iCloud’s Second-Class Mail for iOS

I’ve been using iCloud, along with its predecessors .Mac and MobileMe, for personal email since 2005. While it may not have as many features as other services, it’s always served my needs and been extremely reliable. iCloud’s mail service is far from perfect, however, and this is especially true for iOS users.

While Apple touts the iPad as the future of computing, it seems the iCloud team didn’t get the memo.

Many of iCloud Mail’s features, such as mail forwarding and server-side rules, can only be configured through iCloud Mail’s web interface–something that requires the use of a desktop browser. If you attempt to visit iCloud on your iOS device, the most you can do is read the iCloud setup guide1. You cannot even view the configuration options available, so it stands to reason that there are a lot of iCloud users out there who don’t even know some of these additional features even exist.

iCloud is a fundamental part of Apple’s vision for the future of computing. Unfortunately, its reliance upon a desktop computer for even the most basic of options completely undermines the notion that an iPad can be a PC replacement. There’s really no excuse why Apple can’t allow for its own cloud service to be configured on the very devices it’s used the with the most. These options should be available in iOS, either within Settings or even through a separate app or web interface. For context, Gmail users on iOS have no such problem, and many of its features can be configured through either the Gmail app or the web interface.

During Apple’s event to launch the 9.7″ iPad Pro, Phil Schiller noted that the majority of 12.9-Inch iPad Pro customers had switched from Windows PCs, and remarked that there are 600 million PCs in use that are more than five years old–a statistic that was “really sad”.

Funnily enough, there are hundreds of million PCs running Windows that can configure iCloud Mail’s features, compared to zero iOS devices. Now that’s sad.

  1. You can try and use a browser that supports different user agents, but I’ve found that the iCloud web interface is so complex that it’s just unusable on an iPad.