Dropbox vs. SkyDrive Apps: The Rematch

SkyDrive and its mobile apps offer more for the money than Dropbox. But CIO.com blogger James A. Martin has found over the past few months that Dropbox is more reliable -- and the service and its mobile apps are about to get even more useful.

I’ve been a Dropbox fan since about 2008. I appreciate the simplicity of the cloud sync/file sharing service and I particularly like its mobile apps. Example: With the Dropbox app, uploading new photos and videos from my iPhone and Android smartphones to my Dropbox folder is ridiculously easy.

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I like the scrappy little start-up, too, which just put on DBX, its first developer conference (more on that in a second).

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Earlier this year, however, Microsoft’s SkyDrive lured me away. SkyDrive offers 7GB of free storage compared to Dropbox’s 2GB freebie. Extra storage on SkyDrive is compellingly inexpensive, too. For $50 a year, you get another 100GB on SkyDrive; you’d pay $99 for the same gigs on Dropbox.There are easy-to-use SkyDrive apps for iOS and Android, too, not to mention Windows Phone.

I did the math. Dropbox lost. Or so it seemed.

Most of the time, SkyDrive has done what it promised: Sync my files between my iMac and MacBook Air; store them in the cloud; and make them easy to access from the cloud using SkyDrive mobile apps.

But notice I said “most of the time”? Even though the SkyDrive Mac app assures me that “SkyDrive is up to date,” it sometimes takes hours for files I created on my MacBook Air to show up on my iMac and vice versa. In other cases, it takes days. Dropbox, on the other hand, syncs my files right away, all the time. 

So I’ve come up with a new plan. My most important documents go in my Dropbox folder, where I now have 6GB of free storage (thanks to various promotions and referrals to friends who signed up). Photos, videos, and other large files that I don’t update often will remain in my SkyDrive account, for which I’m paying $25 a year for a total of 75GB (also thanks to referrals and promotions).

Dropbox and SkyDrive aren’t your only cloud sync/storage services with accompanying mobile apps, of course. Competitors include Box, SugarSync, iDrive (which just added a “one-touch mobile backup” option), Apple’s iCloud, and Google Drive, each of which has something valuable to offer.

And Dropbox isn’t without fault. Nearly one year ago, for instance, Dropbox admitted it had been hacked, underscoring the security concerns many of us have about storing files in the cloud.

All that said, Dropbox is looking more like a winner these days, despite its higher pricing.

On Tuesday, the company announced at DBX the Dropbox Platform, designed to make it easier for developers to sync all types of app data across devices and operating systems. According to an example on the company’s blog, you could check off items on your iPhone to-do-list app and add new tasks to the same app on your laptop, and Dropbox will sync all those changes accordingly. Developers of the Android texting app TextMe announced at DBX a new version of their app that lets you share your Dropbox photos, videos, and files with anyone via text message. You can read more about Dropbox's plans in Bill Snyder's "Dropbox Aims to Replace Your Hard Drive."

Dropbox also announced Tuesday that you can email files from your Dropbox account directly from Mailbox, the app Dropbox acquired earlier this year. Attaching documents to email is still not supported in the native iOS Mail app. Third-party app developers, such as Linea with its photo browsing iOS app, are frequently announcing Dropbox integratation.

Dropbox appears to be heading in the right direction—and I’m going to follow.  

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