One purchase, everywhere. Here's how to control downloads of your music, books, and apps.

Thanks to iCloud, you can access your iTunes purchases—music, books, and apps—on any Mac or iOS device you own. Of course, you can manually download those purchases from each individual app on each individual device, but if you want your iPhone and iPad to stay in sync, there's an easier way: automatic downloads.

Enable automatic downloads on your devices, and anything you buy on your iPhone will automatically show up on your iPad or iPod touch, and vice versa. You can even do this over cellular—if you don't mind draining your data plan.

What can I automatically download?

You'll be able to pull down any iTunes music, iBooks, App Store apps, and App Store updates that you've purchased on another device. (You won't be able to download iPad-only apps on an iPhone, however.)

Music and books are all fairly straightforward: If you buy something on the iTunes Store or iBookstore on one device, it'll show up on the other device if automatic downloads are enabled.

Newly downloaded apps, too, will automatically show up on your other devices. If you want all your apps to update without manually having to tap the "Update" button on each iPhone or iPad, you can turn on the Updates option, as well.

Why might I not want to use automatic downloads?

Automatic downloads are convenient, but they may not be right for you. For one, if you have a limited Wi-Fi connection, automatic downloads can strain both your internet and your battery. Alternatively, if you have Use Cellular Data enabled under Settings > App and iTunes Stores, that can also be a drain on your data.

Given that iCloud offers just about everything for on-demand download, it may make less sense to try and automatically store all your purchases on your device than to leave automatic downloads off and download important media and apps one at a time. Ultimately, that's a choice you'll have to make.

How to enable automatic downloads for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

  1. Go to the Settings app on the devices you want to automatically download content to, and tap App and iTunes Stores.
  2. Tap the toggle(s) next to the relevant content (Music, Apps, Books, and/or Updates) to turn automatic downloads on or off.

  3. You can also tap the Use Cellular Data switch to use your cellular network for these updates, though I personally recommend against it.

Any questions?

Let us know in the comments.

Ally Kazmucha contributed to an earlier version of this article.