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Best cloud storage apps for iPhone

One of the trickier aspects of buying an iPhone is deciding how much storage you'll need, and how much you can afford. The price jumps for the upper tiers are not small, but you can't upgrade the device's storage later. It's a conundrum.

If you do find yourself short of space, however, there are some solutions. They might not have SD slots but iPhones can be used with a range of external storage devices. Or you can store important and/or bulky files off-device, by signing up for a reliable cloud storage service.

This has the added benefit of creating a backup that you can still access if your phone gets bricked - although we would recommend the use of multiple backups for irreplaceable files just in case the cloud service suffers a breach of outage.

In this article we round up the best cloud storage apps and services for iPhone owners, rating them on reliability, security, ease of use and value for money.

iCloud

5GB: free
50GB: 79p/99c a month
200GB: £2.49/$2.99 a month
2TB: £6.99/$9.99 a month

The most obvious choice first: Apple's own iCloud offering has the advantage of total integration throughout iOS, simplicity of use, and not having to download an app. We would also be more willing to trust Apple with our data than many other companies, because of its generally very high product standards and demonstrated - and occasionally controversial - commitment to privacy.

(No cloud service is perfect, of course. iCloud was subject to a high-profile leak in 2014, but this appears to have been achieved by phishing for passwords rather than breaching the service's security. And Apple responded by encouraging users to use two-step verification.)

On the downside, iCloud doesn't work terribly well with PCs, and the free allowance of 5GB (which applies no matter how many Apple devices you've got), is hardly enough to store anything. The prices are pretty good, in our view - there are plenty of costlier alternatives out there.

Google Drive (and related Google apps)

15GB: free
100GB: £1.49/$1.99 a month
1TB (will upgrade to 2TB): £7.99/$9.99 a month
10TB: £79.99/$99.99 a month

Like Apple, Google offers a cloud storage service that is accessed via multiple apps. The service is - or will be, later in 2018 - called Google One, while the iOS app used for general access to files stored in One is called Google Drive.

You can also access Google's cloud storage via Docs, Sheets, Photos and so on, and sync between your phone and Mac using Backup and Sync; this versatility makes Google a great choice for your cloud storage provider. And while Drive is simple (and pleasingly easy to use), the other apps in the suite offer powerful features - Photos, for instance, is one of the best offerings of its type out there.

Google is three times as generous as Apple when it comes to your free allowance, but perhaps unexpectedly it is more expensive than iCloud at higher allowances. (It does offer a far larger top tier, albeit at corporate-only prices, and note that 1TB Drive subscriptions will morph into 2TB One subscriptions when that launches.)

Google Drive on the App Store

Microsoft OneDrive

5GB: free
50GB: £1.99/$1.99 a month
1TB: £5.99/$6.99 a month, or £59.99/$69.99 a year
1TB per user, for up to five users: £7.99/$9.99 a month or £79.99/$99.99 a year

We're back to iCloud levels of stinginess again, with only 5GB offered for free. But in other respects Microsoft is a surprisingly suitable choice of cloud provider for an iPhone owner, especially one who uses a PC.

OneDrive syncs quite happily with Macs too, mind you, and its platform agnosticism is one of its great strengths. Families with numerous different devices would be well advised to consider this option.

Note that the 1TB subscriptions include full copies of Office for PC or Mac; the multi-user sub - for which a free trial is offered - is quite a deal, and perfect for that family we mentioned before. You can check out the features of the various plans on Microsoft's site.

Microsoft OneDrive on the App Store

Box

10GB, 250MB file limit (Individual): free
100GB, 5GB file limit (Personal Pro): £8 a month or $79.99 a year
100GB, 2GB file limit (Starter): £4 a month (per user)
Unlimited storage, 5GB file limit (Business): £12 a month (per user)

Splitting the difference between Apple and Google, Box offers a steady 10GB of free storage.

Its 100GB offering is by a distance the most expensive here (note that if you go for the Starter plan you must subscribe for at least three users, so that isn't a budget option), but once you get to the Business plan overall storage is unlimited - although there is a 5GB cap on individual files. You can read details of the pricing plans for individuals and for businesses.

The high prices make Box generally a choice for businesses, not civilians, although the relatively generous free tier may be appealing if you'd rather not go with Google.

Box on the App Store

Dropbox

2GB: free
1TB (Plus): £7.99/$9.99 a month or £79 a year
1TB (Professional): £19.99 a month or £199 a year

We take it all back, iCloud: you no longer seem stingy. Dropbox offers the least free storage of all, at just 2GB. Its 1TB tier is at the costlier end of the spectrum, too.

The feature set is relatively limited (you get more search and sharing features if you go for the Professional subscription) and the user experience not the best. Why do so many people turn to Dropbox, then? It's good at syncing across multiple devices, although that isn't rare these days. Maybe it's just that a lot of us got used to Dropbox when decent-quality cloud services were thinner on the ground.

Dropbox on the App Store

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