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12 Days of Backups – Day 8: iCloud Backup for iOS and iPadOS

Up to this point in the 12 Days of Backups, we’ve focused on the Mac. You do have other devices, probably an iPhone and/or an iPad. There’s a quick way to automatically back up those mobile devices, and that is through iCloud Backup. Today we’ll show you why you should be performing daily backups of your mobile devices, and show you how to set it up on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

iCloud Preferences icon

Benefits of iCloud Backup

I’ve had iPhones and iPads since the first days they were available. In the early days of both platforms, all backups were made to iTunes on a Mac. Those backups were made through a USB connection to the device and took a while to finish.

iCloud Backup changed all that. It requires that your mobile device be plugged in, on a Wi-Fi or cellular network, and locked. That’s it. Once you turn on iCloud Backup it securely uploads all information on your device to iCloud, such as what apps are installed, settings, and personal information. What are the benefits of doing this?

  • Everything needed to restore your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad is backed up
  • It’s automatic
  • The backup is done when you’re not using your iPhone (usually while sleeping)
  • Your backup is done regularly; usually once every night
  • Restoring a wiped iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad is simple and relatively fast
  • Setting up a new iPhone, iPod touch or iPad is as easy as tapping a few buttons

How much does it cost?

iCloud is free, but only to the point of giving you 5 GB of online storage. When you use iCloud Photos for photo syncing and backup, that 5 GB disappears quickly. That’s OK, because Apple provides three more paid subscription plans under the name iCloud+:

iCloud+ with 50GB storageiCloud+ with 200GB storageiCloud+ with 2TB storage
$0.99 / month$2.99 / month$9.99 / month
50GB of storage
iCloud Private Relay (Beta)
Hide My Email
Custom Email Domain
HomeKit Secure Video support for one camera
200GB of storage
iCloud Private Relay (Beta)
Hide My Email
Custom Email Domain
HomeKit Secure Video support for up to five cameras
2TB of storage
iCloud Private Relay (Beta)
Hide My Email
Custom Email Domain
HomeKit Secure Video support for an unlimited number of cameras
Share everything with up to five other family members.Share everything with up to five other family members.Share everything with up to five other family members.
iCloud+ plans, features, and pricing

Once you’ve set up an Apple ID and have an iCloud account, it’s very easy to upgrade to iCloud+ plans from your device. This Apple support document shows you how to get your iCloud+ plan.

Setting up iCloud Backup

You’ve already done all the hard work. Now let’s set up those automatic backups.

  1. Launch the Settings app on your Apple mobile device.
  2. Tap on your Apple ID button (the button with your name at the the Settings page) to open the Apple ID page.
  3. Tap the iCloud button (highlighted in red below).
Apple ID page
Tap the iCloud button on the Apple ID page in Settings to set up iCloud Backup.

4. The iCloud page appears (see screenshot below). The amount of storage you’re using in your iCloud+ plan appears at the top. Need to get more storage or move to a smaller amount? Tap that Manage Storage button, then tap Change Storage Plan
and follow the instructions.

5. What we’re interested in now is Backups (highlighted in red). Tap that button.

iCloud Backup
Tap the iCloud Backup button to enable or disable iCloud Backup.

6. The Backup page appears (screenshot below). If the button next to iCloud Backup is gray, tap it to enable iCloud Backup. You can also choose to back up over cellular by tapping the Back Up Over Cellular button. While this is a good idea if you’re frequently away from Wi-Fi, it can use up a lot of your cellular data plan.

The Backup page is where iCloud Backup is enabled or disabled.

Note that you’ll see the time and date of the last successful backup at the bottom of this page. You can “force” a backup by tapping the Back Up Now button. This is useful when you’re about to do a system update or move to a new device, as your data is completely up to date.

Tomorrow we’ll show you how to back up your Apple mobile devices to a Mac using the built-in features of macOS.

This article is part of our 12 Days of Backups series that began on December 27, 2021 and ends in January, 2022.

In addition, you may wish to check out these other articles related to iCloud, iCloud+ and mobile device backups:

How to change Apple ID and iCloud account information on a Mac

Backup Month: How to fine-tune iOS iCloud backups

Tips for travelers: Backups on the road for Mac and iOS

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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1 Comment

  • iCloud backups are convenient, but they’re nowhere near as secure as backing up your Apple mobile devices to your own computer.

    Apple’s announcement that they won’t fully encrypt iCloud backups due to FBI requests and abortive plans to scan content backups to the cloud for potential child pornography, not to mention Apple’s acquiescence to other countries’ demands to provide access to cloud backups, mean that Apple has access to everything you back up to the cloud, and by extension lots of other folks may too.

    OWC is doing a service sharing how to back up your Apple mobile devices to your Mac desktop tomorrow. I’d suggest that that is the post that may serve us all better.