The beta is what iPhone users with Windows PCs really need

If Apple’s software and product launches in the second half of this year haven’t been enough (there are more expected before the year draws to a close), the tech giant has still found the time to release a beta version of the iCloud website. If you are already well entrenched within the Apple ecosystem (iPhone, iPad, Mac), the utility of this portal isn’t as high as if you’re using a mix of platforms. Perhaps an iPhone alongside a Windows PC, for instance.

The big difference is with the visual layout, with the widget induced utility following through almost immediately. This beta for iCloud envisions a world beyond the large icons (that’s how the iCloud website in its current avatar is) for Apple’s services and apps on the home screen, and everything else available after at least one click. Now, there are two column widgets for Mail, and Drive, giving you a quick snapshot of the recent activity on either front.

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There’s Calendar too, which curiously sits in the third row by default – we’d have preferred it ahead of Photos, for instance, but you can move it around. Beyond the default layout, there are the handy ‘+” and drawer options on the top right of the layout, which gets you more options to add to your iCloud landing page – Notes, create a new email, add a new calendar entry, or make a new document, plus iCloud+ features such as Private Relay and HomeKit Secure Video.

There are still some limitations with you can or cannot do with this layout. Widgets, for instance, cannot be resized. At least not at the moment. All you can do is move them around, depending on grid space available in each line.

Secondly, when you’re in a second layer of the interface (that is within another app; Mail for instance), there’s still no discernible way of returning to the previous screen – your best bet is to clock on the grey-ish Apple logo on the top left of the interface.

There’s more clarity on which Apple subscription plans you may be subscribed to, that is iCloud+ for extra cloud storage and Apple One plans for services including Apple Music and Apple TV+. However, subscription changes can only be done via an Apple device, for now.

There is no word on when, and if at all, this layout will be the final evolution of as it happens. But it is good to see this effort well and truly underway – the current default iCloud layout is dated at best, unintuitive at worst, and chances are you haven’t bookmarked it yet. Now you can, particularly if you are on a computing device that’s not an Apple Mac.

This means iPhone or iPad users, but with Windows PCs or Google Chromebook for instance, can now have a much better gateway to access their iCloud mail, cloud storage, notes and more, on the computing devices. This is definitely a step in the right direction. But for a tech giant that prides on getting usability, convenience, and ergonomics spot on, there’s still a lot of work to be done to get just right.

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