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The secret hidden way you can double Apple's maximum 2TB iCloud storage limit
I'm starting to worry about iCloud storage, but it turns out there is a solution. A complicated, expensive, somewhat hacky, not at all Apple-elegant solution that Apple actually endorses. Read on to learn more.
Here's what's weird. Apple's iCloud storage plan maxes out at 2TB -- even for a whole family. My wife's iPad has 2TB of storage. You can get MacBook Pros and Mac Studios with up to 8TB onboard, and that doesn't even count storage you add over Thunderbolt.
Apple users are all about generating content. The standout feature that separates new iPhone models from each other, year after year, is the camera systems' improvements. Expectations are that the iPhone 14 will support 8K video.
Video consumes a lot of storage. My last few YouTube videos each took about seven or eight gigabytes, and I've had videos consume more than 50GB. Individual clips can easily be one or more gigabytes, especially when shot in 4K.
iCloud storage is integral to Apple's ecosystem. Apple uses it to make sure you don't run out of storage space on your phone or laptop, sending proxies of video and photos down to your device when space is short using a feature called Optimize iPhone Storage. It does the same for the Documents and Desktop folders, using a feature called Optimize Desktop Storage.
iCloud is meant to be your storage hub for all of your Apple-related activities. Apple extended that to entire families with Family Sharing, so that an entire family has enough storage to hold all those photos, videos, and files.
Every Apple device owner gets 5GB of storage. For some people, that's more than enough. But if you need more storage, you can upgrade through the tiers by paying for iCloud+ service:
iCloud+ adds a few extra features beyond storage. These include:
iCloud Private Relay, an unfinished (it's still in beta) IP proxying service that only runs in Safari,
Hide My Email: an email address obfuscation service,
HomeKit Secure Video, which connects cameras and stores videos securely (although why this is an upgrade and not available to everyone, I have no idea), and
Custom Email Domain, allowing you to link a custom domain name to your iCloud mail accounts.
To be honest, I'm not super-impressed with what seems like a bunch of random services thrown in to add weight to the bundle. Since you get the storage, the rest is some relatively thin and flavorless gravy.
Personally, I pay for the top tier of iCloud+ and so far, it's enough. But that's because I moved three years of video files out of iCloud last year to free up some space. That process did not go well, and I ultimately lost some video because I didn't realize until too late that clips dragged out of Photos didn't make it to my hard drive before I deleted them from Photos. Fortunately, most of it was raw video already used for my YouTube projects, so it wasn't a catastrophic loss.
But now, my wife has started recording a lot more videos. She used just occasionally to film our dog's charming antics, and that was that. But she's launching an active YouTube channel, and so she's been making hundreds of recordings. By the end of the year, we'll be completely out of our 2TB allocation at the rate she's going.
And there's nowhere to go (or so it would seem unless you read to the end of this article). Apple doesn't promote additional tiers. This is completely non-competitive with the other cloud storage providers. My ZDNet buddy Steven Vaughan-Nichols put out a piece on the top nine cloud storage providers. Every single one has larger storage tiers than Apple.
Because iCloud is so integral to Apple's ecosystem, and a big part of Apple's value proposition is its photo and video capabilities, this hard 2TB limit is proving to be problematic. Just ask Apple user @hairclubpresident (you can't make this stuff up), who posted in the Apple support forums:
How to get an extra 2TB for not so cheap
Fortunately, there is an obscure way to add an additional 2TB of storage. You'll need to:
Have a maxed out iCloud+ plan, and
Sign up for the Premier Apple One plan
First, we need to talk about Apple One. Apple One is different from iCloud+. Apple One bundles all these services together into one package:
If you're already using all of Apple's services, Apple One is a pretty good deal. But if you're not, then it's a bit pricey -- especially if all you want to do is get more storage.
So let's say you're already subscribed to iCloud+ and are running up against that 2TB hard limit. It turns out that if you subscribe to Apple One's most expensive package, with 2TB of iCloud+ storage, that 2TB adds onto the existing 2TB you already have. This, in combination with your existing iCloud+ plan, gets you a total of 4TB of storage.
You'll wind up spending an additional $30 per month to double the storage you're paying $10 per month for now. But if you're maxed out and need more storage, you're maxed out, and you need more storage.
Apple doesn't talk about this very much, and all their published information leads folks to believe that the 2TB limit is a hard limit. But for those with a bit more cash and a bit more desperation, there is an option. So now you know.
How much storage are you using on your iCloud plan? Do you think you're going to push over the 2TB limit? Do you think it's just bonkers that Apple doesn't have reasonably priced 5TB and 10TB plans like literally all of its competitors? If so, let us know in the comments below.