Messages in iCloud: Everything you need to know

Posted:
in iOS
Messages in iCloud is a great upgrade to Apple's messaging platform, working across both iOS and macOS devices. AppleInsider takes a deep dive on what Messages in iCloud can do, how it works, and where it has limitations.





Getting started, iOS 11.4 and macOS 10.13.5 must be installed to use Messages in iCloud.

What can it do?

In short, Messages in iCloud does just what it sounds like. It stores all your messages, conversations, and attachments in the cloud, freeing up valuable space on your device. Especially when Apple continues to sell iPhones with minuscule amounts of base-model storage, every megabyte matters.

Messages in iCloud


With all messages stored in the cloud, it keeps all of your devices more in check than ever. Whenever a message is deleted on one device, it will be deleted from all devices. Same with an entire conversation.

What's more, is that whenever a new device is set up, your entire messages history will be available from the get-go. Previously, you'd have to restore from a backup to get those messages.

Many people have been forced to delete conversations, remove old messages, and trash large attachments to save a bit of space. We checked our own messages to see how much storage we had been using, and it turns out quite a bit. We don't remove old conversations and have accumulated over 36 GB of local storage over the years.

How do I enable it?

Enabling Messages in iCloud is a straightforward affair. There are different processes depending on whether you are on your Mac or an iOS device.

iOS

  • Start by opening the Settings app.

  • Tap on your iCloud account.

  • Tap on iCloud.

  • Toggle the switch next to Messages.

macOS

  • Start by opening the Messages app.

  • From the menu bar, open Preferences.

  • Go the second tab, which is Accounts.

  • Tick the box next to Enable Messages in iCloud.

Are there limitations?

There are certainly limitations to this upgrade though, the biggest of which is the amount of iCloud storage used. Many people stick with the free plan, which is a mere 5 GB. That will certainly be insufficient, especially if iCloud Photos are turned on.

Apple seriously needs to increase their base storage model on their storage plans. A small step forward was when Apple cut prices across the board. With any luck, we'll see an increase for all at WWDC.

Apple Watch messages


Additionally, the Apple Watch does not support Messages in iCloud. When a message or conversation is deleted on your watch, it does not get deleted on the other devices, and vice versa.

Traditional text messages are also not included. Any standard text, denoted by green in the Messages app, will not be uploaded to the cloud for synchronization -- but will still be sent to all of your devices sharing the same Apple ID. So, if you delete it in one location, it won't delete automatically on all devices.

Messages in iCloud was originally promised with the launch of iOS 11. It, alongside AirPlay 2, was present in early beta versions of iOS 11, but was stripped out and delayed significantly, arriving almost 9 months after they were originally promised. Finally, both have arrived just a few days before WWDC where the latest updates and features are set to be announced.

We've tested Messages in iCloud for a while. Through all our trials, it works as advertised, significantly improving Apple's already great messaging platform.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    gerardgerard Posts: 40member
    Deleting texts from the watch is cumbersome. I hope Apple see a need to correct this oversight. 
    repressthisGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 2 of 55
    alanmalanm Posts: 11member
    I don't have the option of enabling messages in my message preferences on my MacBook.  There is no OS upgrade yet as far as I know.
  • Reply 3 of 55
    Robots78Robots78 Posts: 15member
    alanm said:
    I don't have the option of enabling messages in my message preferences on my MacBook.  There is no OS upgrade yet as far as I know.
    https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/06/01/macos-high-sierra-10135-with-messages-in-icloud-support-is-now-available
  • Reply 4 of 55
    ivanhivanh Posts: 267member
    From a user perspective, If I enable Messages on iCloud, I would have to pay monthly fee for iCloud service immediately. Saving the iCloud costs in three years mean I can get a 128GB iPhone instead of a 64GB, or a 256GB iPhone instead of a 128GB.

    I am happy to stay with Messages on current “Apple cloud”.  All messages are readily searchable on all of my devices includind iPhone, iPad, multiple Macs even without internet. I don’t have any synchronisation problem among devices. Why do I need to enable Messages on iCloud? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
    cornchipmac_dogbb-15repressthislarrya
  • Reply 5 of 55
    tokyojimutokyojimu Posts: 389member
    By not including SMS messages in the cloud, this means I still can’t set up a device as new and get my full messsge history. Another half-baked feature from Apple ☹️.
    cgWerkswillcropointmac_dogrobbyx
  • Reply 6 of 55
    macseekermacseeker Posts: 401member
    tokyojimu said:
    By not including SMS messages in the cloud, this means I still can’t set up a device as new and get my full messsge history. Another half-baked feature from Apple ☹️.
    I think the SMS feature is from your mobile phone carrier. Thus Apple is not involved in the SMS traffic.
    bb-15GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 55
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member
    ivanh said:
    I don’t have any synchronisation problem among devices. Why do I need to enable Messages on iCloud? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
    A lot of people do have sync problems though... 3 for 3 in our family. Every one of my friends who uses Macs/iDevices has complained about it too. I think I'd count yourself lucky, for now.

    In that sense... this makes sense, BUT...

    tokyojimu said:
    By not including SMS messages in the cloud, this means I still can’t set up a device as new and get my full messsge history. Another half-baked feature from Apple ☹️.
    Yea, I was like... WHAT?!?! That somewhat defeats the point.

    macseeker said:
    tokyojimu said:
    By not including SMS messages in the cloud, this means I still can’t set up a device as new and get my full messsge history. Another half-baked feature from Apple ☹️.
    I think the SMS feature is from your mobile phone carrier. Thus Apple is not involved in the SMS traffic.
    Well, they can't obviously sync them back through the carrier, but why can't they sync them across iCloud to all the devices? It's displayed in Messages, so they have the data.
    Maybe it's Apple-as-usual, and we'll get this in version 3.2 of iCloud Messages in 2021 or something. Of course, I'm still waiting for the ability to duplicate calendar events, how many years later? (One sometimes gets the feeling Apple people must not actually use this stuff.)
    willcropointrepressthis
  • Reply 8 of 55
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,493member
    What happens to old messages if you decide you no longer want to store messages in the cloud?
  • Reply 9 of 55
    MichalPfeilMichalPfeil Posts: 6unconfirmed, member
    So if everything is in the cloud does it save a local copy on the Mac so you can browse everything even when off line? I think the beauty of not using Cloud Messages is that I can delete the messages I don't want to see on my phone off my phone but always have them archived on my computer. With this system its all or nothing. Not sure if that is worth it.
    macseekercornchip
  • Reply 10 of 55
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 211member, editor
    entropys said:
    What happens to old messages if you decide you no longer want to store messages in the cloud?
    If you turn it off they will all download. 
    cgWerksmatrix077bb-15repressthismagman1979entropys
  • Reply 11 of 55
    tommikeletommikele Posts: 254member
    256 GB is minucule?
  • Reply 12 of 55
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member
    tommikele said:
    256 GB is minucule?
    Up until not too long ago, they were still selling 8GB devices (of which the OS and basic apps took up a good amount).
  • Reply 13 of 55
    fenlynfenlyn Posts: 5member
    I’m not sure the limitation on deleting SMS messages is accurate. Right now, all my SMS messages appear on all my devices. And with Messages in the Cloud turned on, when I delete SMS messages from android users or short code senders, it deletes from all my devices. 

    Are you saying that you’re not having that kind of luck?
    mwhitemagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 55
    fenlyn said:
    I’m not sure the limitation on deleting SMS messages is accurate. Right now, all my SMS messages appear on all my devices. And with Messages in the Cloud turned on, when I delete SMS messages from android users or short code senders, it deletes from all my devices. 

    Are you saying that you’re not having that kind of luck?
    I second this working – several of those pesky one-time codes came thru via SMS this afternoon; deleting the conversations on my Mac also deleted them on my iPhone and iPad.

    This was the main draw for me when setting up Messages in iCloud, but I hadn't considered the complexity of SMS/iMessage integration. Glad to see it works and I'm sure it took way more engineering that most of us would imagine.
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 55
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member
    twinpeaks_sf said:
    This was the main draw for me when setting up Messages in iCloud, but I hadn't considered the complexity of SMS/iMessage integration. Glad to see it works and I'm sure it took way more engineering that most of us would imagine.
    This is good to hear. I, frankly, would have been surprised if it wouldn't have worked, but I thought maybe that previous message knew it was a missing feature.
  • Reply 16 of 55
    jcbigearsjcbigears Posts: 28member
    Ive updated on my Mac and IOS devices and its not showing up in the preferences on any device. Maybe not yet for outside USA?
  • Reply 17 of 55
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,061member
    Apparently apple stores messages in iCloud but I have done a clean install on my Mac and iPhone and now I'm trying to work out how to bring back a text message thread from last week? Is this possible? 

    Something unrelated that I also find odd is that even though I have save for offline viewing on iOS and Mac for reading list, they are not available when I go offline.

    jcbigears said:
    Ive updated on my Mac and IOS devices and its not showing up in the preferences on any device. Maybe not yet for outside USA?
    I can confirm that the 'enable messages in iCloud button' is there in Australia
    edited June 2018 jcbigearsjcbigearswatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 55
    macseekermacseeker Posts: 401member
    cgWerks said:
    ivanh said:
    I don’t have any synchronisation problem among devices. Why do I need to enable Messages on iCloud? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
    A lot of people do have sync problems though... 3 for 3 in our family. Every one of my friends who uses Macs/iDevices has complained about it too. I think I'd count yourself lucky, for now.

    In that sense... this makes sense, BUT...

    tokyojimu said:
    By not including SMS messages in the cloud, this means I still can’t set up a device as new and get my full messsge history. Another half-baked feature from Apple ☹️.
    Yea, I was like... WHAT?!?! That somewhat defeats the point.

    macseeker said:
    tokyojimu said:
    By not including SMS messages in the cloud, this means I still can’t set up a device as new and get my full messsge history. Another half-baked feature from Apple ☹️.
    I think the SMS feature is from your mobile phone carrier. Thus Apple is not involved in the SMS traffic.
    Well, they can't obviously sync them back through the carrier, but why can't they sync them across iCloud to all the devices? It's displayed in Messages, so they have the data.
    Maybe it's Apple-as-usual, and we'll get this in version 3.2 of iCloud Messages in 2021 or something. Of course, I'm still waiting for the ability to duplicate calendar events, how many years later? (One sometimes gets the feeling Apple people must not actually use this stuff.)
    I don't think Apple would have the SMS data as it's just between your iPhone and the mobile phone carrier.  Sure, Messages maybe the app that does SMS, but it's the carrier that has the data.  I see no reason why Apple would be involved with SMS.  Complain to your phone carrier.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 55
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member
    macseeker said:
    I don't think Apple would have the SMS data as it's just between your iPhone and the mobile phone carrier.  Sure, Messages maybe the app that does SMS, but it's the carrier that has the data.  I see no reason why Apple would be involved with SMS.  Complain to your phone carrier.
    But, if it is displaying in Messages, Apple most likely has access to it. I really doubt Apple created some kind of encrypted tunnel inside Messages to just display the SMS messages with no access to them.
  • Reply 20 of 55
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    SMS worked fine for me. I first turned iCloud Messages on on my phone, at which point it uploaded all SMS and iMessage it had to the cloud. Then next day (when 10.13.5 came out) I enabled it on my Mac, and the SMS came down from the cloud to my Mac.
    mwhitewatto_cobra
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