Here’s how iCloud’s free storage and upgrades compare to the competition

Apple first introduced iCloud at WWDC 2011, with Steve Jobs touting it as the best way to store documents, mail, backups, and more in the cloud. One thing that has infamously stayed the same since that 2011 launch: Apple gives you just 5GB of iCloud storage for free.

Nearly 13 years later, how does iCloud’s free storage offer – and paid upgrade plans – compare to the competition?

iCloud storage vs the competition

My research was inspired by John Gruber at Daring Fireball, who published his call for Apple to “offer more with iCloud, cost-to-Apple be damned” last week.

Price iCloud Dropbox Microsoft 365 Google
Free 5GB 2GB 5GB cloud + 15GB email 15GB
$0.99 50GB –  –  – 
$1.99 –  –  100GB  100GB
$2.99 200GB –  200GB
$6.99 –  –  1TB – 
$9.99 2TB 2TB –  2TB
$24.99 –  –  –  5TB
$29.99 6TB –  –  – 
$49.99 –  –  –  10TB
$59.99 12TB –  –  – 

There are other companies beyond these four that offer cloud storage. pCloud, for instance, is an increasingly popular choice that offers both subscription and “lifetime” storage options. For instance, you can get 2TB of storage from pCloud for $99/year or $399 lifetime. I’m not sure how sustainable that business model is, but it’s an interesting proposition.

But there’s more to the story

But while it’s easy to do a comparison based purely on storage amounts, there are other factors to consider – especially for Microsoft and Apple.

Microsoft’s 100GB plan also includes access to other features and services, including mobile and web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. The 1TB plan includes access to those services on the desktop, web, and mobile.

Microsoft doesn’t offer a way to subscribe to just OneDrive storage. They used to, but they removed that option in 2023. You can, however, add up to 1TB of additional storage to a Microsoft 365 plan at $0.01 per GB.

Another thing in Microsoft’s favor: its free tier includes 5GB of cloud storage and 15GB of mailbox storage. In Apple’s case, you get 5GB for free, and everything (including iCloud Mail) counts toward that limit.

Apple’s iCloud+ storage plans, meanwhile, include various other premium features:

  • iCloud Private Relay
  • Hide My Email
  • Custom Email Domain
  • Extra HomeKit Secure Video cameras
  • Family Sharing

9to5Mac’s Take

Dropbox and Google’s plans also include some benefits beyond just storage, but does anyone really care?

I generally found myself in agreement with Gruber’s conclusion. Sure, Apple’s pricing and plans are competitive with its competitors. Even the free tier at 5GB isn’t significantly out of line compared to the broader market. Still, after 13 years, something needs to change:

So on the one hand, it’s not like Apple’s iCloud storage pricing is out of line with its competitors. But on the other hand, the free tier of iCloud has been stuck at 5 GB since the day iCloud was announced, which was so long ago that Steve Jobs announced it at his final WWDC keynote in 2011. iCloud’s $1/month 50 GB and $3/month 200 GB tiers have been unchanged since 2015. Like the stingy U.S. minimum wage — which was last increased, to $7.25/hour, in 2009 — these tiers ought to be adjusted for “inflation” periodically, but aren’t.

Another takeaway I had: all of this is confusing. Chances are, if you’re an iPhone user looking for more cloud storage, your best bet is iCloud+.

Check out Gruber’s full write-up for more.

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