How to pick the cloud storage service that’s right for you

Storing your most sensitive files locally on a hard drive is still (and probably always will be) the logical thing to do. But it’s not always the most convenient, which is why most of us look to cloud storage as a secondary option. It has its own set of benefits: it’s reasonably affordable, it makes sharing files easier, it’s ubiquitous across most operating systems and devices, and it’s just really nice to have a backup when your hard drive dies.

There are several services to pick from, and some of them are pretty similar. While common at their core offerings (to give you copious amounts of space to store files online), only a few go beyond that by giving users more free storage upfront, useful online productivity tools, and the option to expand storage well above the 1TB mark. Here are the most popular services and how to determine which one is right for you.

If you have a Google account, you also have 15GB of free cloud storage on Drive that never expires. What you choose to back up is obviously up to you, but Drive works particularly well with documents, allowing real-time collaboration and editing in plain text, spreadsheets, and presentations. Emails and other files received through Gmail will count against your storage, but keeping your inbox under control can keep more of the complimentary 15GB of storage open for use.

For some, Drive’s tools, like Docs, Sheets, and Slides, completely erase the need to pay for a Microsoft Office license. Your mileage may vary depending on if you’re a power user, but beyond just storing photos, videos, and music, Drive gets the nod for the load of extra features stacked on top of the free storage.

Android users can back up their phone state, including SMS messages, apps, settings, and call settings, to Drive, which is useful should you ever need to factory reset your device.

Apps: Google Drive is available as an app on iOS and Android, and it’s easy to access, edit, and share files with others. On desktop, you can edit files in your browser, and Google’s Backup and Sync app automatically shifts files (and whole directories, like your computer’s documents folder) over to your cloud storage.

Price to upgrade: Google’s new One service costs $1.99 per month to add 100GB of cloud storage to your account. If you need more to store and transfer large files, 2TB is $9.99 per month, and One works its way up to 30TB per month for $299.99. (If you have a need for 30TB of cloud storage, wheel down to Amazon’s Drive below.)


Microsoft OneDrive Pic

Not to be confused with Google One and Google Drive (tech folks are getting really creative with product names), if you have a Microsoft or Outlook account, you’ll start off with 5GB of cloud storage for free. Unlike Google Drive, OneDrive’s starter tier allows for storage only, gating off Office 365 applications for a paid tier.

Paying $6.99 per month or $69.99 on an annual basis will grant you access to 1TB of cloud storage as well as the full suite of Office 365 apps, which allow for real-time collaboration with others.

For Windows 10 users, OneDrive is embedded in the operating system by default. It’s a good feature for subscribers that minimizes the chances of losing precious documents due to forgetting to back them up. Microsoft aggressively tries to funnel you into using OneDrive, which is good for subscribers but bad for everyone else.

Apps: OneDrive is available on iOS, Android, and Microsoft’s own Windows Phone mobile OS. If you pay at least $6.99 per month, you’ll have access to apps like Microsoft Word on your phone and tablet, as well as on your PC or macOS computer, where OneDrive automatically saves your files.

Price to upgrade: If you simply want more storage, $1.99 per month gets you 50GB of storage. (That’s half the cloud storage granted by Google One for this price.) The highest tier that the service offers is appealing for families with up to six members starting on October 2nd, thanks to a recent change: it costs $9.99 per month or $99.99 annually for 6TB of cloud storage that can be split into 1TB chunks for each user. This tier also grants each user an Office 365 license for use on a computer, as well as a tablet and phone.

If you have an Amazon account, 5GB of cloud storage is available for use. For Prime subscribers, Amazon offers unlimited photo storage even at the $8.99-per-month tier of the service that grants access to Prime Video, but it doesn’t include expedited shipping and the other myriad benefits.

Unlike Google or Microsoft’s services, Amazon Drive doesn’t allow you to edit documents beyond renaming them, so real-time collaboration is out of the question here. For now, this is just a bare-bones cloud storage solution, which might be all you need.

Apps: Amazon Drive is available as an app for iOS and Android, giving you quick access to the items stored in cloud storage. If you’re working on macOS or Windows, a version of the app behaves similarly, but it also lets you sync folders to automatically upload them to the cloud without any action on the part of the user.

Price to upgrade: Amazon offers several upgrades that are priced competitively to Google One. For $11.99 per year, you can upgrade your account to 100GB. If you want more, 1TB costs $59.99 per year, and 2TB doubles that price. If your work requires a lot of cloud storage, Amazon Drive is the way to go, since it offers 30TB of storage for $1,799.70 per year compared to Google’s price of approximately $3,588 for the same amount.


Everyone with an Apple ID gets 5GB of iCloud storage, which can be easily accessed on your iPhone, iPad, or via the iCloud site.

Apple’s cloud storage solution is good at the basics if you’re just keen on storing your documents, photos, and videos. Like Google’s service, Apple offers its own suite of productivity apps (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) to all iCloud users, complete with real-time collaboration across devices.

For some, iCloud’s advantage over the services will be that it’s dead simple to use and looks like iOS on the web. Your files and other vital info gets ported over to iCloud, like your iMessages, calendar, reminders, and notes.

In addition to being an online workspace, iCloud can also store backups of your iPhone and iPad, should you ever need to restore your information to a new device. Keep in mind that doing so will probably make all, or much of, your 5GB of free storage quickly disappear.

Apps: You’ll find iCloud on iOS devices, like iPhone and iPad, as well as macOS and Windows, though no Android app currently exists.

Price to upgrade: Paying $1 per month will add 50GB to your iCloud account. Apple matches Google One’s pricing with the next upgrades being 200GB and 2TB, which cost $2.99 per month and $9.99 per month, respectively. An extra 50GB in the cloud might be all that you need, but opting for 200GB or more will let you split the data among your family with iCloud’s Family Sharing feature.

You won’t find huge amounts of storage options here, so you may want to dip into another service if you have big files to store.

By creating an account on Dropbox, you’ll earn 2GB of cloud storage, the lowest amount given by a major service. While the free tier, called “basic,” is just that in most regards, it allows you to collaborate in real time with others in Dropbox Paper, its word processor tool. It’s currently limited to text documents, though users in any tier can open and edit stored documents through Microsoft Office online tools like Word and Excel for free.

Paying Dropbox for more storage will also unlock a host of features that aren’t available to basic users. Dropbox Plus users get 1TB of cloud storage, offline file access, and the ability to instantly back up photos and videos taken with your smartphone.

Dropbox Professions ups the capacity to 2TB, and adds several features on top of what you get with Plus. Most notably, you can recover deleted files and changes to said files for up to 120 days, Dropbox can keep your local files updated automatically via Smart Sync, and you can make a Showcase, a sort of themed portfolio for a batch of content that’s neatly designed and organized.

Apps: Dropbox is available for iOS and Android, as well as on macOS and Windows. Only the Professional tier will allow Smart Sync, which automatically backs up selected folders on your computer.

Price to upgrade: Opting for 1TB of storage and more features with Dropbox’s Plus tier will cost $9.99 per month. Professional adds 2TB of storage to your account for double the price.

Signing up for an individual account at Box gives you 10GB of cloud storage, which is a good start. Similar to Dropbox, Box natively allows its users to create text documents that can be edited in real time with collaborators. This cloud storage service also offers the ability to edit text as well as other types of documents with Microsoft’s Office tools integration, which are like Google’s suite of productivity apps, but more akin to the legacy desktop apps that some are accustomed to using.

Box lacks a robust set of upgrade tiers, limiting individuals to 100GB of cloud storage at most. There’s no option in between if you only want 50GB, or beyond if you want as much as 1TB. But it tries to make up for it by being compatible with almost every device out there, even BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

Apps: Box Drive for desktop gives you access to your cloud storage and automatically updates what’s stored in the cloud if you edit an item. The apps for iOS and Android allow you to make files available for offline access, and it carries over the useful in-browser ability to edit files via Microsoft’s free productivity apps as well as Google’s.

Price to upgrade: For individual users, it costs $10 per month to upgrade to 100GB of cloud storage. That’s the only available paid tier, which is sorely lacking in both features and storage compared to the array of options presented by other services.

How to opt out of Yahoo Mail’s invasive data scanning

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported Yahoo Mail is still scanning users’ emails for data to sell to advertisers. Yahoo’s owner, Oath, is reportedly in talks with advertisers to provide a service that would scan over 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes for insights on whether users are frequent fliers, self-employed, and other qualities gleaned from retail emails they receive. There are two main ways users can still protect themselves from this data mining: they can opt out and they can choose a more secure email provider.

Here’s how you can opt out of Yahoo Mail’s scanning:

  1. Head over to the Ad Interest Manager page and select “opt out” underneath “Your Advertising Choices.” The page is not located in Settings, which makes it hard to find.
  2. After you opt out of personalized ads using Yahoo’s across the web, click over to “On Yahoo” and then choose opt out yet again. This one “disables personalization based on your interests” across Yahoo’s own properties. Be sure to opt out of both. If you simply click on the blue opt out button once, Yahoo will still be scanning your email and sorting you by qualities to fit a profile it can send to advertisers. And even if you’re a premium Yahoo Mail user, you’ll need to opt out manually to prevent your data from being sent to advertisers.

After you opt out, characteristics like your age bracket and your gender show up as hidden to Yahoo.

But even after you’ve opted out, Yahoo Mail still isn’t the best choice for a mail app. Yahoo admitted in 2017 that all 3 billion of its accounts have been breached before, years after the breach occurred.

So what are some alternative email providers that offer more security and privacy? You’ve got the obvious choices of Gmail or Microsoft Outlook, but there are several lesser known choices that might be worth a try.

You will find that none of them have as much storage as Yahoo Mail’s whopping 1TB of free storage space. (Gmail, on the other hand, has a limit of 15GB unless you pay for more.) Granted, Yahoo’s massive storage space is self-admittedly used for storing consumer emails, so maybe after cutting down on retail spam, you won’t need that much space. As Oath told the WSJ today, email can be an expensive system, and Yahoo’s tradeoff is all that space in exchange for your data.

ProtonMail is one that people name a lot when thinking about secure email. It’s end-to-end encrypted and it’s client-side encrypted so the service provider isn’t privy to the encryption key. It was founded in Switzerland by a small team in 2013. If you want more storage, there are a number of premium plans you can choose, for up to 50GB of storage.

If the name isn’t enough to appeal to you (the nostalgic browser-based game Neopets of yesteryear has a messaging system called Neomail), this email provider also boasts encryption, IP-hiding for extra privacy, and spam and virus protection. It’s hosted in Switzerland. One downside to Neomailbox is that the max storage is 10GB.

This one is recommended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which urges you to use the anonymity network Tor while making any email account. “If you mess up just once and log into the pseudonymous account from your real IP address, chances are that your webmail provider will keep linkable records about you forever,” it wrote in a 2012 article.

Once you’ve set up Hushmail in conjunction with Tor, you’ll find end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, hidden IP addresses, and more security features. Hushmail has been around since 1999 and it also has an iOS app. Like Neomailbox, it has a max limit of 10GB of storage.

Some others to check out include: RiseUp, Lavabit, and CounterMail. Let us know in the comments below if there are others you’ve tried that you prefer.

This is what Samsung’s Note 9 costs on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint

Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 9 provides more of everything that fans of big phones want: more battery, more screen, and more power. The phone is now available for purchase in stores now that the preorder period is over. If you snoozed on it until now, you won’t get a free set of AKG noise-canceling headphones or a load of Fortnite V-bucks (the popular title’s in-game currency).

For those who waited, the offers available at launch aren’t bad, however. If you buy the Note 9 from Samsung, you’ll get a few accessories for free. It’s also supported and available through every carrier in the US, several of which are offering decent trade-in specials that we saw during the lead-in to the Note 9’s release.

Samsung

Buy it outright: the base model with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM costs $999. The $1,249 option improves on that with 512GB of onboard storage and 8GB of RAM.

Monthly installments: For the 128GB model, it’s $41.67 per month for 24 months, which totals to just a few cents over the $1,000 mark. The 512GB model costs $52.08 per month but keeps the same total you’d pay for the phone outright.

Special offer: Buying from Samsung directly will award you a complimentary Duo wireless charger and your choice of a Note 9 case. You can also trade in your current device for up to $300 off the Note 9.

Verizon

Buy it outright: The base model costs $999; the upgraded option costs $1,249.

Monthly installments: Practically the same prices as Samsung, just a penny less per month for the 128GB model. The 512GB model will cost $52.08 per month for 24 months.

Special offer: Verizon offers a “buy one, get one” special for Note 9 phones. If you pay for both upfront, then the carrier will credit you for the second device over a 24-month period.

AT&T

Buy it outright: Standard pricing here: $999 for the 128GB model and $1,249 for the upgraded 512GB device.

Monthly installments: For those on AT&T’s Next plan, the Note 9 starts at $33.34 per month for 30 months. AT&T’s Next Every Year plan subscribers pay $41.67 per month for 24 months. The cost per month for the 512GB model is $52.09.

Special offer: Like Verizon, AT&T also offers a “buy one, get one” promo for the Note 9, though it is set to end on August 30th.

T-Mobile

Buy it outright: The 128GB model is $999, while the upgraded phone with 512GB of storage is $1,249.

Monthly installments: To finance, T-Mobile requires $279.99 down for the 128GB model, followed by $30 per month for 24 months. If you want more storage and power, the 512GB option is $529 down and $30 per month for 24 months. In both cases, the totals equal the cost if you were to purchase outright.

Special offer: If you have a Samsung device to trade in, you can earn up to $500 in billing credits over 24 months for newer Samsung-made phones, including the Note 5 and the Galaxy S7 series. Anything older may still be eligible for $250 back in credits.

Sprint

Buy it outright: You’ll pay $999 for the 128GB model with 6GB of RAM or $1,249 for the top model, which has 512GB of storage and is upgraded to 8GB of RAM.

Monthly installments: Sprint Flex lease costs $20.83 per month for 18 months. Then you’re able to buy the phone outright or return it for an upgrade.

Special offer: None, really. Sprint may cost less than the other carrier per month, but you won’t save any money if you want to pay for the Note 9 after the term ends.

Xfinity Mobile

Buy it outright: Xfinity charges the standard for both models: $999 for 129GB and $1,249 for the 512GB option.

Monthly installments: For the cheaper model, it’ll cost you $41.67 per month for 24 months on Xfinity Mobile’s network. The carrier is currently out of stock of the 512GB model, though. The Verge has contacted Xfinity Mobile for details.

Special offer: New customers can earn a $300 credit for opening a line with Xfinity Mobile and porting over your phone number. It doesn’t lower the price of the Note 9 at the time purchase, but it’s a perk nonetheless.

How to pick the smart display that’s right for you

Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or the Apple HomePod remain a good fit for most homes if you enjoy listening to music above all else. But some of the smart assistants that power them have found their way into smart displays, a new form factor that brings about some exciting changes.

Whether you’re tied up in Amazon or Google’s ecosystem of apps, smart displays let you do more hands-free than any smart speaker can. Boiled down, they are equipped to take on tasks usually reserved for your smartphone or tablet. In addition to listening to music, you can control your connected home tech, hop into a video call, or follow along with a recipe on the screen, to name a few examples.

This category of smart devices is set to grow, with Android Things-powered options on the way from the likes of LG, Sony, and JBL. But for now, we’re focused on helping you decide between three options: Amazon’s Echo Show, the smaller Echo Spot, and the Lenovo Smart Display by Google. And the good news? They’re all pretty great.


Amazon Echo Show
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

This rather unassuming smart display features a seven-inch display and is tied in heavily with Amazon’s services. If you have experience with the Echo speaker, the Echo Show works in all of the same ways with its far-field microphones and Alexa integration. But it’s a little more expressive, what with its touch-friendly display. Any and all info that you request pops up on its screen for you to see.

Despite this added layer of engagement, the Echo Show demands very little from the user. There’s no app store, and setting it up doesn’t involve shifting around home screen icons. It simply sits at the ready for your requests, though it can entertain by playing movies and TV from Prime Video, video clips from its partners, like CNN, as well as video chatting.

The Echo Show and the smaller, cheaper Echo Spot feature “Drop In” video calling, which lets you hop into a video chat unannounced with a trusted contact. Before you get too alarmed, know that this has to be enabled by both users, but it essentially just allows either party to automatically open up a line of communication without syncing up a time and place. This function works between any Echo device, Fire tablets, as well as iOS and Android phone users who have the Alexa app installed.

If you want to give your phone a boost, the Echo Show is certainly louder and better-sounding. We found that it outperforms the Echo speakers, but it’s not as good as something like the Sonos: One. This smart display can play tunes from your phone via Bluetooth, however, the Echo Show’s audio cannot be piped through a different audio source, unlike the Echo Spot with its 3.5mm jack.


Amazon Echo Spot
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The $129 Echo Spot embodies Alexa in its spherical build, giving it the same skills as any Echo speaker. But, similar to the Echo Show, this model has a display built-in. It’s just circular instead of a rectangle, and is much smaller and cheaper.

For about the same price as the Show, you can get two Spots and gift one to a close friend of family member to stay in touch via the “Drop In” video chat feature detailed above. We’ve also seen multiple Spots used in the same house as a means to quickly call up to someone in, say, an upstairs office to ask a question.

There are a few special use cases for a smart display of this size. In the kitchen, it’s ideal for setting timers and listening to music. For other rooms, it can handle the alarm duties without getting in the way. While it’s by no means a security camera, the “Drop In” feature could let you keep an eye on what’s happening in a different room.

It seems rather trivial as to why anyone would want to use the Spot for entertainment purposes beyond listening to music or watching a brief video clip. The circular screen is rather small, but it works in a pinch for Prime Video and Amazon Channels. As for music, this little speaker’s throughput is below what any of the Echo speakers can put out, though it’s certainly aided by its 3.5mm jack that can output to your current speaker system.


Lenovo Smart Display
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Lenovo’s aptly named Smart Display comes in two sizes: eight inches or 10 inches, with pricing set at $199 and $249, respectively. The Smart Display looks like a digital picture frame, though it’s obviously way smarter than one.

This model runs Android Things, Google’s OS that’s built specifically for Internet of Things devices. Like Amazon’s smart displays, this Lenovo model can likely control most of the connected tech that you have in your home.

While Google’s smart displays are somewhat short on groundbreaking features, there are some niceties here that might be tough to live without should you opt for Amazon’s Echo Show. First, a bigger screen. If you want to read recipes while you cook, it’s going to be a bit easier on the Lenovo displays.

The other big feature? YouTube. It’s invaluable that Google Assistant can provide YouTube videos as a solution to your question. You can share Google Maps locations from the Smart Display to your phone, too. In situations like these, its strong ties with Google services feels rewarding. Though, it’s also one of this product’s damning facets if you aren’t as heavily invested and right now, it’s difficult to play video from other sources, like Netflix or Hulu, on the Smart Display.

In terms of video chatting, the Smart Display only supports Google Duo. Amazon’s “Drop In” feature is certainly more unique than Google’s implementation, but Lenovo’s display gets kudos in the privacy department for building in a hardware switch that covers the front facing camera.