Apple’s iCloud Pricing vs. the Competition

By  |  Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 9:24 am

Apple has announced pricing for its upcoming iCloud service. In typical Apple fashion, the company kept things simple. 5GB of online storage is free; 10GB is $20 a year; 20GB is $40 a year; 50GB is $100 a year. (Most other cloud-storage companies price by the month rather than the year, which makes it tougher to judge what you’re really going to shell out–if you find one of these services useful, you’re going to use it indefinitely, not one month at a time.)

So is Apple’s pricing a deal? Comparing prices for these services is tough. Different ones offer different capacity points. Some have lots of features (SugarSync and Box.net, for instance) and some are far more bare-bones (Amazon Cloud Drive and Microsoft Cloud Drive). Some have their own twists (YouSendIt, for instance, has a built-in digital-signature feature) and some (Amazon Cloud Drive and iCloud) don’t include purchased music in the capacity limits. And anyhow, iCloud isn’t an exact counterpart to any existing service. It’s going to be way more Apple-centric–betcha there won’t be Android clients–and is less about syncing and more about leaving your files in the cloud, period.

With those caveats in mind, here’s a quick price comparison. Since iCloud is priced by the year, I’ve listed all prices in annualized form even though most of these services are priced by the month. Note that I’m focusing on consumer-oriented plans here–some of these services have corporate-focused ones, too. And I’m not taking other factors, such as maximum file sizes, into consideration. Oh, and “Cloud Drive” below is Amazon’s Cloud Drive service.

Assuming that iCloud does what you need, its pricing looks reasonable at every price point. Amazon’s Cloud Drive is half the price–$20 for 20GB instead of Apple’s $40–but at this point, it’s a way less ambitious service.

It’s also interesting to note that Apple kept the capacities it’s offering relatively small: the 50GB account costs the same $100 you used to pay for a year of MobileMe.

Of course, all these services are pricey compared to local storage: the $100 annual cost for 50GB of iCloud would buy you 20X as much USB mobile hard-drive storage (1TB) every year. I look forward to the day when there are a bunch of services that offer multiple terabytes of online storage for very little money. That’s when this whole idea of keeping all your stuff in the cloud will become irresistible.

UPDATE: Over on Twitter, Justin Reid reminded me that Apple’s storage capacities are in addition to the free 5GB. So the totals look like this:

 
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15 Comments For This Post

  1. Brian Ward Says:

    You forgot Google's cloud storage. I pay $50/yr for 200GB and can sync to it with Gladinet which costs $30 – So $80/yr for 200GB. That includes Gmail, pictures (picasa), and anything in Google Docs.

  2. ahow628 Says:

    Yeah, iCloud is 8x as expensive as Google's storage space. No thanks.

  3. Josh B. Says:

    The 10GB/20GB pricing is on top of the free 5GB, I believe, so the price points are really for 15GB/25GB. Not that it has a tangible effect on your chart…

  4. @chartier Says:

    You have to also keep in mind the experience that Apple is offering, not just the numbers. Harry touched on it when discussing Amazon in that "it’s a way less ambitious service".

    Apple is providing tools to Mac, iOS, and Windows developers to bake iCloud *into their apps*. This isn't just a clunky file space you hook up and browse like traditional file systems have worked for the past 30 years. Files you work on just automatically save and sync to all devices. That's a massive experience and organizational improvement over the way things have traditionally been done.

    Nerds will probably hate it because they lose control. But the masses love it because **they never wanted that control**. It's a big step towards delivering the "it just works" promise that all computer makers—Apple included—are guilty of falling short of for so many years.

  5. @HaroldnCA Says:

    Give him a break. He said the math was hard. :-)

  6. Obi_Wandreas Says:

    Good point. Anyone who's just looking at specs doesn't understand what Apple's doing (or trying to do). If this works the way it should, then you shouldn't even know it's there. How much is your time worth?

  7. serialscifi Says:

    It’s even more complicated if you think about music files. Not only do all purchases from iTunes get free storage but iTunes in the Clouds match offers space for up to 25,000 songs for $25 a year, which is what, on average? I looked at cost per GB per year on my blog and one funny thing that Apple is the only one that gives you a worse deal as you buy more space and seemingly become a bigger customer. http://theorangeview.net/2011/08/apple-iclouds-great-pricing-dissipates-as-it-grows/

  8. Tom Ross Says:

    I think this is a sideshow. To 99 % of users, iCloud will be a free service that not only syncs all their 1st and 3rd party apps between devices but keeps free copies of whatever they bought on iTunes. This free service is measured in file formats and apps supported, not in GB.

  9. amelia@ITManagement Says:

    I use the free stuff.

    I have to say goodbye to Dropbox — which has been REALLY useful.

  10. AKat Says:

    Amazon offers free storage for any music, not just purchased. I just uploaded 10GB of mp3 files which did not count through my storage capacity.

  11. tierbot Says:

    Your Dropbox pricing is slightly off – they do have annual pricing: 50GB is $99/year and 100GB is $199/year. I don't work for Dropbox, just a customer (w/ a free account) who wanted to correct your info.

  12. Robert Says:

    So which one should we go with if we want contacts and calendars to sync seamlessly with iPad, iPhone, and MacBook?

  13. User Says:

    none. gmail…

  14. Mzk Says:

    if you just want to sync contacts and calendars seamlessly with Apple devices then just get the free iCloud plan which will suffice for those things.

  15. sciatic nerve pain Says:

    Apple has stated that your music and photos will not count against your iCloud storage, making this more of a place to put app data and backups than anything else.