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iCloud: Automatic, Everywhere and Often Worthless


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.

But …

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.

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  • Mary S.

    Yes, you are totally correct. This overindulgence on Social media is annoying at the least.

  • Rodney

    You’re totally correct. that is the one thing I miss from Windows mobile, Sprite backup. I miss the ability to backup and restore individual applications.

  • Bob F.

    Frankly, I’d be happy if they just made it work for all Apple apps the way they advertise. No save. Available on any Apple device. Not so much. I don’t see my iPad Notes or GarageBand titles on Mac OS. Disappointing.

  • Ronald

    It is a useless feature, not to mention misleading. It promises to take care of the contents of your product where in reality, it does not do such thing by a long shot.
    It fails to live up to its promise. Another heavily promoted feature which does not live up to its name. Apple is actually no longer worthy of my money.

  • des

    My wife accidentally deleted a keynote file, I darent risk doing a full os restore to get the file back if I do anything wrong it could make things worse and delete more ipad data.

    Crazy, if it was windows I would just go to the recycle bin. If it were dropbox I would be able to get that file back. I hope google or microsoft improve their offerings soon seems like thats the only way apple will compete and offer basic file support features. Its inexcusable that you cant easily recover a file deleted minutes – 24hrs ago.