Posted by Jim Martin 13 October 2014
iOS 8: iCloud storage should be free for backups, and 5GB isn't enough
With the update to iOS 8, reviewed, iCloud got a whole lot better and a whole lot worse at the same time. The good news is that it now works like most other cloud storage services in that you can drag and drop any files you like into your iCloud Drive folder, making it easier to share and manage files you need to access from different places.
App developers can integrate iCloud Drive into their software so you can easily save files to your drive from your iPad or iPhone, and photos are now synchronised across your iOS devices Camera Rolls.
That's the good stuff, then, but there's a load of bad stuff that leaves a bitter taste and might make you wish you'd never enabled iCloud Drive when you upgraded to iOS 8.
One is that pretty much everything now counts against your iCloud storage, including photos. Previously, the Photo Stream in iOS 7 allowed you to have up to 1000 photos stored for 30 days and this wasn't counted in your free 5GB of iCloud storage.
Now, photos are synched across your iOS devices using iCloud, but videos are still nowhere to be seen. Also, photos still aren't accessible via the icloud.com website as they're not saved to your iCloud Drive. Another frustration is that My Photo Stream has gone, but the new iCloud Photo Library hasn't yet been added to iOS 8. According to Apple, it will be added in beta in an update to iOS in October (presumably when it launches the next generation of iPads on the 16th). Understandably, this has left plenty of users totally confused.
Apple still offers only 5GB of storage, and it has to be used for everything: iPhone and iPad backups, iCloud mail, documents, photos, app data and more. The only things that don't take up iCloud storage are apps themselves.
Clearly, 5GB isn't enough storage for anyone, unless they're not going to use iCloud for backups or photos. It isn't enough for most iPhone or iPad owners to make a single backup, let alone those that own two or more devices.
Plus, when you fill up your iCloud storage, you'll get an email telling you so, and warning you that unless you delete files or buy more storage, you won't even be able to use your iCloud email account.
Given that the devices we're talking about cost a pretty penny, it seems entirely unreasonable that Apple offers a miserly 5GB for free and hasn't increased it to bring it in line with other cloud storage services. Android owners get 15GB of free Google Drive storage, as do Windows Phone users with OneDrive. With the recent launch of the Fire phone, Amazon has been bold enough to offer owners unlimited free cloud storage for the photos and videos they take.
It's great that Apple has dropped the prices for those who don't mind paying for storage, but as ever, the cheapest offering - 20GB - isn't really enough. The next rung of the ladder gives you ten times more storage for over three times the price, so for most people, it's only worth paying if you're going to spend £36 per year on 200GB of storage.
In my opinion, though, it should be free to back up your iPhone or iPad to the cloud. If you've paid top dollar for a device with a high storage capacity, your iCloud account should match that. If you want to store more documents in the cloud than will fit on your device, then it's fair enough to charge for storage.
If you're not prepared to pay for a bigger iCloud Drive, then have fun trying to delete files to free up space. The new iCloud for Windows 4.0 has a Manage Storage… button which shows you what's using up all the space, but when you click on an item - say Other Documents - you're faced with a message to "Use iCloud for Windows 4.0...or iOS 8 to manage your documents".
For Mac users, it's potentially even more frustrating as Yosemite isn't yet available, so iCloud Drive's teething problems are almost exclusively limited to Windows users. Here's hoping that Thursday's special event will include some good news for iCloud users.