iCloud, Apple’s native file storage and synchronization service in the cloud, integrates seamlessly with the rest of the company ecosystem. If you are the current owner of an iPad, iPhone, or Mac, you have undoubtedly used this cloud storage service many times, perhaps without even realizing you were doing so.
iCloud works just like any other cloud synchronization service, but on devices designed by Apple, it also comes with a built-in productivity suite similar to Google Suite and Microsoft Office. On Windows, iCloud is available only in the form of a browser-based storage application, and it is entirely missing on Android.
In our Apple iCloud review, we discuss its basic pros and cons, and provide you with a more in-depth look at its many hidden features. Is this the best cloud storage solution money can buy?
- Is your iCloud storage full? 5 tips on how to free up space
Plans and pricing
Apple offers 5GB of free iCloud space to all owners of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices. Others get 1GB of storage space when they sign up for iCloud Drive. The paid plans start at just $0.99, which gets you 50GB storage. You can also choose between the $2.99 plan and the $9.99 plan for 200GB and 2TB of storage space respectively.
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that pretty much everything that’s synced to or backed up in the cloud on your Apple device counts towards your iCloud storage. This includes photos as well as the regular backups that are performed automatically by your device should you allow it. If you own an iPhone or Mac that performs regular backups, you may end up burning through the free storage before you even realize it.
Apple iCloud doesn’t trouble itself with a plethora of useless features you may or may not need. Instead, it focuses on building a native cloud-based work environment that “just works”. If you are looking for something a little more advanced, Google Suite might be a better option for you.
However, while it’s not particularly feature rich, Apple iCloud still works so well on the company’s devices that most of the time, you may not even know you’re using it. For Windows, it offers a desktop client that you can use to sync files and folders from your desktop. There is also a web-based interface with more options and the ability to share files with other users.
Security-wise, iCloud offers two-factor authentication during log-in. It can also be used to store all sorts of different file types, from .DOCX and .PDF to .PSD and .PPTX. The only con, aside from the obvious lack of advanced tinkering options, is that the platform doesn’t support Android. There is no app for it on the Play Store and the iCloud web interface is difficult to use on smartphones.
Interface and in-use
Apple users will find that iCloud is built directly into their products as a core feature of their operating system. Files, folders, and application data will be synced with the cloud without requiring any special action from the user.
There is no separate iCloud app on Apple devices because the entire workflow is wrapped tightly around the cloud ecosystem.
Apart from iCloud, which contains backups for all the different applications and their stored data, there is also iCloud Drive, a section within the larger iCloud which you can use to store important files and folders in virtually any format.
Windows users don’t have the option to sync each and every file straight to iCloud, but there is a nifty desktop client that creates a dedicated folder on your computer which will automatically sync up to the cloud. Separate from this is the web-based interface that lets you access all your iCloud files on pretty much any device.
Android devices still don’t have an official client or app of any kind, so you’d have to use the painstakingly small web interface to navigate between files. The web interface is not built for mobile devices and can be really uncomfortable to use that way.
iCloud offers a full-fledged support system complete with a knowledge base, a community forum, and a phone-based customer service network that operates during normal working hours. Premium features, such as the 25-hour hotline and online chat support, however, are reserved for users who own an iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
If there is one thing that Apple prides itself on, it’s security. While its cloud storage service is still not the most secure system around, it does a pretty good job of striking a balance between usability and privacy. There is no end-to-end encryption per se, but the company has a history of championing consumer privacy like no other.
Data stored on the cloud, however, is still properly encrypted, and iCloud features two-factor authentication, a highly recommended security measure. If you activate this, it means that after entering your user name and password to log in, you will need to input a special code that is sent to your registered mobile device.
There are a lot of cloud storage companies competing for your attention right now. Each of them is suitable for a different use case and has a different set of priorities in mind. The primary reason to choose Apple iCloud is if you are already a user of one or more of the company’s products. If not, there are a lot of services that do this job in a better way on non-native devices.
If you are a Windows user, the first obvious choice would be Microsoft OneDrive. You can also choose Google Drive if you like its workflow and the combined suite of productivity tools it offers.
IDrive, a standalone cloud storage service from an entirely different company, provides a really cheap and arguably more feature rich alternative to iCloud. If security is your primary concern, Tresorit and SpiderOak are two companies that go above and beyond on this aspect, even if at the cost of some usability and features.
iCloud’s best feature is the seamless compatibility it offers to a suite of Apple products and services. If you are using a device running one of the company’s operating systems, you will find yourself using the cloud storage service time and again without even realizing it.
This also means, however, that users who don’t already own an Apple device have little reason to use iCloud. There are plenty of cloud storage providers that perform the same task in a much better way.
Still, for security-conscious users who don’t have the budget or know-how to invest in a technically advanced service like Tresorit, iCloud might be able to offer a hassle-free alternative. Those looking for a cloud storage service that “just works,” Apple iCloud will do more than a decent job of handling their data. If you are already an Apple user, on the other hand, there is really no avoiding iCloud as the device will use the storage service to perform basic functions.
- Looking for an alternative to Apple iCloud? Check out our guide to the best cloud storage services