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A plan for iCloud

By now, you’ve probably read a number of articles regarding iCloud’s almost laughable amount of storage space that’s included as part of a free account, all of which started as iCloud’s complimentery 25GB storage for former MobileMe subscribers came to an end, forcing heavy users to hastily try and reduce the size of their iCloud accounts. Each iCloud account is provided with a meagre 5GB, with additional storage available at an extra charge. This space is used for backups, documents synced via iCloud and email account.

Considering a single iOS device backup can be easily over 3GB, multi-device users wanting to use the same iCloud account are finding their accounts reaching a storage breaking point, having to constantly adjust what information is being backed up just to make sure their iCloud account stays under the red line or be forced to pay for additional storage.

Apple provides a free iCloud account to anyone who purchases a new Mac or iOS device. Should I choose to buy an iPhone and iPad, I could create two different iCloud accounts and give each device the full 5GB provided. This effectively provides me with 10GB of usable iCloud storage. Unfortunately, this has the horrific effect of having to deal with multiple Apple IDs, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Yet if I wanted to use the same iCloud account across both devices, I will still have to make do with the same amount of space.

What I’d like to see would be for Apple to “credit” iCloud accounts used on more than one device with the appropriate amount of storage space. If I use my iCloud account on an iPhone and iPad then that should provide me with 10GB of space on the same account.

While that certainly makes a good stopgap, it doesn’t fully solve the problem of the pitiful storage when compared to the fact that Apple produces iOS devices up to 128GB. With that sort of storage space, it’d be like trying to back up an entire Mac onto a single DVD.

Shawn Blanc explains it best:

iCloud is one of the paramount services to a great iOS experience, allowing us to keep apps and photos in sync, perform automatic backups, easily set up our new devices, and more. Yet all “magic” of iCloud is at risk from something as silly as a measly storage limit.

Yahoo! recently provided all Flick accounts with 1TB of storage space for photo uploads, completely free of charge. 1TB for all of their users seems like a heck of a lot, but Yahoo’s thinking behind it was smart, they don’t expect most users to hit anywhere near that threshold. They don’t need to physically allocate all that space to every user and if demand really does increase, they can grow along with it.

This is exactly what Apple should do with iCloud. In fact, they could take it one step further and remove the storage limits altogether. Rather than exclude backups from storage quotas or offer cheaper storage, they should simply do away with any notion of capacity. This ties in directly to how iCloud is positioned and I’m sure the vast majority of users won’t have huge requirements but those of us with multiple iOS devices can feel relaxed in the knowledge that we’re not having to exclude information from backups.

Until something is changed, the 5GB limit is a noose around the neck of iOS and it’s just getting tighter.