Friday, April 12, 2024

“Don’t Let Me Go” and iCloud Storage Tiers

John Gruber:

The gist of the commercial is that you shouldn’t worry about deleting photos to free up storage, because modern iPhones have plenty of space.


But this commercial made me want to yell at my TV each time it came on: “The problem is iCloud storage, not on-device storage!” The free tier of iCloud remains just 5 GB, and the $1/month paid tier offers just 50 GB, which may not be enough to back up even a 64 GB iPhone SE.


And no amount of cleverness in iOS can protect a user with un-backed-up photos and videos if they lose or break their iPhone.


It feels like this new commercial is just whistling past the single biggest shortcoming in the Apple ecosystem.

I bet Apple has data showing that millions of iPhone users have precious photos that aren’t backed up because they don’t have enough iCloud storage. iOS will nag about this, and people get used to ignoring it. There’s an aversion to subscriptions, even if it’s only 99 cents per month to back up important data. I don’t know what the answer is, but it seems odd that the free tier hasn’t changed and that purchasing a new $999 phone doesn’t get you more. I guess it’s like how the fancy hotels are the ones that charge for Wi-Fi…

Ryan Jones:

User must choose between (roughly speaking) 5-10GB on device or 100-200GB on device. That’s so binary. There’s no benefit to more device storage until and unless it can fit ALL your photos.

Carlos Ribas:

Plus it doesn’t do a great job. I have to turn it off or else I frequently find myself waiting to download offloaded videos I just took, while the phone sits 75% empty. Doing a good job would mean filling the phone but automatically purging oldest-first as-needed.

John Gruber:

The free tier for Google One offers 15 GB of storage.


Google used to offer “unlimited storage for photos and videos” to owners of Pixel phones, but they dropped this offer starting with the Pixel 6 in late 2021. That was such an appealing offer — especially considering that much of the appeal of Pixel phones comes from their renowned camera systems. I can only surmise that this proved more expensive to Google than they deemed worthwhile.

You don’t need to pay for iCloud to back up a large amount of iPhone storage — you can still back up to a Mac or PC manually. I don’t know any non-expert users who do this, though, and there are zillions of iPhone owners who don’t even own a Mac or PC. For the masses, iCloud backup is the only backup.


Update (2024-04-24): Chance Miller:

Nearly 13 years later, how does iCloud’s free storage offer – and paid upgrade plans – compare to the competition?

Update (2024-04-26): Scott:

What gets seemingly lost[…] in this discussion of Apple’s “free” 5GB iCloud tier is that it isn’t, in fact, FREE… in actuality, Apple diverts revenue from device purchase to the Services silo to PAY for it.

That means: CUSTOMERS pay for it. In the case of existing iCloud users, which is the majority of device purchasers, Apple diverts the revenue but then never delivers the product… which serves to ‘juice’ their Services profits (because it -IS- pure profit).

If an Apple customer purchases several devices within the period of time that Apple is deferring revenue, they ARE ENTITLED to multiples of 5GB. They don’t get it.

They’re deferring the full amount for each device purchase, not a fraction based on how many users have multiple devices?

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Re: back up to a Mac or PC manually. For a long time Image Capture had stopped being able to remember the state of previous imports, so you had to painstakingly compare dates in the download folder to see from which date onward to import new photos. But now finally, I think since 14.4, it works again! So when you connect your iPhone via a cable, Image Capture shows the green checkmarks for already imported photos, like it's supposed to.

It seems to me that the purpose of the 99c subscription is to get people over the hump of being willing to pay Apple for services.

"But this commercial made me want to yell at my TV each time it came on: “The problem is iCloud storage, not on-device storage!” […]"

Is the real problem, with the "Don't let me go" ad, that the marketing message is, like in any other ad, mainly bullshit?
Isn't it more that this ad is just creepy?

The only thing really amazing about this Apple's ad is that it's even worse than the one where a dad uses an iPhone to record its kid repeatedly trying to break a brick or plywood (or whatever this is) and it's supposed to prove that the battery of the iPhone is great.

I still find it strange today people keep all their photos on device.

They’re not given many choices. They can pay Apple a monthly fee to host photos for them, or store them locally. Or delete them.

NAS kind of works, but Photos doesn’t work well with it, and it’s utterly impractical for 90% of people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m reasonably satisfied with iCloud Photo Library, but ultimately, I’m paying Apple for a service that instead they should make easier to let users run themselves.

@Sören Agreed, they really should, along with backup. iCloud Photos is simply a first-party integrated service with first-class advantages; other options simply can't deliver the same reliability or coverage.

And to make things totally perfect, iCloud Backup is basically non-optional if you connect to a computer with a cable or over Wi-Fi, because of that stupid "Enter your passcode to trust this computer and start a backup" prompt that appears when doing local backups, which makes syncing automatically basically impossible without third-party software. Apple simply doesn't give a shit unless you're generating ongoing revenue for them through services.

Old Unix Geek

The Photosync app is pretty easy to use and is useful for backing up to a computer.

Manually managing our family photos is a no go. I tried it and it sucked.

Having a shared searchable collection is fantastic.

Forget photos. Think about the videos and all those 4k - 1080p - 60hz options turned on. My wife’s storage is 1.8TB for 8 years of usage now.

"They’re deferring the full amount for each device purchase, not a fraction based on how many users have multiple devices?"
It would be a pretty interesting equation if they are, @Michael! I have closely followed Apple earnings reports ever since Apple started promoting their Services silo earnings (since Apple itself emphasized how important Services earnings were to its core business) for -any- analyst to ask the question as to how Apple handles calculating deferrals… and not -one- has yet! In my mind, if Apple is diverting the same amount from each device sold, regardless of the buyer's current iCloud status, it is something that both shareholders (because of how artificially "juiced" the Services silo could be) and iCloud consumers (who are indirectly paying for a service they are not receiving) should be interested in being aware of.
Given the sheer number of devices Apple is selling, and their extremely high percentage of repeat customers, I find it odd that no analyst has asked, as it would seem that Apple could have a "magic slider" that can juice revenue silos as they see fit: want to juice Services, to show growth there? Can do! Because they have a fairly large pure-profit slush fund at hand. Sure, it would always be at the expense of hardware sales revenue, but in a quarter or period where they've pre-forecast slumps, and the market has already priced that in, highlighting "growth" in Services has often bounced their share price!
As for customers, if a repeat customer is paying the same amount for another device as a customer new to the Apple ecosystem, why WOULDN'T they want the same amount of the sales price deferred to provide them with additional cloud storage?? For many customers that I encounter, 10GB of iCloud storage would save them $1 a month, $24 over the deferral period of an iPhone! Right now, that's $24 that Apple gets and does nothing to deserve.

@Scott Do you know whether they’re still deferring revenue based on the idea that there will be two years of iOS updates that add new features?

And not to belabor, but I should clarify: I have heard analysts ask about the *mix* of the deferral revenue, trying to get the percentage and where it all goes, so they can better calculate delta between device sales growth and organic sector growth… and Apple always demurs, as "the 'mix' is proprietary". However what I have -never- heard asked (directly or indirectly) is how deferral for devices sold to repeat customers already with iCloud storage was being handled, ie if Apple was calculating that specifically differently. And I would think it matters, significantly.

@Michael: I do not know that. I would *assume* they are, but, again, haven't heard that specific question asked in earnings calls! Would be a good one to ask! (Should be asked.)

It has long been my assumption that Apple is selling so many devices at this point that all of their accounting is rather "slushy"… they can "juice" whatever they want, with "magic sliders"; enough of it is black box accounting that they'll never get caught. I mean, they're way beyond Enron numbers. They're in defense contractor area now… beyond. The only thing that will hurt Apple is a straight out dive in iPhone sales in a country like China (which has happened, is happening). Or getting caught lying about earnings (being very stupid, involving the SEC).

@Scott Interesting. I hand’t thought about it in terms of juicing. I figured they just wanted to defer taxes and smooth out any temporary declines in sales.

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