Early speculations about Apple’s digital cloud storage plans suggest that the service will launch for free initially, but that the iPhone-maker would eventually charge users a small annual fee for the service much like what it does with its cloud-based Mobile Me offering.
According to Billboard, Apple may charge users around $20 a year for access to the digital cloud where they can store their purchased music and stream the content to their devices rather than having to synchronize and store their music locally, like on an iPhone or iPad. Instead, users can tap into either their WiFi or mobile broadband connection to stream music, creating a hybrid of a subscription model and an ownership model where users can stream content, like music that is ‘rented’ on rival services like Zune, but still own their music via a la carte purchases at around $1 per song.
Billboard is also speculating that Google may charge users $25 annually for its own iTunes cloud rival when that services launch. Currently, Android owners do not have an official first-party, Google-branded music store. OEMs and carriers have previously relied on Amazon for music purchases via an Amazon MP3 app that’s pre-loaded on select Android smartphones.
Amazon has beaten both Apple and Google to the cloud by launching its own Cloud Drive. The service charges an annual fee based on how much storage a user would need or want, but music that’s purchased through the Amazon MP3 store would not count against the storage quota. In addition to music, Amazon also allows users to use Cloud Drive to store other files and content, much like Dropbox. Amazon also gives users 5 GB free storage to start with, which is more than the 2 GB free starting storage that rival services usually give to users in a freemium model.
As users begin to use their mobile devices more, offloading memory-intensive songs, and potentially videos and movies, to the cloud would help to conserve storage space. On the iPhone, users are currently limited to a maximum of 32 GB. With an average movie consuming about 1-2 GB of storage space, and a typical song at about 3 MB, users could save valuable internal storage for photos, captured videos using the phone’s or tablet’s camera(s), e-books, magazines, and other content.