What Is iCloud+ and Should You Upgrade?


Everyone with an Apple account gets 5GB of free iCloud storage to use for backups, photo storage, and more. Apple has always offered paid plans if you need more storage, but in 2021, the company rebranded its iCloud subscriptions to iCloud+ and reworked what it includes.

Since iCloud+ includes a few benefits beyond additional storage, is it worth the upgrade for you? Let’s take a look.

What Is iCloud+?

In case you’re unfamiliar, iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage service. If you’ve used any similar product, such as OneDrive or Google Drive, you’ll feel at home with iCloud.

If you pay for any iCloud subscription beyond the free 5GB plan, you’ll automatically be upgraded to iCloud+ and get some extra goodies.

To check your iCloud subscription on an iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap your name at the top of the list.
  3. Choose iCloud.
  4. You’ll see your current amount of storage, and iCloud+ if you’re a subscriber, at the top.
  5. To change your iCloud plan, tap Manage Storage > Change Storage Plan.
  6. In addition to the free tier, you can choose from three plans, as listed below. If you’re subscribed and want to end your plan, tap Downgrade Options.

The available iCloud plans are as follows:

  • Free: 5GB of space with no other benefits
  • $0.99 per month: 50GB of space, plus iCloud+ benefits as explained below
  • $2.99 per month: 200GB of space, plus iCloud+ benefits as explained below
  • $9.99 per month: 2TB space, plus iCloud+ benefits as explained below

Each iCloud+ plan is shareable with up to five other people through Apple Family Sharing.

What Does iCloud+ Offer?

As of this writing, iCloud+ offers four major benefits. Let’s explore them briefly.

iCloud Private Relay

Private Relay, currently in beta, is a VPN-like feature that adds privacy to your browsing. It routes your traffic in Safari through two separate internet relays, making it harder for websites and network providers to associate your browsing activity with your identity.

While it’s a boon for privacy, it might have minor adverse effects, like websites showing you the wrong regional version or asking you to sign in more than once.

You can activate this feature in the same iCloud menu discussed above. Note that it only works in Safari, and isn’t a true VPN since it doesn’t protect all network traffic and doesn’t let you choose a server location.

Hide My Email

This is a handy feature that allows you to obfuscate your actual email address while still allowing sites to contact you. In Safari and Apple Mail you can create random email addresses that all forward to your actual inbox. And when you reply to a message sent to a randomized address, the recipient won’t see your real email.

You can make as many extra addresses as you want, and label them for convenience. If you find that one gets a lot of spam or you otherwise don’t need it anymore, you can deactivate it.

A Custom Email Domain

With this perk, you can create a unique domain for the iCloud Mail address included with your Apple ID. Anyone on your Family Sharing plan is also able to use this for their iCloud Mail accounts.

As one example of the use for this, you might choose to use your family name for a personal touch. So instead of [email protected], your email address could be [email protected].

HomeKit Secure Video Storage

With an iCloud+ plan, you gain extra space (distinct from your iCloud space) for storing footage from your Apple HomeKit home security cameras.

The number of cameras you gain storage for depends on your plan:

  • 50GB plan: One camera
  • 200GB plan: Up to five cameras
  • 2TB plan: Unlimited cameras

Like with the other benefits, you can invite other people to view the video of your home’s cameras. If you don’t use HomeKit-compatible smart home devices this won’t do much, but it’s handy otherwise.

Should You Use iCloud+?

For most people, the best reason to buy more iCloud storage is to have more room for backups. While you can back up your iPhone to a computer, it’s much more convenient to let it back up overnight to the cloud.

With that said, you get a lot for your money with iCloud+. The 50GB plan is only $12 per year for enough backup space for most people, plus email and browsing privacy protections. If you split the 200GB or even the 2TB plan with a few friends or family members, the cost is only a few dollars per person.

Overall, iCloud+ is a solid buy for anyone with an iPhone. A dollar or two per month is well worth not having to see “iCloud Storage Full” again, plus you get privacy-enhancing boosts. If you have a paid cloud storage plan with another provider like Microsoft 365, you might not need it, though.

See our guide to tidying up your cloud storage so it doesn’t get unruly.

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