Gosh, what a — what’s the opposite word for ‘bargain’ again?

I recently bought an iPhone 5s. After a Mexican stand-off between me, iTunes and the device, all my apps finally transferred over, and I set about doing the first thing any sane person does on acquiring a new computer or mobile device: getting the back-up running.

Having been bitten by data loss a few times now, I’m a touch paranoid about keeping everything safe. My Macs have local and remote back-ups in place, but the process should in theory be even simpler with an iOS device, because you can back-up to iCloud. If your iPhone is, say, mysteriously catapulted out of the window by forces unknown, into the clutches of a passing bald eagle, who them swoops majestically into the sunset, talons gripping its shiny new prize, you should be able to painlessly restore from iCloud to the replacement device sold to you by a slightly puzzled Apple Store employee.

I say ‘in theory’ very deliberately, because the reality is Apple’s decided in the case of remote storage that it wants to be Dropbox rather than Flickr. Dropbox, as you might be aware, is a paid-for online file-sync service, which gives anyone who signs up a relatively small amount of storage (2 GB); if you want more, you pay. Flickr, on the other hand, gleefully flings a massive 1 TB in your general direction, providing a potential online home for all of your photographs; charges only enter the equation when someone needs more than that colossal amount of storage. 

With iCloud, Apple gives you 5 GB for free. If you want more, you can change your plan: £14 per year gets you an extra 10 GB; £28 per year gets you 20 GB; and 50 GB is a snip at just £70 per year. And, yes, that was a soupçon of sarcasm you detected drizzled over that factoid, not least because Apple’s prices are insanely high compared to other online storage companies; additionally, 50 GB is your maximum limit regardless of your needs.

Which all leads me back to my new iPhone, bought for the kind of money that made my credit card yelp. The initial back-up failed, because I already had other devices and other back-ups. I deleted one for my old iPhone. Still not enough. I then sat there in the Settings app, pruning things from my back-up that could be easily restored from elsewhere: Camera Roll; iBooks; a couple of video apps. Eventually, the back-up took. Naturally, three days later I got an email from Apple saying that my iCloud storage was almost full (again); I read it like an email from a mafia goon: “Hey, pal: you can always pay up to keep your documents safe! It’d be an awful shame if anything… happened to them!” 

You might argue that I should just hold my nose and give in. But having just spent a ton of money on yet another Apple device, iCloud charges intended for back-ups feel like being gouged for every last penny, rather than being immersed in a ‘magical’ experience and ecosystem. Friends have remarked they didn’t even think that far — they just saw the back-up error message and cancelled the entire thing. With Apple increasingly shifting people towards iCloud for storage, and suggesting that it’d be really great if everyone bought as many devices as they could conceivably fit in their house, 5 GB doesn’t these days seem so much miserly as insulting. 

At the very least, Apple should rethink and increase your iCloud storage for each active device on your Apple ID, thereby giving you a fighting chance of backing them all up. Really, though, back-ups should just work. You shouldn’t have to think about or edit them, and nor should you have to pay money to get them working. In advertising the iPhone 5s, Apple uses the catchphrase “forward thinking”; it should apply the same reasoning to keeping everyone’s data safe rather than merely thinking about giving a relatively tiny bump to its bottom line.

Apple’s email, to be read in your best mafia-goon voice. 

Read our iCloud alternatives article