How to Enable and Use iCloud Drive on Your iPhone or iPad

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Apple’s iCloud Drive normally just works in the background on an iPhone or iPad. iOS 9 makes iCloud more accessible and useful, providing a new iCloud Drive app that lets you browse, view, and manage all the files stored in iCloud Drive.

You can normally access iCloud Drive in Finder on a Mac, via iCloud for Windows, or on icloud.com. It’s now possible to access your iCloud files in the same way on an iPhone or iPad.

Enable iCloud Drive

iOS 9 for iPhone and iPad includes an “iCloud Drive” app you can use to browse files like you would the files stored in Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or other cloud storage services.

However, this is different from every other included iOS app. It’s normally hidden, and you have to enable it from the Settings app before it appears. (No, it’s still not possible to disable other included apps in this way for some reason. This is exclusive to iCloud Drive.)

To do this, open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, tap the “iCloud” category, and tap “iCloud Drive.” Enable the “Show on Home Screen” option. An iCloud Drive icon will appear on your home screen and you can launch this app like any other.

Viewing and Managing Files

If you’ve ever used Dropbox or something similar, you’ll be right at home with the iCloud Drive app. You’ll also be right at home with it if you’ve used iCloud Drive on Mac OS X, Windows, or the web.

Tap files to view them and move, delete, or share them. You can also tap “Select” to select multiple files at once, and use the Delete or Move buttons to delete the files or move them to other folders. There’s also a Share button, which will allow you to share those files to other apps, print them, send them to other people via AirDrop, or perform other actions using the system share sheet. Pull down from the top of the screen to sort files by date, name, or tag, or change the view.

You’ll also see how much available storage space you have left available in iCloud at the bottom of the screen.

Editing Files

You can’t actually edit any files from within iCloud Drive. To edit files, you could potentially open them in iCloud Drive, tap the “Share” button, and then tap the app you want to export the file to. But this isn’t the same thing as opening those files normally, and it may create another copy.

To actually edit a file with its associated app, you might just want to load that app first. For example, you can’t just open the iCloud Drive app, tap the Pages folder, and tap a document to edit it in the Pages app. This just takes you to a view-only mode in the iCloud Drive app. You’d need to open the Pages app and then open the document from within it.

What’s Missing

Apple’s iCloud Drive app is simple. It doesn’t do a lot — it doesn’t even let you directly open documents for editing in Pages, Numbers, and Keynotes like the Google Drive app lets you open documents in the associated Google Docs apps.

However, this app does provide you with a central location to view all your iCloud Drive files in one place, manage them, and share them with other apps and people. Apple still has a long way to go before it can match other cloud storage services, however. For example, restoring deleted files still requires visiting the iCloud website.


This fills in a hole in iOS. Previously, getting an overview of your iCloud Drive on an iPhone or iPad required a third-party app. It’s now integrated into the operating system — if you want it.

Image Credit: Eduardo Woo on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.