How do you use iCloud?

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iCloud takes a lot of criticism. Some of that criticism is well-earned - there have been outages, and occasional issues with functionality. 

A lot of the criticism, however, seems to be the result of misplaced expecations. This criticism is usually along the lines of "iCloud doesn't live up to the hype", or arises from the sentiment that "iCloud didn't  really change anything", or even "I don't understand this."

iCloud can do a lot of things very well. Most of the time, you don't even notice that iCloud has been doing those things, until you need one. 

This post will briefly discuss some of the issues and limitations of iCloud, and then will give a few examples of how you can integrate it into your routine. 

We'll follow up with a deeper dive into each of these iCloud features in later posts. 

iCloud is tied to your AppleID.


This has been one of the primary limiting factors for our family jumping into iCloud - it's tied to an AppleID, and so by definition, it's tricky to implement for more than one person. 

Whose AppleID gets to be the family iCloud?

The good news is that you aren't limited to one iCloud account on your iDevices. In our family, we each have our own AppleIDs - we've had them since before we were married - but there's now an overarching "family" iCloud account. 

We have an unusual last name, so it was available as "familyname@me.com". You can probably try "familynamecloud@me.com", or something. The point is, it has to be identifiable as a group ID. 

Then, add the family iCloud account on each of your iDevices. Add the features that you're going to be using - and leave the others off. 

For instance - you probably don't want iMessages sent to or from the family iCloud account to show up on every iDevice simultaneously. Limit the family iCloud's messaging to a single device - a shared iPad, for instance.

Family Calendars

We were not a MobileMe family. What was the point? Google Calendar integrated well enough with our iDevices. 

What we wanted - and what you probably still want - is automatically-updating calendaring on all of your devices. 

If my wife adds a dentist appointment for June 1 at 8 AM using her iPhone, I want that appointment to appear on my iPhone, our iPad, and our iMac - ideally, immediately. 

iCloud can deliver that. It just has to be configured properly. 

The good news is that you don't have to give up the solutions that you've already got during the transition. You can ADD an iCloud calendar, rather than replacing your existing ones. 

If you have Google Calendar feeding into iOS, and it's working for you, keep it. But add the iCloud calendar, too! 

Over time, we've found that it's simpler to link new devices to our iCloud, than it was to configure Google Calendar on each.  

Find my iDevice

If you're like me, you occasionally misplace things. If you're a lot like me, you constantly misplace everything.

I've used "Find My iPhone" a few times. Almost every time, my intent has been to determine whether my iPhone was somewhere in my house, or if I'd forgotten it at a restaurant.

(So far, every time has been a false alarm. Whew.)

It's an incredibly useful tool, and everyone should enable it immediately.

My sister recently lost her iPhone while traveling in Italy for work.... and that was that. She didn't have  an iCloud account established, didn't have "Find my iPhone" turned on, and never saw her phone again.

(Fortunately, she had her phone locked, and Apple makes it incredibly easy to backup and restore. But still. This could potentially have been avoided.)

Unified Contacts List

This one is still a bit controversial in our house. My wife has a specific way she likes to keep contacts, and it's occasionally not what I'd prefer.

She wants to be able to print out Holiday cards with "family" addresses - i.e., "Tom, Susan, and Ella Smith". I am a bit more anal retentive about filling in Contacts fields with only the requested info.

We're making it work, using a separate "whole family contacts" group in Address Book, which we should be able to exclude in iCloud.

This one could probably use a bit more attention from us, though - we definitely have an issue with duplicate contacts, and if one of my changes promulgates through an iCloud contacts list, it may be less than welcome. So we're fragmented here. I'll be working on solutions, and will report back.

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