I wrote a piece last month arguing that it was time for Apple to up its iCloud game, showing that the company is serious about cloud storage by focusing more on fast, reliable syncing, and by matching the functionality, storage capacities, and pricing of Google Drive.
In the WWDC keynote, Apple did exactly that. MobileMe may not, in Steve Jobs’ words, have been Apple’s finest hour, but it did at least include iDisk – an online drive we could access directly to store anything we liked – not just documents created in Apple’s own apps. It’s been a long time coming, but iDisk is finally back in the form of iCloud Drive.
The new iCloud pricing, too, looks set to be exactly what I asked for – comparable to Google Drive…
Apple previously gave us 5GB free, then 15GB for $20/year, 25GB for $40/year and maxed-out at a paltry 55GB for $100/year. I pointed out that Google Drive, in contrast, gave us 15GB free, 100GB for $24/year and 1TB for $120/year.
What Apple has so far announced is this:
We still only get 5GB free, but 200GB for $48/year is exactly in line with Google’s 100GB for $24/year. That suggests the 1TB tier will also be comparable.
A number of 9to5Mac readers have commented previously that it would be fairer if you at least got that 5GB free on a per-device basis. Buy an iPhone, get 5GB. Buy an iPad as well, get an extra 5GB. Buy a Mac too, get a further 5GB. That would certainly be a nice touch, and there’s still time for Apple to do it given that it hasn’t yet given us chapter-and-verse.
Apple maxes out at 1TB in contrast with Google’s 30TB, but to be honest, 1TB is likely to be enough for any individual or one-person business – and it’s of course possible to have one account per person in larger businesses. I’m happy enough with that.
I also complained about the lag you sometimes got in syncing via iCloud, and the less-than-seamless handoff when working on the same document on multiple devices. The proof will be in the pudding, but the Handoff feature in Yosemite appears to be promising instantaneous syncing between the same document on OS X and iOS devices – and Apple is touting this as just one of a number of “continuity features.”
There’s one other thing Apple has to get right to make iCloud a true replacement for all other cloud storage services: app support.
Dropbox has succeeded in making itself the default cloud storage option for any data that an app needs to sync or transfer between devices. There are a vast number of apps out there with Dropbox support baked right into them. It’s the reason I still have a (free) Dropbox account in addition to my Google Drive.
Fortunately, it looks like Apple is on track with that too: third parties can hook right into the iCloud Drive APIs. So if developers support iCloud Drive, that automatically creates support for third-party services that hook into it – which Dropbox will surely do.
It may even be that iCloud Drive kills Dropbox. Dropbox gives even less space than Apple for free – just 2GB (though referrals can take that up to 16GB), and then charges $199/year for 200GB (vs $48 on Apple’s new iCloud pricing) and an absurd $499/year for 500GB (vs $120 for twice as much on Google Drive). If it doesn’t fix that, it may not be around for too much longer.
So has Apple finally given me what I wanted, and turned iCloud into a serious product that will allow me to stop messing around with an untidy mish-mash of iCloud, Dropbox and Google Drive? Time will tell, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m optimistic.
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