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Windows smartphone owners question Microsoft's commitment after OneDrive space reduction

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 9, 2015
Ironic: Microsoft pitched more storage last year to iPhone owners, but loudest complaints now come from Windows phone users.

Windows Phone
A Windows Phone smartphone on show at Computex 2015 in Taipei. Credit: Martyn Williams

Just as Apple got the size of its iOS upgrades under better control, Microsoft drastically slashed the free allotment of its OneDrive storage service.

Ironic? Absolutely: The OneDrive users who have complained the loudest about the reductions weren't iPhone owners -- the focus of Microsoft's 2014 storage expansion -- but Windows loyalists who had committed to the ecosystem, especially Windows smartphones, which continue to struggle in the marketplace.

In September 2014, Microsoft used negative news about Apple's iOS 8 to double the free space on its OneDrive cloud service. A month after Apple rolled out a diet-plan iOS 9, Microsoft pared OneDrive's free allowance by 83%.

Last year, some iPhone owners were forced to delete content before installing the then-new iOS 8 because of tight storage space on their smartphones and the large size of the new OS. Microsoft exploited the widespread reports of Apple's dilemma to tout OneDrive as an alternative to iOS users removing apps, music and documents -- but especially photographs -- to reclaim enough room to upgrade iPhones and iPads with skimpy local storage.

"While it might seem strange to announce new features on a Friday evening, we've been listening to the commentary about storage on the new iPhones released today and we wanted to get you more storage right away," wrote Douglas Pearce, a group program manager with the OneDrive team, in a Sept. 19, 2014, blog post. "We think you'll appreciate having more free storage while setting up your iPhone 6 or upgrading to iOS 8."

Pearce's offer was generous: Microsoft would increase the free storage capacity of OneDrive by 15GB -- doubling it from the then-standard 15GB to 30GB -- for anyone who installed the OneDrive iOS app and enabled automatic backup of photos and video to the storage service. Microsoft dubbed that feature "camera roll backup."

Users who installed the Android, Windows Phone, Windows and OS X versions of OneDrive on their devices also got the extra storage.

iOS 8, which debuted two days before Pearce announced the offer, was significantly larger than its forerunner, and required 5GB or more of available space to install. That was a hard sell for owners of 8GB and 16GB iPhones, who scrambled to delete content. Apple took heat for the debacle, and responded in 2015 with a slimmer iOS 9 that required 72% less free space to install. In tight situations, iOS 9 also asked the user whether they wanted to delete apps to make room, then handled both app deletion and re-installation.


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