Things are not the same as when services like iCloud first appeared – but their free data caps remain exactly the same. It’s time for a change.
Fast history: iCloud was first launched in 2011. Steve Jobs was on the scene, iPhone users were on iOS 5, and Apple was changing the way it handled data and sync features. iCloud promised to combine Apple devices with cloud storage, making it easier to sync data between things like MacBooks and iPads, while allowing users to also store a range of data in the cloud for easy retrieval.
In today’s world, filled with cloud storage for everything from Dropbox to the video doorbell on your porch, it may not seem too impressive, but iCloud was big news at the time.
And the biggest news of all was that iCloud would start with 5GB of free storage that anyone could use – at a time when cloud services were primarily fee-based for even a small amount of data.
Times have changed, but iCloud’s free storage space has not. What was once a rare freebie has now become commonplace and completely inadequate for how we use our devices today.
Here’s what happens: iCloud’s free storage limit remains at 5 GB with options to upgrade to 50 GB, 200 GB or 2 TB with a subscription fee anywhere between $ 1 a month and $ 10 a month. The paid levels were designed for more professional users or those who needed a lot of content in the cloud. But increasingly, it’s all, and 5GB of data is just not useful to the average person anymore.
It is tacitly acknowledged in Apple’s other features, such as increasing the amount of available cloud storage (while keeping the price the same) in 2015 or adding new levels as in 2017. Compare this to Apple’s new iPhone 12 camera system that added two to three lenses. for iPhone, increased digital zoom, the ability to record HDR video with Dolby Vision and the new ProRAW image format designed to capture as much pristine image data as possible. Image file sizes get bigger – you can see the trend. In the last decade, picture and video features have grown more and more powerful. In contrast, iCloud entry-level storage has remained completely frozen.
A good quality JPEG downloaded to your device records a few hundred KB of data if it’s a busy image. A high resolution setting will take a few MB. Specialized formats in photo or video editing apps can take much longer to get the look you want. And we are a photo-loving bunch: We take photos and quick videos several times a day to save them for later, edit and share – not to mention all the photos and videos we receive and may want to save or upload.
Now add the other apps that take advantage of iCloud storage, apps and services that continue to grow over time – including things like Contacts, Books, Map Information, Calendar Events, Health app data, Siri preferences and of course the ability to back up your iOS unit if you have enough space (we do not have it).
In other words, 5 GB is not close enough to the average smartphone user, but the free data limit just does not change. It leaves us with built-in storage (often already taken up by apps and files) or external storage as SD card (not compatible with devices like iPhones).
Now let’s look at Google Cloud, where we see something very similar. Cloud file storage is limited to 5 GB and has been for years, which is fine if you store simple Google Docs, but is not durable if you are trying to manage a portfolio of photos or video – and more and more of us are. Other cloud platforms have similar startup numbers, and they are also becoming less and less useful as the world as a whole synchronizes and stores more data.
Of course, tech companies can leave us permanently with 5GB of free storage until it becomes meaningless and literally forces you into a paid subscription. But that would not be good for iCloud’s legacy, and brands could earn a lot of goodwill by announcing a significant bump in free cloud storage deals to keep up with how our modern lives work, and for those of us who will not add (or cannot add) another subscription.
A few more free gigabytes is not too much to ask for.