Disconnecting from iCloud is scarier than it should be

As a long time user of Apple's cloud services dating back to iTools (and even dabbling with AppleLink back in the day), I just assumed that most people used iCloud. Until I started working at an Apple reseller and helping people with their Macs and iOS devices. And that's when I discovered that a lot of people don't. What's more, if they do start using iCloud and later change their minds, Apple makes decoupling from the service absolutely terrifying.

iCloud is by most measures a pretty clear success: More than a year ago, Apple counted more than 300 million users, and it's gone up quite a bit since then.

If you're one of the hundreds of millions of iCloud users, you're probably wondering why people wouldn't use it, or would disconnect. The reasons vary. The number one reason I hear from my customers is that they don't trust "the cloud" to begin with. They're nervous about putting any more information online than they have to.

"Intimidating" should never be a word that we associate with the Mac (or iOS) user experience.

They certainly recognize the benefit of syncing data through iCloud, having shared content to work with through iCloud drive, and being able to share and stream photos online, but that doesn't mean they trust Apple any more than they trust Google or any other service with that data. And well-publicized incidents like the celebrity nude photos scandal earlier this year breed further distrust.

As far as disconnecting is concerned, reasons vary: Some folks grow gradually more distrustful of iCloud and want to separate from it. Some, like me, have actually had problems that require us to disconnect, albeit temporarily, to see if we can resolve issues.

The problem is that Apple absolutely does as much as it can to dissuade users from iCloud — especially casual ones who may not understand a lot of technical intricacies that many of us take for granted. When you try, your Mac throws up a bunch of really scary messages.

The new Continuity features in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 are great, but they're not bulletproof. I have had problems where my iPhone and Mac work great one day, but don't the next.

Troubleshooting the problem led me to try to decouple my Mac from iCloud, just temporarily, to see if signing back in would fix it (it turns out did). But in the process of signing off, this is what I saw:

iCloud calendars warning

iCloud contacts warning

iCloud documents warning

...and so on.

Now, I'm sure you understand what those messages mean. And I certainly do too. The local content that's synced through iCloud is, at least in some cases, going to be deleted off the Mac.

It doesn't mean that I'm not going to be able to reconnect to iCloud and re-sync all my information. But for the average Muggle who doesn't necessarily read those error messages carefully, one thing pops out more than anything: The word "delete."

And that's a scary word for many people, because it means "I'm going to lose something that I have now."

Maybe that's enough. But I've talked with enough customers who feel resentful that they think they're being held hostage by Apple's cloud services to know that this process is intimidating. "Intimidating" should never be a word that we associate with the Mac (or iOS) user experience.

Of course, in my case, none of this would have been necessary if the new Continuity features had just worked the way they were supposed to. Which is another rant for a different day.

Peter Cohen
  • Never was really big on iCloud since I only have one Apple device (a MBP) but it baffles me when people who are heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem are afraid to use it. Posted from my TARDIS!
  • I agree with this - the wording, while if you really slow down to read it makes sense, I am guessing the average person just sees DELETE and cancels out.
  • With the iPhone 6 plus, I came back to an iOS device after 4 years on android. One of the first things I did was turn off iCloud and installed google drive. I prefer google drive because it works on my Nexus 7, iPad, MacBook Pro, and Windows 8 pc. In my opinion, It works on multiple platforms and is much easier to deal with. I don't want my cloud files to be locked in to a specific platform and browser access is not a way around that.
  • Comparing iCloud to Google Drive is pretty ridiculous. There's a shitload of features that iCloud offers if you're on an iOS device (and especially if you have multiple Apple products) that go far beyond Google Drive file storage. iCloud Drive is only 1 tiny aspect. A bunch are listed here: https://www.apple.com/ca/support/systemstatus/#mn_p
  • Those are benefits if you only use Apple. He needs something that works better cross platform. Pretty simple. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • This makes a lot of sense to me. As an Android user, you're encouraged to invest heavily in the Google ecosystem, and you have. You're still using an Android device and, frankly, Google is relatively platform-agnostic when it comes to computers (at least until everyone is using a Chromebook).
  • I agree Google and now Microsoft are much better options if you use different ecosystems daily. Let's not even talk about storage capacity.
  • Do you really need to use words like "scarier" and "terrifying"? Jesus, it's just a phone.
  • "Phone" means a lot more these days than it used too, seeing as many people literally carry around their entire lives on those devices. So yes, the threat of losing one's data can be pretty "terrifying."
  • Where does he say phone?? The screen shots clearly are not from a phone.
  • My favorite cloud storage is Box. It's the one I actively use the most. With iCloud, it's sort of just there as its integrated into the iOS (and Mac) experience by default. So for me, it gets used that way, but not really in a deliberate and active method.
    I think Apple could make more improvements to the service to make it as good as services like Box or Dropbox. Until they do catch up to that level, the other services will continue to florish.
  • I agree, although it seems they have been working on the wording since in it's first incarnation, it just said the delete stuff, and didn't have the "but you will be able to access them on another device" part. On a similar note, I find the resetting or restoring of a device to be also frightening and unnecessarily hard for the average user, especially given the fact that it is the required procedure to fix almost any problem you come across on iOS. To completely refresh and restore the device, often means manually replacing thousands of items of content over a period of days, hoping that you remember what went where and what you were syncing. This is a hellish, daunting, frightening procedure for the end user and leads to them only restoring the phone as a last resort in many cases.
  • Completely agree but if your heavily invested in apple ecosystem with multiple devices unless you're super technophobic then i don't see why you wouldn't use iCloud willful ignorance would seem to be a good explanation.
  • Apple does the same thing for itunes. There are many times where it will erase your 50 gbs of music or apps. Want to reinstall your operating system? Well you gotta erase your phones music and apps. No matter that the songs are all the same and the playlists are exactly the same. It's silly. I know "why" they do it and i don't care. The whole "we're gonna delete your phone" i and apple issue.
  • No reason Apple needs to delete calendar or other iCloud data. Make it local to the device, and let users know that any changes to local data will not be synced to iCloud accounts (and vice versa). Heavy-handedness at its best, designed to bully customers into the choice that Apple wants to the customer to make.
  • iCloud does not work in a heterogeneous environment -- it is not cross-platform -- and everyone operates in a heterogeneous environment -- Android, Windows, etc. -- so iCloud is, for the average user, useless. And if you think iCloud is intimidating, try to sync something with the iTunes PC software. Nobody -- I mean literally no-one -- that I know understands how the software is supposed to work. I have been using my iPhone for two years and still today do not understand how podcasts can be synced onto the device or music deleted/added onto the phone with or without removing it from the host PC. I ask experienced Apple users and they just shrug their shoulders and say "it's iTunes. No-one knows how it works."
  • Make at least one music playlist specifically for your phone then check the box to sync it. And check the boxes to sync your podcasts. Alakazam. Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple needs a department of 'Explain it to me like I'm a ten year old" next to the Genius desk. I consider myself an expert and there are many things about iCloud that I don't understand or simply just can't be bothered to investigate. For instance it used to be far to easy to use a shared account and have other people seeing every thing that you do without you knowing it. For instance many people were getting their spouses texts because they didn't know to remove the numbers from the settings. Has this been fixed with family sharing? Can I see my wife's texts if I go add her number into messages? Its there for the adding. I haven't tried it because We really done have any secrets but what if we did? Apple has fallen down on so many little things that would be so easy to fix or explain. I hope they get it together.
  • Apple needs a department of 'Explain it to me like I'm a ten year old" next to the Genius desk.
    Yes. This.
  • When iCloud first came out my wife logged into it on her iPad using my account by accident. When she went to turn it off, it did indeed make good on the threat to delete ALL of her many docs from the Pages app. There were no other options. As this was her only apple device there was no clean alternative to getting those docs back on her iPad. I had to email them all back to her (and there were a lot). Ever since then I have been more keenly aware of how utterly incompetent apple can be sometimes in its delivery of services. This is a great article because this iCloud scare stuff needs to have attention on it. Maybe apple will improve it before 2020 :-) Sent from the iMore App
  • To me, icloud is still a new thing for me,even though i been an apple person all my life. I am not really sure what is it there for, maybe because i dont use it that much. To me it is like storage that you can put on it, and have it there just in case you need it. I dont really need the icloud that much because i dont really have that many things you need. I am the only one who uses the icloud and most of the things that i need is on my computer and other apple devices, so i dont really use it that much. I only put a backup on my iphone on it, just in case. Maybe it is because i am worried about people getting access to it, like what happened in the nude scandal, so i try to be careful what i put there.
  • My sister in law just switched back from a GS5, asked me, how can I get my pictures from the GS5 to the iPhone? The option to sync photos to g-drive was checked, but when she downloaded & logged into it on her iPhone, only one document resided. No photos. I'll have to transfer them with my laptop one day. But I won't be able to simply copy them via File Explorer. I would have to sync them via iTunes, then she wouldn't be able to ever plug it into another computer. I'll have to copy the photos to her g-drive, then save them all from within the phone. Crappy. Also, you can't download iCloud Drive on Android to see and download your pictures (as far as I know!). Even Photo Stream is broken on my win8 pc. Although I use my Mac mini for photo storage. It's just handy to have my pictures on that PC, for work usually. I hope the day is soon when we can use a different service for cloud backups from iPhone. I have a few TB remaining on my NAS, that would be nice. But then it's up to the NAS manf to support it, unlikely. Stupid cloud. Sent from the iMore App
  • Wait wait wait...I thought everything Apple "just works". Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Just works.... far better than any other OS/devices.
  • That's an opinion Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • That's an opinion, not a fact. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • That depends... I guess it's just my opinion based on almost 25 years working as an IT professional... of course, if we actually designed the proper tests it wouldn't be too hard to make it fact.
  • IT has nothing to do with it being a better OS. They all have their merits and different use cases. And it has been my experience in my 18yrs of using numerous OS's across countless platforms that Windows causes me much less grief than that of Apple's computers. And my BB works faster and more fluidly and more intuitively and in a case of IT and security better than iOS. Those are my findings in my real life. These products work better for me. That is a fact. But it does not make those products the best. That would be an opinion. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • It does.... They never said it would work the we you expect it to work.
  • Just works implies working without having to dig on how it's done or without failure. Neither of which this does. Just works should mean disconnect is easy without needing to delete anything from anything one would be disconnecting from iCloud. The info is already there, just cease further syncing. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Agreed here too. It sounds more alarming than it should. It just isn't clear any more where your master information is held so I hope Apple is paying attention. In fact, I'm going to tell them right now. Sent from the iMore App