Which cloud storage option gives you the most bang for your buck?

Online storage is a tricky thing, and there are many reasons to choose one over another. If you’re all in on Microsoft platforms, OneDrive could be your best bet, while someone deep in on Apple stuff may find benefits in iCloud Drive. Meanwhile, if you need something that’s everywhere snd built into everything, maybe Dropbox is your number one option.

But what if we look at the big 5 cloud storage contenders (iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box) on a raw bang for your buck. How much value do you get from each option? This is kind of hard to do cleanly, since each service has different tiers and different prices, but hopefully these charts make it clear how each one is priced. For both charts, I took the liberty of highlighting the outliers. Green cells are extra good, red cells are extra bad.

This first grid shows the number of gigabytes you get at each price point. So if you look at Dropbox as an example, you get 2GB for free, 1,000GB (1TB) for $10/month, and 2,000GB (2TB) for $20/month.

In very short, the best option for people who don’t want to spend a cent is Google Drive, which offers 15GB for free, the most of any of these options. If you just need a little more, iCloud and Google have you covered with $1, $2, and $3 options. iCloud’s $3 for 200GB is a pretty good deal, but Google Drive’s 100GB for $2 is also great.

Meanwhile, iCloud clearly is the best option at the $10 price point, offering 2x what anyone else offers for the same. For $15 Box will actually give you unlimited storage, which is rather compelling as well.

In this grid we’re looking at how much it will cost you to get the amount of storage you need. If all you need is 5GB of storage, most of them have you covered for free. Dropbox gives a measly 2GB for free, so you have to pay their full $10/month fee if this is all you need.

If this is how you’re thinking about storage, iCloud wins almost every time. It’s the cheapest if you need 50GB, 200GB, or 2TB of storage. They’re only bested by Google at the 100GB level, and OneDrive at 1TB. OneDrive is actually the cheapest option for 1TB at just $7. iCloud is the best at the 2TB mark, offering that obscene amount of storage for $10. OneDrive has a 2TB option too that works out to $10 a month as well, but you have to pay for the whole year ($120) up front.

What this chart really shows is that Box is the worst deal in almost all scenarios. Charging $10/month for 100GB of storage is just terrible in 2017. Paying them $15/month gets you unlimited storage, which is really the only place where they are even competitive.

I’m not telling you what to do by any means, but I hope this at least helps you make the decision that’s right for you.

Back when betas were private

I have been furiously tweeting screenshots, videos, and my impressions of the iOS 11 and watchOS 4 betas over the past couple weeks, and at one point I paused and thought “wait, should I be doing this?” to myself. Obviously I’m fine and my Apple developer account remains in good standing, but the feeling hit me because the free sharing of sweet, sweet beta information is not something we have always been able to do.

For many years, all Apple developers were required to agree to what was essentially an NDA where they would not talk about anything in beta software or developer sessions that wasn’t shared in the public keynote. That sounds crazy today, as there is a whole cottage industry of people who pick these betas apart and freely share every nitty gritty detail on YouTube. But back not that many years ago, it was just something most developers wouldn’t do.

I remember an episode of MacBreak Weekly1 where Andy Ihnatko was talking about a new iOS feature, and he stalled for a few moments to pull up a story on some Apple news site to make sure what he was about to talk about had been made public before talking about it himself. Andy’s a classy guy, so I’m not surprised he adhered to the rules, but even your average podcast host behaved the same, as did most people on social media. Now of course there were always people who either didn’t care about their standing with Apple, or those who got their betas through less-than legitimate means, who would take to the internet and reveal everything they could, but they were the minority. And honestly, Apple didn’t really crack down on this too much, but pissing off Apple has never been a particularly good idea.

Part of the reason I got my first Apple developer account (which I could only afford with my tax return that year) was because I wanted to be on the inside track. I wanted to know all the details of what Apple was working on, and the easiest way to do that really well was to have the beta myself. Sure, I could browse the MacRumors forums to learn more, but it wasn’t nearly as convenient. Today we have public betas, and developer betas that are easy enough to install on any device, whether you’re a developer or not2. Or you could just search Twitter and see tons of screenshots and videos of everything.

And Apple is totally cool with all of this! Well, maybe not the non-developers installing the developer betas, but everything else. Ever since the iOS 8 beta, Apple has basically said that anything you want to share is fine with them. Think about all the new iPad Pro reviews that are going up this week and have reviewers gushing about how great iOS 11 makes these devices. That’s amazing press for Apple, and it’s fantastic that they have decided to let people do their marketing for them all summer while they work on nailing everything down for September.

  1. I’ll never be able to find the exact episode, but trust me this happened. 
  2. I’m not linking to any of them, but there are guides out there. 

Reasons not to install the iOS 11 beta just yet

Updated June 23, 2017

You shouldn’t install the iOS 11 beta for many reasons, most notably the fact that tons of things are just plain broken. Here’s a selection of things that are broken or annoying in the current beta state.

  • Battery life is terrible.
  • Everything is slow.
  • The camera sometimes doesn’t load. No matter what app you’re trying to use, Camera, Lightroom, Camera+, etc, sometimes the camera will just not open up and let you take pictures. This is a huge one!
  • Alarms don’t always go off. I set some extra early alarms for something and they didn’t go off. I’ve had this happen twice.
  • Maps gets confused in some weird cases and will not update navigation even though you have been moving for a while.
  • The Twitter and Facebook system integrations are gone, so apps that rely on those being there are broken. So far I’ve found Linky and Stormcrow are totally unusable for me.
  • Media controls are sometimes broken. Podcasts seem to have more issues, and I’ll be listening to a podcast and the lock screen will show media controls for Music. Also, the lock screen media controls will remain on the lock screen for hours after you stop listening to something.
  • Safari View Controller is still here, but video will not play, so you’ll have to forward over to the full Safari app to do that. This view also doesn’t load the first try every time you use it.
  • YouTube doesn’t always display the top navigation, so sometimes you can’t search or use Chromecast functionality.
  • Tweetbot crashes when you try to paste into it. You can get around this crash by pasting your link into a tweet before typing anything else, but it’s not ideal.
  • Snapchat has signed me out many times over the past few weeks.
  • The new App Store is beautiful, and works, but it has tons of graphical bugs and is sloooooow.
  • The notification panel and control center are only reliably accessible from the home screen. They almost never work when you’re in an app.
  • Google Photos was 100% synced before I updated to iOS 11, and has used over 20GB of cellular data since June 5 checking every photo again. Needless to say, I turned off cellular access to the app.
  • Drag and drop works for Apple apps, but other apps get very confused by this and will crash…hard…if you try to involve them in this at all.

Bugs from Twitter

There’s surely more out there, but these stood out to me after a little over a week of use. As I stated a week ago, you should not install the iOS 11 beta. This might be fine for you, but be aware that there are tons of things wrong.

Your local OS, not just online services, still matter in 2017

Apple gets a lot of heat for being bad at services, bad at AI, and bad at collecting user data. The common example that comes up as a company doing this right is Google who as we all know is collecting mad amounts of data about every one of us. Google Photos is better than Apple Photos, Google Assistant is better than Siri, and Google Docs is better than iWork in the cloud. I really can’t argue with these, as I personally use Google Photos to back up my photo collection (although I also have everything in iCloud too), I use Google Docs for sharing and collaborating on documents, and I find Google Assistant to do a better job of getting me answers to my questions than Siri.

So why am I not a Google fanboy who is down on Apple for being behind the game? It’s quite simple, but it’s also something that a surprising number of people either don’t understand, or don’t care about. The simple fact is that my choice of being primarily an iOS and macOS user means I have best-in-class access to almost all of these amazing services that are made by non-Apple companies. I lose nothing by using iOS and macOS as my local operating systems, except when it comes to Google Assistant, which I have complained about before.

I have Google Maps on my phone, but I usually use Apple Maps because it has a better look and feel in my opinion. But if Apple Maps is wrong about something or doesn’t do what I want in a particular case, I can switch over to Google Maps and hope that it gets it right. Even if I said “Apple Maps is the worst thing ever!” all I have to do is “delete” Apple Maps form my phone and download Google Maps. Easy.

Google Photos is better than Apple’s solution when it comes to search, but I prefer Apple Photos in most other ways. Apple’s Photos service and local app have better editing tools and better haring options than Google’s app. So if that removing the chain link fence from the photo looked good to you, then iOS is a perfectly good place to be.

And what about Microsoft apps and services, which have gotten better in recent years too? You guessed it, they’re all on iOS as well. If I don’t like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, then I can pay Microsoft for access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and use what some argue are the best versions of those apps on iOS (iOS got full touch-based Office apps before Windows). And if you, like many others, like Word and Excel but prefer Keynote to Powerpoint, then you can use Microsoft and Apple’s apps together, which you can’t do on other platforms.

At Microsoft’s Build Conference last month, the company showed off some great software and cloud services, but what was striking was that almost everything that wasn’t shown on a PC was running on an iPhone. Think about that, Microsoft still makes Windows for smartphones, and sells Windows phones today if you’d like one, but they demoed their newest, best software on iOS.

Microsoft has 87 apps on the iPhone today, including the full Office suite, OneDrive, Cortana, and many other experimental iOS-only apps built around augmented reality and machine learning. If you are deeply connected with the Microsoft ecosystem, and are invested in the software and services that Microsoft creates, it’s hard to argue that you should buy any thing other than an iPhone for your next phone.

Obviously the Google services and some of the Microsoft ones are available on Android as well, so why am I still a fan of iOS? I think Apple still has a far superior interface for devices. Services are great, and they’re essential tools for the modern world, but the local operating systems that you use to access these services is equally important. Android has merits, and it’s the right operating system for some people, but I honestly think it sucks. Android is not as smooth as iOS, even on the highest end hardware. Android doesn’t have the same vibrant community of independent developers making innovative software as iOS. Android doesn’t have the exclusive apps that iOS does, and often apps are written with iOS in mind and then converted over to Android. And with iOS 11, Android goes from trailing a ton, to not even being in the same league in terms of tablet UIs.

Why would I use a local operating system that is inferior in so many ways (my opinion, of course) to access the same services that I can get on the local system that I prefer?

Now maybe one day Google, Microsoft, and others will start to leave iOS, in which case I would be more reliant on Apple’s own online services as my only option. That would not be great for me, or for just about anyone else. Maybe Apple will make their online services better than ever and I won’t miss the other stuff, but even then losing my ability to pick and choose what providers to use for everything I do would be a serious bummer and I would have to reassess. But in 2017 there is no indication that any big company is looking to jump off the iOS bandwagon. Google still makes most of their products release day-and-date on iOS with their Android versions, and some things like Gboard are even iOS exclusives for months at a time. Meanwhile Microsoft seems to be treating iOS like their own native platform, with all of their best software hitting iOS and desktop Windows first and then sometimes spreading out to other platforms.

So my iPhone and iPad get access to all of Google and Microsoft’s best services, and I also get Apple Pay, iMessage, Apple Photos, Apple News, Workflow, Apple Watch, HomeKit, and all the third party apps that are not on Android. Gosh, I can’t imagine why someone would buy an iPhone anymore…