I don't know why there isn't better guidance from Apple about this out there, so wanted to write up a quick post about Apple IDs, iCloud accounts and the differences between them. This question comes up when someone new to the Apple ecosystem gets an Apple device and is faced with how best to get setup with this new device. I have been dealing with this on a couple of fronts lately. At work, my employer has finally switched us over from Blackberry to iPhones and now we have quite a few people that are getting their 1st iPhone and this is their 1st Apple product. I've also helped a family member who recently switched to an iPhone and this was their 1st Apple product as well.
What is an Apple ID?
An Apple ID is an account with Apple that is required to do just about anything with Apple. Apple has an entire list of services or features that require an Apple ID here, but some of the big hitters are: - Purchase Apps - Purchase music, movies and TV shows in iTunes - FaceTime - Make iBooks Store purchases - Register with Game Center
If you already have an Apple ID you are most likely just going to want to use the one you already have. Some people like to have a seperate Apple ID for work and depending on your work situation you may want to do it that way. The benefit of just having a single Apple ID is that you get to use all the content you have already purchased with that existing Apple ID. If you create a brand new Apple ID you are starting over with nothing (unless you are going to use Family Sharing but that is a whole other topic). If you need to create an Apple ID go here and follow the instructions. I suggest you do this from a computer if possible rather than an iOS device. Apple doesn't tell you this, but I ran into an issue completing the sign up process and had to call Apple for help. They recommended always creating the Apple ID from a computer if possible. Other tips about creating an Apple ID: - Use an email address you intend to keep for a VERY LONG TIME. Avoid using a cable company email that you may lose if you switch cable companies. I would also recommend you use an email service that offers 2 factor authentication to better protect emails you get from Apple concerning your Apple ID account. - Apple requires you to add a credit card to your account when you create your Apple ID. This is purely for identification purposes. If you have no intent to ever make a purchase with your Apple ID or you are just not comfortable having a credit card on file with Apple, you can remove the credit card once the sign up process is complete. From that point on you can use gift cards to fund the account and avoiod ever having a credit card on file.
The other type of account with Apple is an iCloud account. An iCloud account allows you do to many of the things that an Apple ID does EXCEPT for making purchases. An iCloud account also does one thing that an Apple ID does not, it gives you a brand new Apple provided email account. So why would you want an Apple ID AND an iCloud account? If you are the only person using the Apple ecosystem in your family and will be for the forseeable future then you probably don't need both an Apple ID and an iCloud account. The only drawback to this approach is that you won't get an Apple email account if you just have an Apple ID. The reason you might want to have both an Apple ID and an iCloud is if more than one person in your family is going to use the single Apple ID for purchases (apps, movies ,TV shows and iBooks). In that case, there is one Apple ID that is used on all devices in your family but each individual family member can each have their own iCloud account, which gives them their own: - Email account - iMessage address (for text messages) - Find my friends account - Game Center account - Safari web site favorites - Contacts - You each get 5 Gb of free iCloud storage - Seperate photo streams
Clearly, if there is more than one person in your family you are going to want seperate iCloud accounts and share a single Apple ID (so you can all use and share what has been purchased). In my case, I have a wife and 3 kids. Each of my kids have their own iCloud account and my wife and I share an iCloud account. We share an account because it is handy for us to share contacts in a single location and have the same family email address that we both access. Some people may not want to do it this way, but it works well for us.
Hopefully that clears things up a little bit. Think of an iCloud account as more of a personal account and an Apple ID like an adminstrator account that gives you purchasing power. Oh, and welcome to the Apple ecosystem!