iCloud is an important feature within iOS, the operating system used by the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It’s one that Apple is promoting heavily, as seen in their TV ads for it that carry this tagline:
Automatic. Everywhere. iCloud.
That sounds great, as does the elevator pitch for it on the apple.com site:
This is the cloud the way it should be: automatic and effortless. iCloud is seamlessly integrated into your apps, so you can access your content on all your devices.
Sadly, as is so often the case when it comes to iOS and anything to with file and file system access, this wonderful new feature is full of huge shortcomings. One of the biggest of these is the All or Nothing nature of iCloud restores.
On the face of it, iCloud Backup looks like a great feature, and in some ways it is. Any backups that are done with no need for user intervention (so you can’t forget just on the one most critical day) are a damn good thing. Seeing that we have an area of iCloud Backup called Documents and Data, and that it can be turned on and off for individual apps per your preference, is promising.
when you want to do a restore, you cannot select to restore just the data from XYZ app. You can’t choose to just restore apps data, not settings, or vice-versa. There are exactly three apps that can be restored individually via iCloud – Keynote, Numbers, and Pages – Apple’s own iWork suite for iOS. The total for 3rd party apps is Zero.
So if, for example, you really want to get some saved game data back for a game or two, but you don’t want to overwrite contacts and calendar data by restoring from a backup, you’re shit out of luck. It’s all or nothing. Automatic, everywhere, and no choices. And that is absolutely not how backup and restore is supposed to work. If Time Machine on the Mac worked this way nobody in their right mind would ever use it.
Apple have created a superb ecosystem in iOS. This is a part of its one weakest area – access to files has always been clumsy. I’d rather that Apple worried less about integrating Twitter and Facebook into iOS and spent more time giving us a real backup system and maybe baking Dropbox right into the operating system. That would be a million times more useful than Twitter integration.