Technology

Forget the iPhone 14, iCloud Storage Tiers Are Long Overdue for an Update

The more you immerse yourself in the iCloud ecosystem, the more dependent you become on Apple. You need to upgrade to the next iCloud tier to keep things going; it’s just a shame there won’t be more choice when the time comes.

Three sizes fits everyone

The first few times you see the “iCloud Storage Full” notification is not that bad. It’s definitely worth going from the free tier to the 50GB $0.99/month plan so you can safely back up your iPhone or iPad. If you want to use iCloud Photo Library to sync your media to the cloud, you’ll find yourself getting $2.99/month for 200GB in no time, especially if you record iPhone videos in 4K HDR.

iCloud+ storage options with monthly prices.

But once you cross the 200GB mark (or 205GB, if you take the free 5GB Apple gives you to start with), you’ll have to make the jump to 2TB for three times the price, at $9.99 each. month. That’s the difference between $35.88 over 12 months and $119.88 for the same period.

It’s nice to know there’s a 2TB tier for what Apple describes as “a lifetime of photos and videos,” but the jump is hard to bear when you’re probably not going to get close to that much storage for years. Would it have been so hard for Apple to offer a 1TB backstop for say $5.99/month?

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It may seem trivial and cheap to complain about an extra $6/month, but it adds up over time. It took me about a decade to collect 200 GB of iPhone photos and videos. That would happen much faster with modern devices that shoot higher resolution photos, higher bitrate video, Live Photos and HDR video, but the cost still seems too high.

Manage iCloud Storage

If you add 200 GB per year, you will only exceed 1 TB after four years. At that point, you’ve earned an eye-watering $479.52. That’s not to say there’s no value in having everything backed up and available in the cloud, but more choice in how much storage you pay would be nice.

What are you going to do, leave?

This is the extra price you pay for useful services provided under the iCloud name. It’s part of choosing an iPhone or iPad from the sea of ​​alternative Android phones and tablets, many of which have more open policies. Using an iPhone means giving in to Apple’s way of doing things, which has both pros and cons.

You could switch to Google Photos or use Dropbox for media backup, but iCloud Photo Library is arguably more useful if you use other Apple devices and services, such as a Mac or iCloud.com. If you opt for a third party, you will probably have to pay for extra cloud storage, which makes iCloud seem a better choice.

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Photos stored in iCloud

When it comes to backing up and restoring your devices, nothing comes close to iCloud in terms of convenience. You can restore an entire device over the internet with a few taps and it will be ready for you in a few minutes to a few hours, depending on your connection speed.

Your entire iMessage history can be stored in iCloud and synced across all your devices. Apple Notes is now an exciting note-taking service that uses available iCloud space and offers many features normally reserved for premium apps. Having access to the Documents and Desktop folder on your Mac from anywhere has obvious benefits, and even the basic iCloud Drive and Files app combo is solid after years of being so-so.

If you’re already immersed in Apple’s ecosystem, it’s not impossible to get out, but it will take a lot of work. It also feels like you’re missing out on a big part of the iPhone experience by not going all-in on features like iCloud Photo Library.

Family Sharing and Apple One sweeten the deal

Depending on what you already pay to Apple each month, sharing your available iCloud storage with your family members might be a better deal. It is possible to share the 200 GB and 2 TB tiers, with the disadvantage that a single family member acts as the ‘organizer’ and must invite other members to join their organization.

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When Family Sharing is turned on, all purchases will be made through the organizer’s payment method. That includes iCloud+ storage, as well as Apple Music, App Store, and other purchases. The upshot of this approach is that these purchases can be shared with the whole family, so they only need to be bought once for everyone to benefit from.

This approach is not ideal for everyone. It would be nice if Apple allowed adult family members to make purchases using their own payment methods, separate from the organizer. There are additional benefits such as a family photo album and the ability to find other family members’ missing devices using the Find My service.

iCloud device backups

The other option is to go for an Apple One subscription. If you already pay Apple for services like Apple Music, Apple Arcade, or Apple TV+, you can pay $19.95/month for the Family plan (200GB) or go all-in on a Premier (2TB) account for $ 29.95/month.

Family plans give you access to Apple Music, TV+, and Arcade with the ability to share with up to 5 people. Premier accounts add News+ and Fitness+ on top of that. The value proposition for someone who is already paying for additional services here is surprisingly good.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of someone who takes a lot of photos and videos, buys all their music (or uses a competing streaming provider like Spotify), and doesn’t play a lot of mobile games, enjoy shows on Apple TV+, or use Apple’s News app.

More choice is needed

This criticism is not purely an Apple problem. Google uses similar, albeit cheaper, storage options with a big jump from 200GB to 2TB and nothing in between. Microsoft’s 365 plans are noticeably cheaper (at $9.99 for a whopping 6TB or $6.99 for 1TB) and include cloud versions of office apps like Word and Excel.

The main problem is that most users are not tempted by third-party services, no matter how cheap. iCloud is baked into every Apple product, and if you choose to use it, you have to pay a premium for the sheer convenience.

Hopefully, Apple plans to overhaul its iCloud storage tiers to give its customers more choice. As time goes by, data gets cheaper, and this should cause the levels to shift for the better in terms of price and space.

After all, the file sizes on a 48 megapixel image taken on an iPhone 14 Pro must be quite hefty.

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