming a wired connection is advised as wired connections tend to provide the most stable connection. In areas with a lot of magnetic interference you may want to try STP (shielded twisted pair) Ethernet cabling.

While this article may prove useful for better understanding basic network issues and terms it isn’t meant to be a replacement for trained network professionals and may not apply to every instance. It’s intended to help you get the most out of your network and better communicate issues to your ISP. No network is perfect, but the more you understand about networking the better your home network will function as a result.

iDrop News

The Justice Department’s AT&T–Time Warner merger lawsuit, explained

The Justice Department’s lawsuit seeking to block the AT&T–Time Warner merger, filed this week, has suddenly scrambled political battle lines and set up a historic legal fight in a quickly unfolding showdown. If approved, the merger would create a new entertainment powerhouse, as AT&T uses its distribution channels for Time Warner-owned content like CNN and HBO. If denied, it could set a new precedent for how similar mergers are approached.

Both parties have arguments that lean on years of precedent and context — and recent comments from President Trump may also be a factor. Here’s what you need to know to understand the legal dispute.

The Justice Department’s argument


Continue reading…

The Verge – All Posts