If you already pay Apple for extra iCloud storage beyond the 5GB default, or you start paying in the future, you get a bunch of extra features thrown in as part of a subscription Apple is calling iCloud+. iCloud+ has rolled out alongside iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, and will be part of macOS Monterey when it launches this fall.
iCloud pricing remains the same as before, so in the U.S. that means $1 a month for 50GB of cloud storage, $3 for 200GB, or $10 for 2TB. You can also get iCloud+ as a part of an Apple One subscription, which starts at $15 a month. The only iCloud+ benefit that changes depending on how much storage you pay for is the one related to HomeKit video devices (more on that in a minute).
If you’re wondering what you get as part of iCloud+ and how it works, here are all the details.
iCloud Private Relay
iCloud Private Relay does some of the jobs of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your internet traffic from snooping. Data being sent from and arriving at your devices gets bounced around two separate relays or internet nodes—the first operated by Apple, the second by one of Apple’s content provider partners.
Along the way, you’re given a temporary IP address (the detail that indicates your location on the web), and your DNS records (the details of the websites that you’re visiting) are encrypted. Not Apple, nor your internet service provider, nor anyone looking to build up an advertising profile on you, can see who you are or the sites that you’re looking at.
iCloud Private Relay is only active when you’re browsing the web through Safari. To turn it on in iOS 15 or iPadOS 15, open up Settings, tap your name, and then choose iCloud and Private Relay. If you’re using macOS Monterey, open up System Preferences and choose Apple ID then iCloud to find the Private Relay option. You get one setting, which is to comprehensively to hide your IP address.
Hide My Email
Apple’s efforts to protect your privacy extend to your email. Hide My Email does exactly what the name suggests: It gives you randomly generated, throwaway email addresses that you can use to sign up for new accounts, digital subscriptions, or whatever you like. All the addresses are unique, and they all forward to your iCloud email account. If you need to block email from a certain source, just close down the email address.
This feature was available wherever Sign in with Apple was supported before iCloud+ came along, but now it’s available on Apple devices, in email address fields in Safari, and on the iCloud web portal. None of the content that passes through your email addresses is read by Apple, although the usual spam filtering still takes place.
There are numerous ways to find the Hide My Email feature. On iPhones and iPads, from Settings, tap on your name, then choose iCloud and Hide My Email. On a Mac, pick Apple ID in System Preferences, then iCloud and Options next to Hide My Email. From iCloud on the web, pick Account Settings then Manage under Hide My Email.
Custom Email Domain
If you want to set up a custom email domain to use in Apple’s various Mail apps, then Custom Email Domain lets you do just that. You need to already own the domain name though—you unfortunately can’t just make up any domain name you like and then set up a corresponding email inbox to use.
Once you connect the domain name to your iCloud account, you can then use multiple different addresses with it—one for work and one for personal stuff, perhaps. Up to five domain names are supported, with up to three email addresses on each. If you use iCloud+ with Family Sharing, you can have separate domain names and email addresses for each family member.
You need to visit iCloud on the web to set up this feature: Click on Account Settings and then choose Manage under Custom Email Domain. The first question you’ll be asked is whether the custom domain is just for you, or for you and your family; after that, you can enter the domain name and follow the steps to configure it.
HomeKit Secure Video Support
This one feels rather tacked on and is perhaps the least interesting of the iCloud+ features, but it’s there if you need it. HomeKit Secure Video support means that if you have a HomeKit-enabled security camera at home, you can save footage from it in iCloud, where it will be end-to-end encrypted and viewable by you from anywhere.
What’s more, the clips will be privately analyzed by your home hub to determine if people, pets, or cars are present, and you’ll also be given a notification if any motion is detected. The last 10 days of activity can be viewed through the Home app, which is where you can set up your cameras and add the HomeKit Secure Video feature to them—assuming you can find models that support it, of course.
This is the only iCloud+ feature where the capabilities change depending on how much money you’re giving Apple each month. Pay for 50GB of room ($1 a month) and you get HomeKit Secure Video support for one camera, pay for 200GB ($3) and you get support for five cameras, and pay for 2TB ($10) and you get support for an unlimited number of cameras.