Our last Do You Use It? poll asked which Apple services you pay for and use in an attempt to discern the extent to which TidBITS readers participate in Apple’s ever-more-lucrative subscription services. The allure of some of these services is hard to resist, whereas others seem farther from Apple’s traditional focus.
As I’ve noted previously, Do You Use It? poll results reflect the TidBITS audience, not the overall Apple user base. I suspect this poll’s results are notably different due to TidBITS readers being older than the average Apple user and thus more comfortable with long-standing approaches to working with photos, listening to music, watching TV and movies, reading news, and exercising. (Of course, we’re also smarter, better looking, and more humble than average.)
As expected, Apple’s services are popular with the TidBITS audience. Just 14% of respondents said they didn’t use any of Apple’s services, although their explanations about why they don’t subscribe to any made up a disproportionate number of the comments.
A whopping 70% of respondents subscribe to iCloud+. That didn’t surprise me at all—extra iCloud storage is essential for iCloud Photos and enables numerous other features ranging from iCloud Backups to Desktop & Documents folder syncing. More on iCloud+ in a moment.
More surprising were the second and third spots: Apple TV+ with 49% of respondents and Apple Music with 37%. I would have expected those to have been reversed since Apple Music has been around for much longer and is a far more valuable service to me. I listen to music daily on our HomePods around the house, on my Mac while working, and on my iPhone while working out and driving (see “How I Use the iPhone to Listen to Music While Biking,” 3 December 2023).
I’m a good fit for a music streaming service because I’m relatively unsophisticated but musically curious. Poll comments suggest that many TidBITS readers prefer to purchase music—some even on CD—whereas I’ve always hated the uncertainty of buying an album I didn’t know I’d like. (The remaining utility to our shelves of dusty CDs is as visual reminders of artists we can ask Siri to play on our HomePods.) Plus, classical music is popular among TidBITS readers, so many people prefer their own highly curated libraries over even the new Apple Music Classical (see “Apple Music Classical (Mostly) Plays the Right Chords,” 29 March 2023).
In comparison, while we have enjoyed Ted Lasso, Mythic Quest, Slow Horses, and several other Apple TV+ programs, we would watch at most an hour or two per week. (Of the others, Severance was good, if truly odd. For All Mankind became too stressful, so we stopped watching the most recent season. And Lessons in Chemistry somehow manages to be reasonably faithful to the book while completely lacking the humor in Bonnie Garmus’s writing.) We wouldn’t even notice the lack of Apple TV+, and that subscription is on the chopping block very soon, a decision made easier by Apple’s recent rate hike (see “Prices Increase for Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, and Apple One,” 25 October 2023).
The trailing positions of Apple News+ (19%), Apple Arcade (10%), and Apple Fitness+ (7%) were unsurprising. Apple News+ has always suffered from a tricky value proposition, given the effectively infinite amount of similar content available for free. Although I suspect few TidBITS readers play Apple Arcade games, some subscribe—often through Apple One, used by 29% of respondents—for kids in the family. Apple Fitness+ could interest an older demographic, but some comments suggested that its overall tone and formula grate on some older people.
iCloud+ subscriptions vary widely, ranging from $0.99 for 50 GB to $59.99 for 12 TB. Apple announced the 6 TB and 12 TB plans only a few months ago (see “Five Unexpected Announcements from Apple’s Wonderlust Event,” 12 September 2023), but there clearly wasn’t any pent-up demand for additional iCloud storage among TidBITS readers since no one voted for either option. On the other end of the spectrum, many people would like Apple to increase the size of the free iCloud plan from the current paltry 5 GB, but Apple has done nothing for those people apart from providing temporary iCloud storage to help iPhone purchasers migrate from an old iPhone.
The 2 TB plan was the most commonly used, with 45% of the votes, followed by 200 GB with 29% and 50 GB with 26%. That fits with my overall belief about the utility of iCloud+ storage. Once you decide to use iCloud Photos to make all your photos available on all your Apple devices, storage needs add up fast. And once you have plenty of storage, it gets easier to use iCloud Drive more heavily.
Several people expressed annoyance about subscribing to a particular tier because their data usage pushed them over the edge. I resemble those remarks. As you can see below, I’m using only about 300 GB of the 2 TB plan, some of which is storage used by other family members. Although I could probably winnow that down to fit into 200 GB, running on the edge with iCloud storage wasn’t comfortable (see “How to Deal with Running Out of iCloud, Google, and Dropbox Space,” 17 February 2020). In the long run, it was easier to pay more so I didn’t have to put up with syncing failures and other errors.
If Apple introduced 500 GB or 1 TB plans, many people would be happy to downgrade from 2 TB. But Apple isn’t known for leaving money on the table, so don’t expect such plans.
Apple Music and iTunes Match
Although Apple Music didn’t prove as popular as I had expected, those who do subscribe tend to rely on the Family plan, with 61% of voters choosing that option. That makes sense to me, given the extent to which music is more of a personal choice than it used to be in the days of a single household sound system. Everyone in a family is likely to want to curate their own library. I was surprised that a few respondents use the Student plan—it’s a great deal, but I can’t imagine there are many students among the wider TidBITS audience who aren’t already on an Apple Music Family plan.
When building this poll, I completely forgot about Apple’s $24.99-per-year iTunes Match service, which can be a welcome intermediate option between an entirely purchased library and Apple Music. iTunes Match uploads your music to Apple’s servers and lets you stream that music to your other Apple devices.
Quite a few poll respondents said they subscribe to iTunes Match and like using it. Since iTunes Match competes with Apple Music, it’s unsurprising that Apple hides it behind tiny text at the bottom of the iTunes Store page that might require toggling a setting to display in the Music app—Douglas Adams would be impressed with Apple’s burying of the information. Apple would probably prefer to drop iTunes Match entirely but doesn’t want to anger long-time subscribers.
Lastly, we come to the Apple One bundles, which provide significant savings if you actually use enough of the services included in each plan. For instance, I currently subscribe to the $37.95 Apple One Premier plan but use only the 2 TB of iCloud+ storage, the family plan of Apple Music, and Apple TV+, which together cost $36.97, making Apple One Premier more expensive. If I drop Apple TV+ as planned, I’d be paying $26.98 for iCloud+ and Apple Music, which would seem to point toward the $25.95 Apple One Family plan, but it includes only 200 GB of iCloud+, making it a non-starter.
Apple is in the business of making money, not helping users save money, but a more consumer-friendly discount would provide a flat 40% discount (less than any of the current plan discounts) to users who subscribe to multiple Apple services.
All that said, 29% of respondents subscribe to Apple One, with 49% of those people choosing the Apple One Family plan. 37% pony up for the Apple One Premier, while just 14% find Apple One Individual worthwhile.
Which Apple services and bundles you choose depends on your preferences and experiences—there is no single best approach. But I hope this poll has given you some insight into how your decisions compare to those of other TidBITS readers.