Amazon fluffs up its cloud services for consumers

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amazon Cloud Drive goes unlimited: $11.99/year for photos and $59.99/year for everything.

For those who just want to back up photos, Amazon on Thursday launched a new unlimited photos plan, which lets you store an infinite number of snaps in Cloud Drive for $11.99 a year, or less than $1 a month. Rather than being merely competitive with leaders like Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud, Amazon has decided to undercut their pricing by more than half. Unlimited Cloud Storage will let users get either unlimited photo storage or “unlimited everything” — covering all kinds of media from videos and music through to PDF documents — respectively for $11.99 or $59.99 per year. And, they don’t know how many gigabytes of storage they need to back all of them up,” Josh Petersen, director of Amazon Cloud Drive, said in a statement. “With the two new plans we are introducing today, customers don’t need to worry about storage space—they now have an affordable, secure solution to store unlimited amounts of photos, videos, movies, music, and files in one convenient place.” Even better—you can try out the service for free before making the investment.

The move is a clear attempt by Amazon to compete against the likes of Dropbox, Google, Microsoft and the many more in the crowded market for cloud-based storage services. That’s compared to the $100 per year that individual Dropbox users pay for a plan capped at 1TB (there’s also a $15 per month unlimited plan for business accounts), $120 per year for 1TB on Google Drive, and $240 for the same amount on iCloud. Don’t forget, if you’re a Prime subscriber, you already get unlimited photos, but you won’t get any discounts or anything if you want to move up to the “everything” plan. Throw in Amazon’s three-month free trial offer—and consider that truly unlimited plans aren’t even an option for individual users on most rival services—and the unprecedented value of Amazon’s Unlimited Everything Plan comes more into focus.

Amazon’s one-price plan for unlimited storage to individual customers appears to challenge rival plans in which prices increase based on amount of storage used. The idea here is to tap into the average consumer who has started to reach a tipping point with the amount of digital media he or she now owns, potentially across a range of devices and in not a very organised fashion (hello, me). “Most people have a lifetime of birthdays, vacations, holidays, and everyday moments stored across numerous devices. Amazon had previously offered a 5GB per month plan for free; it’s not clear whether those customers will be transitioned over to the paid photo-friendly plan, or will be upgraded to Unlimited Photos.

Today, the going benchmark is 1TB of space, which services offer for between $2.50 per month (MediaFire) and $10 per month (Dropbox, OneDrive). (Check out the cloud storage comparison we did last August.) Amazon’s offer is cheap by any standard. At any rate, with a monthly cost of $5, it’s almost worthwhile paying for the service irrespective of how much cloud-based storage you actually need. Amazon’s “pricing looks very favorable,” though “given the ease of using the Apple ecosystem, it might be difficult to woo customers,” said B. Separately on Thursday, Amazon said it was extending the use of its grocery delivery business AmazonFresh to members of its Prime program through June. No one else comes particularly close; according to a recent study from Synergy Research Group last, the company has a remarkable 27 percent market share in the space.

In addition, the company is expanding its Prime Now service to Dallas, as it continues to roll out its one-hour delivery service beyond New York City. Amazon said customers in Dallas—who must be members of Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime program—can get one-hour delivery on tens of thousands of items for $7.99 per order, or with no fee for two-hour delivery.

But the company does say “Existing Cloud Drive customers can change their plans now by simply logging into their Cloud Drive accounts,” which definitely suggests old plans are being made obsolete, though no timescale is given for this. The e-commerce giant last week launched Prime Now in some areas of Miami and Baltimore, portending a broader rollout of the service and marking its latest move against brick-and-mortar rivals. The payoffs seem clear enough; the more people are locked into Amazon’s cloud, the more likely they’ll be to buy Amazon’s digital video and music offerings, or even a Kindle Fire tablet. For comparison, Dropbox charges $10 for 1TB/month, with 2GB available for free; Google charges $9.99/month for 1TB and up to $299.99 for 30TB, though it does offer a generous 15GB completely gratis; and Microsoft charges $6.99/month for 1TB, and 15GB for free too.

Its user interface, like most of Amazon, can feel sloppy and unintuitive. “Unlimited” has a nice sound to it, but the majority of users currently don’t have much need for more than 1TB, if that. However, for those with large movie files, games, and so on — this is where “unlimited” really starts to shine, and $5/month is a really ridiculous price point. And perhaps most importantly, if you’re already deeply invested an an alternative provider—be it Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, or other—all those savings still might not be worth the hassle of switching. That said, at the price it’s asking, it may well face a large influx of new customers (its intention, no doubt) that have needs far in excess of 2TB.

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