If you're the proud owner of the new iPad you probably thought about this right after switching it on. Do I want a clean install of should I restore my iCloud backup to the new device? The same goes for other iOS devices wiped to factory settings or any substitution units. You can save a lot of time adjusting the preferences and individual settings when you restore those from Apple's iCloud, but it has many more benefits, including recovering those apps and associated files that you have accidentally deleted.
With iOS 5 and subsequent versions your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch don't need iTunes to set themselves up. The setup assistant includes the option to restore content from iCloud without the need of any sync with a PC. You can clearly see the advantage here, as you don't need to keep local copies of your music, videos, books and more interestingly, apps.
So here's the trick: iCloud works as a very convenient backup storage space for your personal settings on your device — think of wallpapers, camera roll and the way your home screen is laid out. That is your personal stuff. It's designed to keep your preferences safe in case you need to restore an install a clean copy of iOS. All your tweaking will be there. But there's more than this when it comes to managing your device thanks to your purchase history.
Recovering deleted apps
Since iTunes and your Apple ID have a record of all your purchases, logging in with your account and following some easy steps will allow you to restore those apps from the cloud. Simply launch the App Store app and look for the Updates > Purchased section on your iPhone or iPod Touch and for the Purchased tab on an iPad. This view shows your purchase history in chronological order, indicating with a cloud icon the apps that are not installed on your device and available to the downloaded without any extra charge.
The big difference here is that even if those icons illustrate a cloud, this is in no mean part of your iCloud storage. As part of the service, Apple allows you to download those apps (music and videos for the matter) directly from the iTunes servers at any time, which is really convenient to free hard drive space.
Free your hard drive
When I got my iPhone 4S I decided to go fully PC-free and set it up exclusively without the help of the iTunes desktop app. This meant that I would never need to sync it with a cable again, but more importantly, I didn't need to download all the app updates on my MacBook to transfer them with a cable or wirelessly to the iPhone. With this new workflow, the device knows what to download and when without the assistance of the PC.
The experience has not only made the experience much better, but also allowed me to delete the huge folder keeping all and every version of the apps on my iPhone and iPad — a huge waste of space for an old laptop.