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How to sync your iPhone and iPad

No magic spells are involved. Only iCloud.
April 3, 2023

If you have both an iPhone and an iPad, keeping them synced with one another makes sense. If you buy music or an app on one of them, you would most likely also want it on the other. It is extremely easy to sync an iPhone and iPad, thanks to iCloud, as well as a slightly overlooked feature called App Downloads. We’ll take a look at both.


To sync between an iPhone and an iPad, sign into both devices with the same Apple ID. Ensure the account has enough storage space for both devices, then enable iCloud backup on each. You can also sync your app downloads between the iPhone and iPad by going to Settings > App Store and enabling App Downloads.


The following shows how to sync an iOS device on an iPhone. However, the same procedure and screen layouts apply to an iPad.

Sync your iPhone and iPad using iCloud

Apple iCloud stock photo 4
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

To back up and sync your iOS devices, you are going to need an iCloud account. Each account, however, only comes with a measly 5GB of free space. This means that if you intend to fill up your phone or tablet with lots of music, videos, or photos, then you will need to pay for extra storage.

Note that iCloud will not install new apps from one iOS device onto the other device. It will only sync over your media, calendar, contacts, and emails. We will show you in the next section how to sync app downloads.

  • Once your iCloud account (also known as an Apple ID) has enough space, sign into it on both your iPhone and iPad. You will usually be prompted to do this when you set up your phone or tablet for the first time.
  • Go to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > iCloud Backup.
  • Toggle on the setting and tap your iPhone name at the bottom of the screen. Don’t tap Back Up Now just yet.
iphone backing up device sync

The next screen shows all the apps and features being synced to iCloud. In the interest of saving space, you may wish to disable some of them. For example, since WhatsApp has its own backup feature, you may decide also backing it up to iCloud is unnecessary.

When you’ve tweaked this screen, go back to the previous screen and tap Back Up Now. The sync process will begin. After that, the device will automatically sync once a day if it is switched on and connected to power. Or you can always tap that backup button and do it manually.

iphone icloud backup selecting apps

Once the other iOS device is synced with iCloud, both devices will have the same content.

Backing up to iCloud with Finder and iTunes

You can also back up your iPhone and iPad to a Mac or Windows computer, using Finder and iTunes, respectively. Although, why you’d want to, given how simple the previous method is, is a mystery. However, it remains a viable option, so let’s go over it.

On a Mac, attach your iOS device using a Lightning cable and then open Finder. Click the name of your iOS device in the left sidebar, and in the main part of the window, you’ll see backup options. You can encrypt the backup, so your passwords are protected.

ios backup macos finder sync

On a Windows computer, you would use iTunes. The principle is the same as Finder. Attach the iOS device with a Lightning cable, click the name of your phone in iTunes, and you’ll see the backup options.

The iPhone summary page in iTunes for Windows sync

Sync your iPhone and iPad by enabling automatic downloads

As mentioned in the last section, syncing your devices with iCloud does not sync over new app downloads. To do this, you would have to go to another section of your iOS settings.

This would be Settings > App Store. Under Automatic Downloads, toggle on App Downloads.

iphone app store app downloads sync

When you now download an app on one iOS device, it will appear on the other. But be aware that it is purely one-way in that it will install the app for you on the other device. But if you decide to delete the app later, it won’t delete it on the other device. You would have to delete it yourself.

Also, a lot of iPhone apps are not built and optimized for iPads, so this is also something to consider when you enable App Downloads. You will get the iPhone app installed on your iPad but it may be totally unusable on the tablet.


Likely because you haven’t set up iCloud sync properly. Both devices have to be signed into the same iCloud account, and the account needs enough storage space. Also, if the battery on one or both devices is below 50%, you need to either charge the device above 50% or attach a charging cable to begin the sync.