For Apple's revamped photo experience to work, iCloud changes are needed

Posted:
in iCloud edited February 2015
The impending release of Photos for OS X and the new iCloud Photo Library make Apple's commitment to the cloud more important than ever before. But the company's current iCloud storage options are confusing to the average user and remain a significant hurdle it must find a way to address.




Despite Apple's tremendous success, Web services continue to lag behind its competitors, namely Google. From personal experience, it seems as though family members and coworkers regularly come to me with questions about iCloud storage and backup or worse, ignore the warning messages on their iPhone altogether.

People seem downright confounded by iCloud, and that's a problem for Apple.

The upgrade conundrum

The main problem? The 5-gigabyte free iCloud tier is a joke, and once iCloud Photo Library is implemented across the board, almost every iPhone user is going to be required to purchase more iCloud storage.




From my experience, people are already hesitant and unsure of what buying iCloud storage means, and when they're required to spend $4- to $10-per-month on something they don't understand, chances are they won't do it.

The average iPhone user is already frustrated with the error messages about iCloud Storage and free space on their device. Once iCloud Photo Library is enabled, these challenges will only spread to more users unless the 5-gigabyte minimum is raised or a different policy is taken in regards to photos taken with iPhone.

The truth is, many iPhone users don't need everything iCloud provides. A majority won't use iCloud Drive, and users probably have a personal email address beside @icloud.com that will be their primary.




But the two iCloud features all iPhone users will have to deal with are backup and photos. And it's tough for Apple to sell consumers on cloud storage upgrades with its existing, confusing system. The "cloud" is magic when it's invisible, but iCloud is constantly in the face of iPhone users, usually asking for more money

Down the Settings rabbit hole

Just as you lose people once they have to hit the "input" button on a remote, people get lost in the "Settings" application on iOS. This is where people are taken when their iPhone or iPad informs them that they've inexplicably run out of iCloud storage.




From the user's perspective, they've never done anything with "iCloud" and don't understand how it's now "full." After taking action on the warning message, the iPhone sends users to iCloud storage options which all cost money. Now they're expected to spend more money on a thing they're not sure how to use. At this point many users are unsure of what they're doing and stop the process.

On the face of it, refusing to buy more iCloud storage doesn't really change the experience of using the phone, which makes a person wonder why they needed to buy more storage in the first place.

Not only will this affect a users' photos experience, but if they don't spring for more expensive iCloud Storage options, their devices will stop backing up entirely. This means even more stories of people losing all their photos after the iPhone goes for a swim.

The solution: Make photos free

How can Apple fix this? The simple answer is to follow Google's model: Make photo storage free and unlimited for images under a certain size (or only those taken on your iPhone), and videos less than 15 minutes long. If Apple were to do this, many users' iCloud backups would fit within the free 5-gigabyte tier, rather than being filled up by photos.




Most users would be within these limits and have a great photo experience. Only semi-pro and professional photographers with DSLR images may need to purchase additional iCloud storage, though they probably won't be using the new Photos app for editing and storage anyway.

Apple became the first U.S. company to reach over $700 billion market cap value. That's double the value of Microsoft and almost double that of Google. Why are they choosing to nickel-and-dime the users that account for over 70% of their record breaking profits? If Google and Amazon can offer free, unlimited photo storage, so can Apple.

It can work

All of this is not to say that Apple can't do cloud services well. iTunes Match, for example, has worked flawlessly since day one -- so much so that I have not backed up my music library to a hard drive in years.

I know all my music is safely stored in the cloud, and includes tens of thousands of songs with some I recorded myself. I can delete every song off my iPhone yet still browse my entire library and download what I want, when I want it, from any device.

All that for $25 per year, just a little over $2 a month. Over 200 gigabytes of storage. If I had to use iCloud for this amount of data, I would be paying $120 per year.




If Apple has to charge users for photo storage, perhaps they can lump it into the iTunes Match feature set. $35 per year and your entire music and photo library are safely backed up in iCloud.

Or give users the option to sign up for this annual plan when they buy their iPhone in store. The Apple associate gives you a brand new iPhone, offers AppleCare+ and says, "for $35 a year, all your music, photos and entire iPhone will be backed up to iCloud." That's not a hard sell: AppleCare protects your device, iCloud protects your data.
iCloud is most powerful when it's the least visible. Users will rarely see it working until their iPhone dies and as they think all hope is lost, iCloud is there with all the person's memories, photos and data.

Personally, I think iCloud is great, and gladly pay for enough storage to backup my devices. Whenever I upgrade to a new iPhone, restoring from iCloud backup still seems incredible, despite a few bugs and kinks.

Apple has to make a choice: educate people about iCloud and make it easy to understand why they're paying for it, or bite the bullet and make it free.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 161
    Well sorry, with all these things at least a tiny amount of thinking is required - Apple makes things very user friendly and easy to use but they shouldn't be dumbing down to the point of being ridiculous and pandering to people who don't wish to think or do anything except play candy crush. Also no I don't think it needs to be free, who exactly would that attract? Kids who can't stop taking selfies with no restriction whatsoever - is that what the world's greatest computer and technology company should be doing? Apple should be making existing features work reliably and adding exciting new ones, not trying to get more teenage kids to run riot in the Apple Stores or encourage the 'I want it free' selfie mentality.
  • Reply 2 of 161
    There's a big difference between iTunes Match and photo storage. iTunes Match stores songs. If a million people have the same song, that song is only stored on Apple's servers once across all users. Huge space savings. But each photo is entirely unique. Huge space demands.

    I agree that Apple needs to do something to address this cloud storage problem, but I don't think it's wise business sense to just make it free. They are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into data centres... and users of those centres should be picking up the tab for that.
  • Reply 3 of 161
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by megalaser View Post



    Well sorry, with all these things at least a ting amount of thinking is required - Apple makes things very user friendly and easy to use but they shouldn't be dumbing down to the point of being ridiculous and pandering to people who don't wish to think or do anything except play candy crush.



    Yes, I agree with this to a point. The storage equation is not quite working well. I've already had to walk my gf through upgrading her iCloud storage twice now just so that she can take pics. Yet days later, her Photos app still says that her iCloud storage is full (but it's not). Multiple device restarts has not fixed that. Apple has more work to do.

  • Reply 4 of 161
    Have been with Apple since owning my first Apple II in 1984. iCloud is easily one of the most confusing things I have ever seen come from them. In my opinion, if any remote storage is to be successful and gain any significant amount of traction among users, it must be 3 things, equally: 1) simple, 2) transparent and 3) complete. iCloud currently does not meet these 3 criteria. There's a reason that Apple doesn't boast about "80% of our installed base uses iCloud". Because they, including me, don't.
  • Reply 5 of 161



    You forgot to add 'In My Opinion' - I don't see what's so difficult about it, except for a couple of times when they migrated from MobileMe to iCloud etc it's worked very reliably, very easy too in my opinion, it could in fact have more features but that might 'confuse' people and by complete you mean free so that nobody has to worry about reaching any limits or paying for anything? You also said you don't even use it!

  • Reply 6 of 161
    nick29nick29 Posts: 111member
    10GB should be free or 5GB per device, I'm nearly at my limit (across two iPhones and an iPad) and I don't use iCloud for photos or videos, I back them up to external drives. I may look into upgrading my storage just to give myself more coverage, but given how Apple squeezes customers on iPhone/iPad storage, I'm not too interested in paying Apple more for what they could easily provide to loyal customers and what their competitors give away for free.
  • Reply 7 of 161

    Bit of a boring thread if it's only about wanting things for free.

  • Reply 8 of 161
    I think it would be great if Aople could find a better way of explaining the benefits of iCloud to the average user and I would love it if they were able to drop the prices a bit again.

    I certainly don't think they should make it free though. And comparing it to google's "free" is completely ridiculous. Nothing Google does is truly "free" and there's a reason why google doesn't make the same level of profit as Apple. Suggesting Apple give away unlimited data for photos, video and phone back up because Google would is like suggesting Apple make cheap iPhones to compete with Android.

    Continuing to offer larger data allocations at each price point or dropping the price as the storage becomes more affordable for Apple is a great idea. Even increasing the standard 5gb of free storage or allocating a set amount of free storage per active iOS device could also be a good way to reward customers.

    I have to admit that while I registered for iTunes Match within days of it becoming available I took much longer to take the plunge with additional iCloud storage but they are two different products at very different price points.
  • Reply 9 of 161
    icloud should be free up to storage capacity amount of the highest idevice a user (with an apple ID account) has, for at least iphone 6 users and up... So if you just have a iphone 6, 64gb he/she should have 64gb icloud storage to go with it. if you have an iphone 6, 64gb and an ipad 32gb then again 64gb of free icloud storage... that would make a usable and hassle free experience for the majority of users...

    having it totally free would need a huge investment in storage from apples side and I dont see it as a viable solution.

    the 5gb per user model that currently exists is a joke and harms the average user experience and ultimately apple. This will even worsen with the upgraged storage capacity of the purrent iphone lineup and once photos for mac kicks in it will be a big mess.. dont say i didnt warn you! :)
  • Reply 10 of 161
    Brilliant. Well written, and spot on!
  • Reply 11 of 161
    I'd like the option to more easily control which photos go through the cloud. Anything I heart, for example; cloud it. Never liked the idea that everything I take clouds. In fact I think if they replaced the heart with a cloud, people would understand it better. Got a shot you love? Cloud it and it'll be added to all your devices and your cloudsite.
  • Reply 12 of 161
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    ...

    The upgrade conundrum



    The main problem? The 5-gigabyte free iCloud tier is a joke, and once iCloud Photo Library is implemented across the board, almost every iPhone user is going to be required to purchase more iCloud storage.


    ...

    If Apple has to charge users for photo storage, perhaps they can lump it into the iTunes Match feature set. $35 per year and your entire music and photo library are safely backed up in iCloud.

    Or give users the option to sign up for this annual plan when they buy their iPhone in store. The Apple associate gives you a brand new iPhone, offers AppleCare+ and says, "for $35 a year, all your music, photos and entire iPhone will be backed up to iCloud." That's not a hard sell: AppleCare protects your device, iCloud protects your data.

     

    ...


     

    I'd point out that no iPhone user is going to be required to purchase more iCloud storage. If you choose to use iCloud's photo storage then you will likely need more space than the free 5GB, but that is a choice for the user to make. As coolfactor points out in the quote below, there is a big difference between what iTunes Match is doing and what the iCloud Photo library is doing. It doesn't make sense to bundle those differing storage services. As for the pricing of additional iCloud storage, Apple is already very price competitive compared to other cloud storage solutions. See the link below for comparison, Apple's 20GB plan is roughly $0.05/GB/mo; the 200GB, 500GB, and 1TB plans are all close to $0.02/GB/mo. At $35/yr it obviously shouldn't be a hard sell as it is significantly under valued, however, Apple would be losing money on providing that service. You didn't list any size limit, and implied an unlimited amount of storage to backup "all" of your data for $35/yr. Assuming the 200GB plan would be average usage (from what you have selected in your provided screen shot) and subtracting the existing $25/yr that is paying for the iTunes Match licensing leaves Apple supporting iCloud storage at a rate of ($10/12)/200=$0.004166/GB/mo.

     

    http://www.twinstrata.com/cloud-storage-pricing/

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by coolfactor View Post



    There's a big difference between iTunes Match and photo storage. iTunes Match stores songs. If a million people have the same song, that song is only stored on Apple's servers once across all users. Huge space savings. But each photo is entirely unique. Huge space demands.



    I agree that Apple needs to do something to address this cloud storage problem, but I don't think it's wise business sense to just make it free. They are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into data centres... and users of those centres should be picking up the tab for that.

     

    I would agree that Apple could do a better job at conveying why a user is getting a storage notification, however, for the most part it is already pretty good. I don't really think there is a cloud storage problem, I think there is a problem with users understanding file sizes and how much storage any given data type uses. I believe Apple's approach to this is already on a good track as they provide a nice little colored bar that shows you what is using various portions of your storage and for iCloud backups they show you how much space each App's data is going to use up.

     

    I helped my parents setup their iCloud accounts when I got them both iPhones. To start with neither of them needed more than the 5GB of free storage, however, as they got acquainted with their iPhones and (like most users) started taking more pictures with them they began receiving notices that their devices were unable to complete a backup. During this time the notice gave little indication of why they were getting the notice and it was very confusing to them. The notice didn't link to the iCloud storage options in the settings app like it does now. Back then I ended up paying $20/yr for 10GB of additional storage (15GB in total) for each of their iCloud accounts along with $40/yr for 20GB additional storage (25GB in total) for my account (as I backup my iPhone and iPad) or a total of $80/yr. Now I pay $71.64/yr with each of their accounts having 20GB of storage and my account having 200GB of storage.

     

    Apple is on a path to making users data availability seamless from OS X, to iCloud, to iOS. The real challenge for iCloud storage will be (if) when Apple attempts to bring TimeMachine to iCloud allowing users to backup and restore a Mac in the same way we do with iOS devices. A lot of users could likely accomplish this with the current 500GB or 1TB iCloud storage plans already, but I think there will still be some time before Apple moves toward this type of functionality on the Mac. I would have no problem paying $39.99/mo for 2TB of iCloud storage to have the ability to configure TimeMachine to backup my Mac to iCloud. The nice thing for most people is that if they get comfortable with how the new Photos system is going to work, that data (arguably one of the largest sets of user data) no longer needs to be "backed up" as it already resides in iCloud. The same would be true of Documents in the cloud.

     

    Lastly, I think the final missing puzzle piece resides more on the development side (which Apple has already partially handled by making a similar system to Amazon's AWS available to developers). I think Apple will eventually build a framework that will bridge the gap from Xcode to Web Inspector and move building Web Apps like Apple's iWork for iCloud, Photos for iCloud, etc. into the Xcode IDE. They could likely have this convert a large portion of Swift code to comparable Java code, with the goal of making it much simpler for developers to create apps that have native OS X, iOS apps as well as a Web App that all syncs through iCloud (with the possibility of having iCloud basically become a third "OS" accessible from any modern web browser.)

     

    -PopinFRESH

  • Reply 13 of 161
    You lost me at the point you said that 5gb for free should force users to only be able to upload images of a certain size as well as movies under 15mins (which is fair).

    Instead - Apple should have a simple, single back up solution that includes photos that is the exact same size as the iPhone you purchase.

    Got a new 32gb iPhone? Perfect - you get 32gb iCloud back up space for free. If you hit the limit of backup space you also hot the limit of what you can store on your phone anyway. The upgrade path isn't more cloud storage - it's buying a bigger phone. Hit the wall on the 32gb phone? Upgrade to the 64gb, get 64gb cloud storage. And so on.

    It's completely transparent and just works. The easily understood physical storage on the phone is linked to the abstract concept of cloud storage in the simplest of terms. It's a 1-1 solution. Apple gets a highly profitable upgrade path, and users that are happier.
  • Reply 14 of 161
    ecatsecats Posts: 272member
    Apple need to go one of two ways: either stop charging for iCloud, or bite the bullet and not count iCloud usage for Apple's included apps: such as photos and mail. (They already do this for music.)

    It seems like a no-win for Apple, but it would allow the "legendary" easy of use to continue.

    Indeed, they've heard the message when it came to iOS updates (people weren't updating, simply because they didn't have the several-GBs free in order to do so.)

    Maybe they'll begin to address the other half of that same problem: That people take a tremendous amount of photos/videos with their Apple iDevices. (Notably because the cameras are so good.)
  • Reply 15 of 161
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nicwalmsley View Post



    I'd like the option to more easily control which photos go through the cloud. Anything I heart, for example; cloud it. Never liked the idea that everything I take clouds. In fact I think if they replaced the heart with a cloud, people would understand it better. Got a shot you love? Cloud it and it'll be added to all your devices and your cloudsite.

     

    I would agree that this would be a nice option for some users who don't need or want their entire photo library to be saved to iCloud. On the OS X side with the new Photos app you can already have separate libraries so you can store Photos without it being synced up to iCloud. I would also like to see this possibility being pushed over to the iOS Photos app. Regardless I would agree with an option in settings for the Photos app that would toggle "Manually manage my Photos in iCloud" or similar and then make use of a similar system to what you have described. They could simply add a iCloud upload button (cloud with an up arrow) to the share sheet if you have automatic uploads for Photos turned off.

     

    This would give users the choice of buying more storage so that they can enjoy a more seamless automatic experience with their entire photo library is stored in iCloud, or manually limiting what they store in iCloud to stay within their desired plan.

     

    -PopinFRESH

  • Reply 16 of 161
    I hate that message too and all the phone calls from family and friends - I too handle tech support for them. The iCloud storage limit is so bad, why I have moved to Flickr. And moved ALL that call me. Especially the younger ones who take photos it seems for everything

    Flickr, a free 1 terabyte and the iPhone/iPad app works flawlessly to automatically upload from your iPhone/iPad. Set it and forget it. Going to be a long time to fill 1 terabyte.

    For Apple to not even meet competitors, let alone exceed them is going to bite them in the butt.

    Great article.
  • Reply 17 of 161
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ECats View Post



    Apple need to go one of two ways: either stop charging for iCloud, or bite the bullet and not count iCloud usage for Apple's included apps: such as photos and mail. (They already do this for music.)

     

     

    This sounds to me like you either want more storage for free, or you want more storage for free. Back in the real world, storage isn't free and it costs Apple a significant amount of money to build and maintain their data centers for iCloud. As pointed out by coolfactor, there is a big difference in making purchased content from one of Apple's stores (iTunes, App Store, iBooks) available to several users and storing user created content. In the situation of Apple's stores, they are already storing 1 copy of the content on their servers and all that needs to be stored per user is the license to that file. In the situation of storing user created content such as a users Photos library each file is unique and the storage needed for that is exponentially greater than the storage Apple needs for the music already in iTunes.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ECats View Post



    Indeed, they've heard the message when it came to iOS updates (people weren't updating, simply because they didn't have the several-GBs free in order to do so.)

     

    This is a totally different issue and has to do with how Apple managed the installation of the Delta updates from one OS to another OS.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ECats View Post



    Maybe they'll begin to address the other half of that same problem: That people take a tremendous amount of photos/videos with their Apple iDevices. (Notably because the cameras are so good.)

     

    I'm not sure what you are trying to convey with this statement. Are you implying that Apple should make the iPhone take lower quality pictures so they wont use up as much storage? Are you trying to say Apple should somehow regulate how many pictures or videos you can take? If so I completely disagree and much prefer their current system to that of one where they arbitrarily try to control how or when I use my iPhone's camera. I am currently only limited by the technology I chose to purchase. If you want to take a tremendous amount of photos and video you are free to upgrade to the 1TB of iCloud storage for $20/mo and have a rather massive photo library.

     

    -PopinFRESH

  • Reply 18 of 161
    irelandireland Posts: 17,567member
    Hear hear. Free storage for photos are videos sorts that problem.
  • Reply 19 of 161
    I think users don't want to be bothered with storage; hard drive or online. They just want it to work. I think it would be interesting to translate the way Spotify works into photos. All photos online, always available, and turn on the ones (albums/set) you want available when you're offline. I would love that!
  • Reply 20 of 161
    Not sure if people are aware or not, but if you put ihotos into "Shared Streams", they stay on the cloud and do not use up iCloud storage. It's like a loophole. I'm not talking about Photo Stream or iCloud Photo Sharing, but Shared Streams under the middle tab in your photos app.
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