How to Decide if Apple's New iCloud Storage Plans Are Worth It

The two new iCloud Plus plans could vastly expand your digital storage, but they come with a hefty price tag.

Katelyn Chedraoui Associate Writer
Katelyn is an associate writer with CNET's services and software team. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in media and journalism. She believes in the transformative power of digital platforms, tools and communication to increase accessibility to information and the even-more transformative power of a good cup of coffee.
Katelyn Chedraoui
4 min read
iCloud options displayed in blue on black background
Apple/Screenshot by CNET

If you're an Apple user who has recently received that dreaded message saying you're about to run out of iCloud space, fear not. Apple has released two new iCloud Plus storage plans this month: 6- and 12-terabyte plans, both greatly increasing the amount of extra digital storage space you can purchase. But, beware: They're not cheap.

These new options are a good way to raise the ceiling of your digital storage room -- an option that might make the steeper price worth it, especially for those who work with a lot of media or use Family Sharing. The 6TB plan costs $30 (£27, AU$55) per month, and the 12TB plan costs $60 (£55, AU$90) per month.

The new plans were announced at the end of Apple's Sept. 12 "Wonderlust" event, where the company also unveiled the new iPhone 15, iOS 17 and the Apple Watch Series 9. With these new plans, Apple has tripled the amount of iCloud storage available -- previously, the most extra space you could purchase was 2TB. 

How much digital storage do you need?

Understanding just how much digital storage you need can be tricky. Each iCloud account is automatically given 5GB of space before you'll have to pay for extra room, billed in the form of a monthly subscription. If you have most of your photos or videos saved on your Apple devices, you've likely gotten warnings that you're about to run out of space and thought about upgrading. But how do you know how much storage you need? And when is it time to finally buy into a paid plan?

The short answer: It's going to depend on how much extra space you need and how much you're willing to pay. Taking photos and videos uses storage, and the higher the quality of those photos and videos, the more storage they take up. With iPhones now offering the ability to record 4K video at 60 frames per second, you can use up your digital storage at an alarming rate. With these two new plans, Apple is giving people even more options for their storage needs.

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Apple vs. Google: Other digital storage options

When it comes to digital storage, Apple isn't the only game in town. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Dropbox all offer popular digital storage options. For example, Google's prices for its 200GB and 2TB plan are identical to Apple's, but its lowest level plan offers twice as much space as Apple for only a dollar more a month. And Google's baseline, free plan offers three times the amount of free space compared to Apple's.

But if you've got all or mostly Apple devices, you're probably going to want to stick with iCloud. Its compatibility across devices makes it easy to spread the extra space across your iPhone, Watch and Mac, and it makes it easy to update and find the most recent version of your files across devices. Plus, if you've already got all your files on your Apple devices, moving those photos and files to another service might be a headache worth avoiding.

Man standing in front of big screen with Apple apps on black background

Apple introduced the new plans at the end of its September event.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

How to buy extra iCloud Plus storage

If you do decide to buy iCloud Plus storage, or upgrade your current plan, you can do so easily. Just go to your Apple device's Settings > iCloud account > Manage Storage. If you're signing up for a paid plan for the first time, scroll down until you see Upgrade to iCloud Plus. From there you'll be prompted to select your plan and fill out the necessary information.

If you don't need anywhere near the new 6TB or 12TB worth of space, don't worry. Apple has three existing tiers of storage that might better fit your needs, with proportionate prices.

Apple's cheapest nonfree tier gives you 50GB of space -- 10 times the amount of free space, priced at $1 (£1, AU$1.49) per month. Typically, this plan is a good choice for those who need a bit of extra wiggle room in their digital filing cabinets, or don't want to have to worry about running out of space so soon. 

The next level plan is a big jump up to 200GB, a midtier plan for $3 (£3, AU$4.49) per month. This plan is a good choice for families sharing storage space under one Apple ID, as it gives quite a bit of space. 

The jump from the middle level plan of 200GB to the 2TB level plan is massive -- 1 terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes, so the 2TB plan is a huge leap forward in terms of available space. This plan, currently priced at $10 (£9, AU$15) per month, is another option for families or accounts with multiple users on it, especially for people who like to take lots of videos.