I raised a support request yesterday and had a conversation with Apple today concerning downgrading my iCloud allowance. Last month I raised the allowance to 15GB (the free 5GB + 10GB at £14/year) and a few days ago I raised it to 25GB for £28/year. This was done to back up all 4 iPhones in our house, but I soon realised that I did not need the second upgrade.
The problem started when I tried to downgrade. I chose the 15Gb option in Settings on my iPhone and not a lot happened. On my Mac and iPhone it still showed 25GB and after some digging I realised that I would have 25GB until the end of the year so I raised a support ticket. The process for obtaining a refund from Apple for an iCloud downgrade is to 'contact Apple' which seems quite vague and very un-Apple. Throughout there was no clarity and the simplicity of the online billing options for this service are too simple to make sense of.
Apple called at the allotted time, as always happens, and a very polite man asked what the issue was. I explained that all I needed was the 15GB option and that I would like a refund for the storage I had paid about that amount. Apple clearly states that a refund is applicable if cancelled within a certain time- "If you upgrade or renew your storage but no longer need it, you can cancel. If you cancel your storage plan within 15 days of an upgrade or within 45 days after a yearly payment, you can contact Apple for a full refund. After this period, you can downgrade your storage for the following year. "
He was more than happy to arrange this for me and then announced that I currently had 35GB of iCloud storage.
"Um, no I don't. I have 25GB- it says so on my iPhone and my iMac."
"No sir. You upgraded and added 10GB and then you added another 20GB."
"No I didn't. It clearly states that I have a 25GB allowance and so does the billing screen."
He then advised that he was going to speak to his supervisor. After 2 minutes he came back on the line and advised that I have 35GB of iCloud space, as was confirmed by his supervisor.
A 5 minute discussion ensued at which point he went to speak to his supervisor again. After some more time he came back on the line, apologised and explained that they had gotten confused by the options.
So, we were all set to downgrade my service. The problem was, however, that he had no way to downgrade it to 15GB. He had to completely cancel the extra 20GB and I then had to purchase the extra 10GB again to get it back to the point I started with. He explained that a refund would arrive in 3-5 days for the £15.53 I had recently paid and I fully expect that to happen.
What I don't understand is why the process is so half-backed. When you click the downgrade option on a device, it just puts a tick next to it and nothing changes. You then need to manually ask for a refund at which point I happened to speak to support people who were not really sure how the iCloud storage and pricing worked. And then they had to go through a convoluted process to arrange the refund.
Don't get me wrong. As ever, the support rep was very helpful, very polite and I still left the call feeling good, but I sort of felt sorry that he had to deal with a situation that is purely of Apple's making. The billing setup for iCloud is non-transparent and most unlike every other part of the Apple online services I have seen. It is a manual process to obtain a refund and not a lot of it makes sense. As it happens he also asked why I did't need the extra storage and I explained that iCloud is good for backing up my devices. but not for much else. I added two notes to the Notes app last week on my iMac and they appeared 2 days later on my iPhone. iMessages routinely get muddled up between the iMac, iPhone and iPad and I have also lost a handful of non-important files in the past month which I didn't have time to investigate.
I will gladly pay a premium for Apple hardware because the support alone offers peace of mind and the knowledge that I will be able to use said products every single day without any major interruptions. I will not, however, pay a premium (even though the pricing is soon to drop considerably) for a service which is not even competitive with the likes of Google and Dropbox in terms of speed and reliability.
iCloud is the one major product Apple offers which does not work as it should (in my experience) and to discover that the billing processes do not seem to have been thought through either was a shock. I just hope that Apple is putting a lot of people and effort into building a cloud service that works as it should because this feature is becoming more and more important every day and it feels as though Apple is being left behind.