How iCloud’s reduced free storage compares to Dropbox, SkyDrive, and Google Drive

iCloud LogoApple hasn’t exactly been the media’s darling in the weeks following the release of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6. As you may have heard, it has been embarrassing itself with the half-baked maps it decided to lump into iOS 6.

Now Apple has sent out emails to users of its iCloud service informing them the 20GB of storage they’re used to having will be dropping down to a paltry 5GB. New users will also be offered 5GB. This drop was originally scheduled for June 30, but Apple chose to postpone it for a later date; perhaps to soften the final blow. As for the reasoning behind the change, Apple says most users aren’t using the full 20GB of space anyway. But if most people aren’t saving 20GB of files then why take it all away?

It seems like a strange move considering Apple is taking storage away from loyal supporters of the company and its cloud service. After all, Microsoft awarded loyal Hotmail and Live accounts with 25GB of storage in SkyDrive — an offer I am still enjoying.

The email states that users with more than 5GB uploaded to iCloud will be able to keep their files but no longer upload new ones. Backups also stop and won’t continue until additional space is purchased for a yearly fee or files are removed to bring down the total to 5GB or less.

If you’re interested in dropping some cash each year, you’ll get 10GB for $20, 20GB for $40, and 50GB for $100. These offerings aren’t straightforward, however, and there are a few additional details around the service. The extra storage doesn’t include the free 5GB in the total so you’d actually be getting 15GB, 25GB, and 55GB. The yearly fee also has free, unlimited backups for apps, books, purchased music (not available in all countries), TV shows (US-only), and movies. Actual storage space is used for photos, videos, settings (wallpaper, mail, contacts, etc), app data and organization, messages, and ringtones. But is this drop in storage understandable or is Apple pulling a fast one on its customers?

What’s the competition offering?

SkyDrive Logo

When you look at Microsoft, Apple’s biggest competitor in terms of product ecosystem, the two cloud storage services offered by each company are definitely not equal, especially concerning price. For starters, SkyDrive gives users 7GB of storage for documents, photos, videos, and whatever else. SkyDrive also offers much better prices per year for additional space: 20GB for $10, 50GB for $25, and 100GB for $50. Compare that to $100 for Apple’s 50GB of storage, SkyDrive’s online backups, and its compatibility with iPad, iPhone, and Macs, suddenly it’s not much of a conversation. Of course, if you’re Apple all the way then iCloud may win on convenience alone. But if you have some Windows or Android products in your collection, SkyDrive’s flexibility is a definite asset as iCloud is only compatible with Apple devices.

But SkyDrive and iCloud aren’t the only players in this game. Google Drive is another popular cloud storage option and users of the free service are treated to 5GB as the standard. If that’s not enough you can sign up for 25GB for $2.49 per month (approx. $30 yearly) or 100GB for $4.99 (approx. $60 yearly). Google Drive may not be more affordable than SkyDrive or as good at back ups as iCloud, but it does have the advantage of supporting up to 16 terabytes of storage for users who need unwieldly amounts of data. 

Another strong contender is Dropbox. The platform agnostic service offers 2GB of free space, assuming you don’t earn more space through referrals, the platform offers a “Pro” option. Users can obtain 100GB for $100 per year ($10 monthly), 200GB for $200 ($20 monthly), and 500GB for $500 ($50 monthly). The advantage with Dropbox is you can access a lot more space, but if you’re only after 100GB, then SkyDrive is still your best option.

Of course, we can’t be the only ones with opinions on iCloud and its competition. What do you think of Apple’s drop in default storage space? Will it affect your use of iDevices? And if you don’t use iCloud, which online storage option do you use? Do you pay for extra space? We’re really curious.