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iCloud 101: Apple IDs and your iOS device

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Configuring your iOS(s aapl) device to take full advantage of the new iCloud services is resulting in confusion and frustration for many users. At the core of this confusion is the Apple ID. Understanding what your Apple ID can and can’t be used for on your iOS 5 device is crucial to working around any difficulties you may have.

Do I need iCloud to use iOS 5?


No, you don’t need to have your Apple ID associated with any of Apple’s iCloud services in order to use your iOS 5 devices. Signing up for iCloud is an optional step that you can take after the iOS 5 upgrade process. However, if you don’t sign up, you will limit access to some great iOS 5 features that do require an iCloud account. These features include:

  • Reminders sync (you can still use local reminders, you just can’t sync them)
  • Bookmarks sync (syncing your Safari bookmarks across iOS 5 devices and Macs running Lion 10.7.2 or higher)
  • Photo Stream (you can still take photos and create multiple albums)
  • Documents and Data Sync (which may be required by an increasing number of apps to take advantage of key features)
  • Find My iPhone, iPod or iPad or Find My Friends
  • iOS device backup to iCloud

If you want the above features, you’ll need to associate an Apple ID with the iCloud service. Keep in mind that you don’t need to use the same Apple ID with iCloud that you use to make your iTunes purchases. You can create a new Apple ID just for use with iCloud, if you are sharing a family account for making iTunes purchases, for example.

Also, if you are an existing MobileMe subscriber and aren’t in a hurry to migrate just yet, some of the above services like Bookmarks syncing and Find My iPhone will continue to work through MobileMe on your device running iOS 5, but you will need to consider migrating to iCloud sometime before June 12, 2012.  You don’t have to migrate as part of the iOS 5 upgrade.

Do I need a .me email address for iCloud to work?

The simple answer is no. This may come as a surprise, due to the way Apple has crafted the configuration screens for iCloud. Mail, Contacts, Calendar and Notes are all part of the configuration screen for your iCloud services.  It just so happens that I have an Apple ID that I created some time ago, using a address. I had no problem using this Apple ID to enable iCloud services on an iPhone running iOS 5. This also applies for other third-party email accounts (i.e., Hotmail, (s msft) Gmail, (s goog) etc.), as long as they’re associated with an active Apple ID.

iCloud Setup 1

On the surface, it appears I’m using my Yahoo (s yhoo) account with iCloud. But I’m not. It just so happens that the ‘name’ I decided to use with this particular Apple ID is the  as the name of my Yahoo account.

The only two iCloud services that you can’t turn on with a iCloud account are Mail and Notes. All other iCloud services should work fine.

iCloud Setup 2

Every time you try to turn on Mail or Notes, when using a Apple ID, you’ll be prompted to create a email address. If you want to access Yahoo (or other third-party) mail on your phone, add it as a separate account under Mail, Contacts, Calendars in Settings, as I’ve done above. You can also use your ID for FaceTime and iMessages, too.

One Apple ID for iCloud, another for iTunes

You aren’t forced to use the same Apple ID for iCloud and the iTunes Store on the same device. Not having to do this is a good thing, since Apple does not offer any means of consolidating or merging two Apple IDs into one, so you could lose past purchases if you were forced to use only one identity.

iTunes Setup

Another benefit of this is that you can manage all of your family’s iTunes purchases from one iTunes account.  You can configure several Apple products to all share and use the same iTunes account for the App, iBook and iTunes Stores. In the past, you were allowed an unlimited number of iOS devices, and only five Macs. Now, you’re allowed up to 10 Apple products total for each iTunes account, and that can be any mix of iOS and Mac devices. At the same time, you can use a different Apple ID for iCloud on each family member’s device; plus the head of the family can still use that iTunes Store Apple ID for iCloud, too, if they’d rather keep things simple on their own private device.

23 Responses to “iCloud 101: Apple IDs and your iOS device”

  1. Why can’t I use my existing .me account to turn on Notes. I don’t want to keep track of any more accounts or ID’s. It seems like everything I do with iCloud requires either a new Apple ID or a new .me account. I always tell people I like Apple products because they’re intuitive! iCloud has made a liar out of me.

  2. Billy Burns

    Must one purchase an ios device to use icloud? Had a macbook stolen a year ago and a lot of music wasn’t backed up. The ability to re-download the itunes purchases is all I’m interested in at the moment, but I can’t see a way to do it with my new and expensive imac alone.

  3. Virginia Handrich

    My husband and I each have an iPhone 3G, I also have an iPad. I have created separate .me accounts for each of us. Why do the contacts on my phone end up on his phone? Is there a way to keep the contacts separate?

  4. Hello! We have four devices on the same apple ID. We want to be able to use the iCloud features, but I don’t want the calendar and pictures streaming from my husbands phone to mine. Plus it would be nice to not have to share the iCloud space. Can I create a new apple ID for my iPhone? How? Is there a way that I wouldn’t lose everything that’s on my phone including all apps? I appreciate any help! Thank you!!!

    • I would tend think about it the other way. Keep your iTunes account in tack, for that is where your purchases are. Use the Apple ID with the iTunes account on all of your iOS devices.

      You can always change the name and primary email address of the Apple ID associated with the iTunes account you are using for your purchases to anything you desire. Something non-personal.

      Create a new iCloud account for the people using the iOS devices. Mail, contacts, bookmarks and calendars can all be backed up and restored individually without any assistance from Apple.

    • There seems to be a relationship between the ‘name’ of a Apple ID and the primary email of an Apple ID. It may be that you have a second Apple ID that you were not aware of that IS your same address. Try logging into the Apple ID site with both of your Apple IDs and see if you do have two Apple IDs instead of just the one you think you have.

      • Dylan Frankcom

        Nope, I only have one. My email is listed as my secondary. I can add my gmail as an alternate as well, then remove my and try and change my primary with no prevail.,

  5. What if you do want to use the same ID and email address as used for iTunes? I’ve tried to use use this ID and it tells it’s incorrect? I’ve tried resetting my password to no avail.

    • You may have grown to love your Apple products, but they are not your friends. Seriously though, what you are looking for is a way to track all of the devices you have. For that, you would use the Find my iPhone App, not Find my Friends App. Find my iPhone will give the present location of all of your devices.

  6. sfman415

    If you use Safari to send an email from your yahoo account, contacts from iCloud aren’t synced there. How would you send an email to someone that you’ve created a contact on your iPhone or iPad and is now synced on iCloud?

    • If that was my primary way of interacting with Yahoo! Mail, through a web browser, then I would have configured my device to use Yahoo! contacts instead of iCloud contacts. You can even configure Address Book on your Mac to use Yahoo! contacts instead of iCloud contacts.

  7. The one question I haven’t seen answered is this: what about PPC users? We’re stuck on MacOS X 10.58. I’ve been a MobileMe user for a long time, already my calendar sync is broken by recent changes that required users to convert to WebDAV. Now it looks like there will be no way for PPC users to continue using iCloud after MobileMe is discontinued. It looks like I’ll have to buy at least one iCloud-capable device in order to keep my email address. Hell, if I could afford a new Mac, I would buy one. I’m still using a last-generation PPC Quad G5 and a last generation PowerBook G4, and an original iPhone.

    • I Wish I had a better answer for you, but I do not. It would not be PPC users, but anyone that cannot install and run OS X Lion 10.7.2 or iOS 5.0 or greater. And yes, that would most certainly include anyone with a PPC.

      Once everything is sorted out, you should be able to access iCloud’s mail, calendar and notes from the Mac Mail and Cal Applications.

      If that never gets working properly, you could consider running Fusion and/or Parallels to launch into Windows and use the iCloud integration from there. But even Windows users need to be running Vista SP2 or W7. XP users were not invited to the iCloud either.