The Best Cloud Storage Apps for Android – February 2018

Over the past two years, it seems smartphone manufacturers have finally started to gather that physical storage on our smartphones is an important feature. Though early smartphones came with limited storage, typically in flavors of 8 or 16GB models, current smartphones have begun to ship with 32 or 64GB of standard storage, with some phones including microSD card slots to add up to an additional 256GB of local storage. Some phones, like the Essential Phone, even come in a basic 128GB model for all users, offering plenty of storage for those who love to keep their data local. And this comes at a perfect time, because while data plans on national carriers seem to allow for the use of more and more data every year (with all four carriers now offering some form of unlimited data plan), those prices also keep rising—as do the restrictions on streaming, including certain video streams being limited in resolution.

But just because we keep getting access to more local storage doesn’t mean we should stop taking advantage of cloud storage. Between the ubiquity of WiFi and the fast download speeds of 4G LTE technology, using an online locker to keep your data in the cloud is a no-brainer. It keeps your files in one place, accessible to all of your devices, and ensures everything you’ve saved is safe and secure from any external forces. Whether you’re looking to use cloud storage to keep your documents, music, and photos in the cloud, or you’re looking to backup your devices to an online storage solution, using the cloud is a must in 2017—even if your phone has hundreds of gigabytes worth of storage.

Android has a ton of cloud storage apps on the Play Store, and it can be difficult to determine which apps are worth your time and which aren’t. If you’re wondering which cloud-based apps are worth your time, this is the list for you. After testing several different platforms for security, reliability, and speed, we’ve compiled a list to display our favorite cloud storage apps on Android. If you want the best in cloud storage on Android, look no further.

Everyone else

Google Photos is, as the name suggests, an app solely focused on uploading and managing your photo library in the cloud. That might seem like a disadvantage in the cloud storage arena, but Photos is so good at what it does, it deserves its own highlight. We wouldn’t recommend using it on its own, unless you’re just looking for a way to upload your photos and videos to the cloud, but for your media collection and combined with Google Drive, this is one of Google’s best applications for Android—a must have for your device collection.

So what exactly does Photos offer? For anyone who has ever had a smartphone, they know that photos and videos often take up the most space on your device, especially if you don’t offload your photos from your device to a computer. But no one wants to give up instant access to their photo collection, so Google Photos makes it easy to backup every photo and video from your device and, once the content is saved in the cloud, automatically remove the local copy from your phone, saving you storage on your device in the process. It helps that Google Photos is also one of the best-designed photo gallery applications out there, with the ability to sort through a timeline view, through albums, share photos and videos instantly with other Google accounts, and one of the most powerful photo search engines we’ve ever seen, helping you find identical face matches in seconds.

Google Photos even syncs with Google Drive automatically, porting any saved photos in your Drive account over to Photos to view with all your other uploaded content. And the sync with Google Drive doesn’t end there; Photos also uses your Drive storage quota, meaning any Google Drive users paying for additional storage can upload full-resolution photos into Google Photos for free without having to pay for a second service. That gets even better, however, when you implement Photos’ high-quality option, which allows you unlimited uploading of “high-quality” copies of your photos and videos. For photos, this means 16 megapixels, and for videos, 1080p resolution. For most users, this is all they’ll ever need, making Photos not just an awesome option for your photo and video library, but an awesome free option as well.

Dropbox is often seen as the cloud storage application, the app that kicked off the revolution and focus on specific cloud access from all your devices. Launched in 2007, right as the iPhone was premiering, it had the good fortune to offer a free cloud tier to most consumers looking for a new way to store files and documents in the cloud. Since then, Dropbox has, in some ways, become synonymous with the idea of cloud storage and lockers, and is used by millions of consumers and businesses daily. That doesn’t mean it’s the best app on the market, however. While Dropbox’s desktop app is incredibly powerful, their mobile application for Android lacks some of the touches we’ve grown to love in other cloud platforms, including Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive.

Though Dropbox’s app is well-designed and features Google sign-in support, the app feels like it was designed as a branch from the desktop app, rather than a system that can work on its own. If you aren’t using Dropbox on your Mac or Windows PC, you’ll still be able to keep files in the cloud, but some of the more-advanced things you can do inside Dropbox simply aren’t possible without the desktop app. For example, trying to edit a Microsoft Word document inside Dropbox will simply launch the Word app for Android, but Dropbox for desktop can open the web version of Office for editing. The app also doesn’t feature a way to start a new document, as we’ve seen from both Google Drive and OneDrive. If you’re a desktop user, the desktop sync is by far its best ability, making your phone feel like an extension of your PC rather than an entirely different device. On its own, however, Dropbox simply feels lacking when up against its main competitors.

Pricing for Dropbox isn’t great either; the app ships with only 2GB of free storage for non-paying customers, a paltry amount when compared to the 15GB offered by Google Drive and even the 5GB offered by OneDrive. This is probably the app’s biggest drawback; 2GB just isn’t enough storage for 2017, even for a free tier, and it’s something Dropbox should really step up in the future. For consumers, Dropbox only has one paid plan, called Dropbox Plus, which includes a full terabyte of storage. This plan costs $9.99 per month, or $99 per year, which is on par with Google Drive’s own pricing without offering the amount of flexibility and features that Drive gives its users. Overall, Dropbox was a bit of a letdown—we expected the classic cloud storage company to trounce its competitors, and instead, Dropbox came off as rather weak. It’s a solid app, but it misses what makes its contemporaries so great.

Amazon’s app offerings are often hit or miss. Sometimes, Amazon’s apps are well-built, with great designs and speeds. Other times, however, their apps feel held back in specific ways, far too often appearing as a me-too utility against other tech giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Unfortunately, Amazon Drive seems to fall in the latter category, with a basic, dated design that can be hard to navigate, a limited amount of features and supported file types, and limited use outside of basic file storage. And while Amazon Drive previously offered an unlimited storage deal for average consumers, that too, unfortunately, has disappeared from the app.

Let’s start with the good: Amazon Drive, like all Amazon apps, works really well if you’re already built into the Amazon ecosystem. Both Amazon Prime and Amazon Fire device owners received unlimited photo storage within the app, a noticeable step up from what’s offered by Google Photos. Prime Photos allows you to store photos no matter their size, even allowing for RAW files to be stored easily in the cloud. There is, unfortunately, a major drawback to Prime Photos: videos in any capacity aren’t covered by the unlimited storage, instead counting against the free tier of storage Amazon allows its users—5GB, the same as OneDrive. It’s not a huge amount of storage, and unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t provide Prime users with any bonus storage beyond the Prime Photos deal.

Amazon’s app on Android is pretty lackluster here, with a dated design that feels more like a mobile file browser circa 2012 than any other cloud app we’ve tested previously. Even playing music files was a problem, opening each track individually in a basic media player. If there’s one good thing Amazon Drive has going for it, it’s the pricing: Amazon offers 100GB of storage for only $11.99 per year, by far the cheapest price we’ve seen for that tier (Google Drive, meanwhile, costs $19.99 per year for the same amount). Amazon also offers a terabyte plan for $59.99 per year, a solid price all things considered. However, Amazon previously allowed users to buy into an unlimited plan, something they removed this past June, and anyone on the unlimited plan will be reverted to the terabyte plan when their subscription renews. Overall, Amazon Drive leaves a lot to be desired next to its competition, but if you’re looking to buy cloud storage on the cheap, you can’t do much better than Amazon’s app.

Mega has a bit of a strange background. The app was born out of Megaupload, an earlier version of cloud-based download sites owned by notorious entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. Megaupload was primarily known for its pirated material hosted on the site, which led to the US government seizing its servers and shutting the site down permanently in early 2012, as well as leading the government to charge Dotcom with several crimes (he currently resides in New Zealand). In 2013, Dotcom fired back, launching Mega, his new cloud service site with a strong focus on encryption. Is it enough to make you switch from Google Drive?

Let’s start with the free tier: Mega gives its users a full 50GB of storage upon signing up, the most of any cloud service on this list by far. There aren’t any file upload limits either, meaning you can use your 50GB to your hearts content. Though users are forced to create a Mega-specific account, without the ability to login using your Google ID, there’s a good reason for it. Mega specializes in encryption, utilizing the same AES technology often seen in the VPN market to encrypt your files client-side. This means that, according to Dotcom and Mega, they have no way to view your files without the specific encryption key, to which they don’t have access. This encryption means your files are kept on a number of servers around the world, which helps Mega from being shut down in the same way Megaupload was. It also, in some ways, allows users to use Mega for the same pirated content Megaupload was used for, though if film studios and other copyright holders find the encryption keys being shared online, they can ask Mega to take those specific files down upon proving its their copyrighted content.

The application is primarily web-based, which means the Android app, unfortunately, leaves a bit to be desired. While it’s nice to see an app switching away from the blue and white theme that’s represented so often through this list, the design is a bit dated. It’s easy to add files, but there isn’t a lot else to be done with the app on Android unfortunately. Still, it’s a good-enough way to access your uploaded files on the go. If you’re looking to step up from your 50GB of free storage, you’ll find pricing is about even with Dropbox, although considering the prices are listed in Euros, you’ll be paying a bit more on the dollar for the privilege. Still, this is the strongest encryption we’ve seen from a cloud service app, and if that’s important to you—or you simply want your 50GB of free storage—you can’t go wrong with Mega.

Based on their website alone, it’s clear Box is primarily focused on business users looking for a cloud storage system for their team or clients to use. Their website advertises solutions for IT professionals, marketing and sales companies, and even app developers looking for a secure, business-first cloud system. But just because Box’s main audience make up professional workers doesn’t mean we can’t take a look at what the system offers for consumers. After all, Box does sell consumers a standard plan, along with a free tier, and positions itself as a competitor to Dropbox.

Overall, Box has a nice setup compared to other cloud apps. The design of their Android app is nearly identical to what we saw from Dropbox, complete with the same color theme of blue and white that’s been demonstrated in a number of the apps reviewed on this list. Beyond basic file storage, Box can also begin a new document or note, which is a nice feature even if it isn’t quite as powerful as what we’ve seen from companies like Microsoft and Google, but it’s nice to have the ability anyway. Box does force users into signing in with a Box account, without any other options like Google or Facebook logins, but on the plus side, every upload features encryption, complete with an option for user-generated keys.

Unfortunately, two major drawbacks keep Box from truly competing in the consumer field: file upload limits and price. Box offers all consumer users 10GB of free storage when signing up, and while it’s not the most we’ve seen from any cloud company, it’s not a bad amount either. Unfortunately, all free accounts have a 250MB file upload limit, meaning even mid-size video files can’t be stored on their servers without breaking the files up into smaller chunks. If you’re hoping to use Box for its encryption features and simply pay for a plan to remove the file size limit, you’re out of luck there too. The only paid plan offered to consumers costs $9.99 per month and gives you a measly 100GB of cloud storage with a 5GB upload limit. Compared to nearly every other cloud storage app on the market today, and that 100GB looks straight up paltry. Box has a nice application, especially for businesses, but if you’re a consumer looking for the best value, stick to another cloud provider.

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