25
Apr
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A long time ago (read: about 4 years), in a galaxy far, far away (read: Silicon Valley), a guy named Drew Houston started a little company called Dropbox. After securing seed funding from Y Combinator, Dropbox officially launched in 2008 at the TechCrunch50. To say nothing of the complexities of implementation, the idea was simple: put your files in one place, access them anywhere. And apparently, the idea was also a really good one: as of October last year, Dropbox had over 50 million users, doubling from a figure of 25 million in April.

Today, Dropbox is without a doubt the preferred method of sharing and storing repositories of files (as opposed to mere individual ones) on the web. Here at Android Police, it's definitely what we use for the bulk of our internal file sharing, and we don't really see that changing any time soon. Dropbox is a great product. And although a major security snafu last year compromised a number of Dropbox accounts, it clearly wasn't enough to derail the company, yet more evidence that Dropbox provides a service that many people have no equivalent alternative to.

But now, there's Google Drive. Google Drive aims to do everything Dropbox can. Our own Ron Amadeo went through the service piece by piece in detail, but found it lacking (or broken) in many respects, especially when compared to Dropbox. I've also been giving Drive a go, and so far, the only advantage I've seen over Dropbox is Docs integration (I use shared docs fairly regularly). And the pricing - but we'll talk about that later.

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You have to admit, even the logos bear a striking geometric/stylistic similarity.

For disadvantages, I can count quite a few. There are no shell actions for Drive in Windows. The sync is slow, and for shared folders in particular, highly unreliable at this point. There's no ability to generate a quick download link. The tray icon won't let you double-click to open your Drive folder (this is a bigger nuisance than you might imagine). There are no Android apps with Drive API integration (and it's unclear if that's even possible at this point). Basically, it all feels like a very beta Google product, sans the beta tag. But this is something we've come to expect from Google.

Google+ as launched looked pretty different from the Google+ we have today - which is already better in a lot of ways. Android itself has been a bit of an experiment until recently, having made radical visual changes (as well as adding a lot of features) in its latest form, Android 4.0. But that's how Google does things: launch first, listen to user feedback, then adapt and optimize while adding new features along the way. It's a formula that allowed products like Gmail, Android, Maps, and YouTube to thrive. So, that leads us to this article's real question, will Drive be one of those success stories?

Docs To Drive: Breathing New Life Into A Stagnating Service

Google Docs isn't wasn't very good. Well, I take that back - most of it isn't wasn't very good. Google Docs does did (OK, I'll stop) one thing very, very well: collaborative editing and sharing. More importantly, it makes doing those things stupidly easy. When sharing documents that need live editing and simple ownership permissions, there is no better free tool than Google Docs. While Microsoft, Adobe, and various other smaller software firms put out collaborative editing software, almost none of it is free, and of those that are, they aren't nearly as easy and convenient (or often as good) as Docs. I am 100% convinced that any and all of the loyalty people who actually use Docs have in the service exists for this reason, because as a word processor or spreadsheet creator, Docs just kind of sucks when put next to Microsoft's comparable products.

It's those same loyal, but logical, people that will form the initial user base for Drive. I'm already using Drive, if only because it makes the process of opening and organizing my shared docs a whole lot easier by allowing me to do it all from Windows (Explorer is infinitely better for organization than the Drive web UI). Of course, I'm also using it just because it's something new from Google, but that's kind of secondary here. And because I'm using it the way I am, I don't see the Drive icon vanishing from my taskbar any time soon: I'm definitely waiting this one out, because I need Google Docs.

drive

Google knows that people like me will stick with Drive, because we need it. We're basically guinea pigs stuck in a locked cage, and because of that, we're going to be extra-sure to voice our complaints with the service, loud and clear. Google is counting on this - feedback is an extremely useful tool, and while many of the complaints may be obvious, the volume of users making a particular gripe can help guide the product team's priorities (the left-click is right-click on the systray icon will change very soon, I'm betting).

This is what Google does - it evolves its services quickly and hopes one, two, or even three years later that the collective changes result in a product that is better, more versatile, and more fully-featured than it was when it started. Google's founders have said on numerous occasions that the company's goal when designing a product isn't to look at competing services and mimic them, but to look at an existing market and think about how it can make something better than what's available. This inevitably results in the complaint that "new Google service X doesn't do what existing service Y does." It's not that those complaints are unjustified, but it's clear they arise because Google is less concerned about checkmarks on a feature comparison box, and more on getting you hooked with Google integration or some cool, new idea they've come up with.

Drive is the former - Google is planning on getting you by integrating Drive into what you do with Google products already on a daily basis. This alone won't cause anyone to abandon Dropbox yet, though. Drive integration remains meek, the service itself is clearly unfinished, and because of that, largely unattractive to anyone who doesn't already use Docs fairly regularly. But Google does have one ace up its sleeve: pricing.

Begun, The Price Wars Have

As you may already be aware, Google Drive is cheaper than Dropbox. And for lesser storage capacities (aka most users), by a lot. Google offers 100GB of storage for $4.99 a month - that's half what you'd pay for 50GB on Dropbox. And with an alluring $2.49 a month 25GB option that Dropbox lacks (I guarantee there was lots of research done to decide 25 was a good number), Drive is clearly the low-price winner for the majority of users.

Workgroups needing large amounts of cloud storage will save less comparatively, with a mere $15 per month separating Google and Dropbox's 1TB fee, but even so, Drive still has the cost advantage every step of the way.

New

Old

Dropbox

5GB - free 1GB - free 2GB - free (+ bonuses)
25GB - $2.49/mo 20GB - $0.42/mo 50GB - $9.99/mo
100GB - $4.99/mo 80GB - $1.67/mo 100GB - $19.99/mo
200GB - $9.99/mo 200GB - $4.17/mo  
400GB - $19.99/mo 400GB - $8.33/mo  
1TB - $49.99/mo 1TB - $21.33/mo 1TB for Teams - starting at $66.25/mo
2TB - $99.99/mo 2TB - $42.67/mo  
4TB - $199.99/mo 4TB - $85.33/mo  
8TB - $399.99/mo 8TB - $170.67/mo  
16TB - $799.99/mo 16TB - $341.33/mo  

Left: New Drive pricing, Center: old Google Storage pricing, Right: Dropbox

Dropbox would never be able to compete with Google should a real price war break out. Google builds many of its own servers and internal networking pieces, has vastly more capital, and can live on a smaller margin than Dropbox could ever hope to. Dropbox knows this, and so I doubt we'll see them following Google down the discount rabbit-hole too far. One thing I can see is an expansion of the standard amount of storage space afforded to free users, because Google Drive provides more than double the space afforded by Dropbox.

While Dropbox's refer-a-friend to get more storage model has definitely helped the company, and provided many users more than that initial 2GB, most people probably won't want to go through the hassle for those extra gee-bees. For now, Drive definitely holds the cloud storage title for value for money.

Is Drive's Rise Inevitable Over Time?

Almost certainly. As Drive evolves (and it will), those quirks and bugs and missing features will slowly but surely start to get filled in. And really, it's those things that make it demonstrably unsuitable as a replacement for Dropbox at this point. Sync will get better, contextual actions in the local client will be improved added , the app will get more versatile, and integration with Android (including an API) and more Google services will surely arise.

But will this kill Dropbox? That's a harder question. If Dropbox sits around and basically does nothing to add value to its service over the next year or two, it's dead in the water, no doubt. While Dropbox already has Android (and other) APIs that work well, superior sync performance, and a better desktop client, those are all things Google can easily match - given time. And when that happens, Google's attractive pricing means that it will start to take users from Dropbox as a simple matter of economics. Dropbox won't be able to stop that. But Dropbox won't sit idly by while the competition buzzes past, it's going to compete like its life depends on it - and that's how innovation (read: cool stuff) happens.

Dropbox is making more deals with mobile device makers to include free Dropbox storage with new tablets and smartphones (HTC owners, for example, get an extra 23GB for two years), and that's a great way to get more people using the service. To stay competitive, though, Dropbox will need to innovate; it needs to come up with ideas that makes its service more distinct, easier, and more noticeable than Drive - and while I don't envy the guy with that job, I'm definitely interested in seeing what he comes up with.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Tyler Chappell

    Dropbox is the winner, for now.  It'll be interesting to see where Drive is in 6 months though.

  • http://www.luxuryaccommodationsblog.com Luxury Accommodations Blog

    Nice article with very useful info. I share your opinion and for the moment I guess I will only use Drive for my documents(creating, sharing) and Dropbox for the rest of my files. 

  • http://twitter.com/sam1am Sam Garfield 

    I think people are missing out on a lot of the advantages of Google Drive. Yes, it's a 95% copy of Dropbox and it is missing some features, but it also offers a lot of differentiation (this is a list I came up with yesterday):

    - As you mentioned, paid plans are cheaper
    - More free space is offered initially
    - Images and Videos uploaded through google+ don't count against your quota
    - Document collaboration 
    - Supports online viewing of over 30 filetypes including photoshop, illustrator, and HD video (though oddly not mp3s)
    - Available space applies to other google products gmail and picasa
    - Shared files give a commenting and chat interface - which is more useful than you'd think
    - If you happen to be grandfathered in on one of the old storage plans, pricing is dirt cheap
    - Better icon than dropbox
    - Improved search over dropbox - OCR of text in images/PDFs as well as image recognition similar to google goggles
    - Files can be kept forever without paying. Pay once for 1TB, fill it up, and stop paying, your files will remain forever(ish)
    - File-level app permissions. Give apps access to one file or folder, not your entire google drive
    - 30 day versioning of files includes ability to mark version as "keep forever"

    Dropbox's advantages include better desktop integration (right click sharing), adjustable sync speed, lan sync, and a native Linux client. I expect to see half of these things in Google Drive within a few months but even without them I think Google's offering is all-around better.

    • http://twitter.com/SiamNigel Nigel naughton

      Great rundown of the features and I agree with your objective assessment. You addressed something that I was wondering about, "- Files can be kept forever without paying. Pay once for 1TB, fill it up, and stop paying, your files will remain forever(ish)". I was thinking about the pay per month thing...so if you pay a 1 time monthly bill to get something like 1TB, load it up, then it is there for you forever without having to continue to pay that same monthly fee....That's great!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      "- Better icon than dropbox"

      That one definitely gave me a chuckle.

      In all seriousness, you make a few good points about Drive's advantage (many of them arising from integration with Docs and Search), and these features will definitely help Drive be a real competitor to Dropbox. Search and real-time doc collaboration are biggies for sure. The view-in-browser filetype compatibility is definitely neat, but right now, doesn't "wow" me - I'm using Drive and Dropbox from my Windows desktop or Android phone (where many of those Drive filetype associations don't work), not the browser, 99% of the time.

      Initial free space Dropbox could easily match by just changing their model - I doubt it would cost them that much more money.

      Things like keeping files forever, file permissions, G+ images/videos, and "across the board" storage for all Google stuff is neat, but not game-changing as it's currently implemented unless you use Google for storing ALL your important stuff (which you may, I don't know).

      As I said, good points, but I'm sticking with Dropbox for a lot of equally good reasons (desktop client, sync works flawlessly, better sharing and contextual options, Android APIs, it's what most people use, etc), but many of which Google could match over time. Right now, I see no reason to switch. In the future, definitely possible. Thanks for the list!

    • BlackGod

      Google+ pics have free storage?

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        Yes.

        • BlackGod

          Thank you.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Yeah.

        • BlackGod

          Thank you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Xorg-Kc/100000867435778 Xorg Kc

      A fair assessment but there are a few things about Dropbox that will keep me for the time being...
      - Dropbox supports Linux, GDrive doesn't (this may change soon)

      - Dropbox supports restoring previous versions of any file. GDrive only does this with GDoc files AFAIK.

      - Dropbox supports block level change so doesn't not have to re-upload entire file if only a few bytes changed.   It therefore supports TrueCrypt, which works great with large encrypted volumes.  Have not been able to get this to work with Gdrive.

      I'm staying with DB for the moment but if Google supports the above three, I'll probably eventually switch.

    • Simon

      - Files can be kept forever without paying. Pay once for 1TB, fill it up, and stop paying, your files will remain forever(ish).
      What do you mean by this? I read in the Drive help:"Want to downgrade to free storage? Make sure you're not over the free storage limit (5 GB for Drive and 1 GB for Picasa). Otherwise, you won't be able to downgrade. "

      This implies that you can't actually downgrade unless you free up enough space.

  • http://twitter.com/SiamNigel Nigel naughton

    Google Drive is like a day old! Come on...try comparing Dropbox when if first came out with Google Drive as it stands today. I know Google has had plenty of time to come out and hit a homerun with this but at the rate they update their products i.e. Chrome, and along with the 3rd party apps that will be rolling out, I think Google Drive is going to be dominant. I already like all it has to offer, especially how easy is it to add files from my Macbook. 

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      But that's the thing - Google did have years to develop a solid product and in my eyes the first release is not up to par and disappoints. I was turned off enough to go back to Dropbox and have no desire to use Drive for at least a number of months. You're underplaying the importance of the fact that they had so much time to prepare, and yet I think that is the key factor that cannot and should not be overlooked.

      Here's my first experience in more detail: http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/sqwvq/android_police_extensive_handson_with_google/c4gg0k8

    • Kojiro Kamex

      The Problem with "compare it to x when it began" is, it doesn't help you anything in competition. 
      WP7 or better MS had to learn this the hard way.I heared a lot of people saying, compare WP7 to Android as it began, well it seems lots and lots of people gave a sh!t on this.So google has to come up with some more features.Though, at google I think they'll do so.

      • Tee

        Yes, aren't we all using Dropbox/Android like they are today and everything who want to compete those need to do it today?

        Not like 'remember Ford T-Model and Daimler-Benz back in the 1910's'. Today is here and now.

  • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

    I have said it before and I will say it again: The most important feature of Drive is single credential login. Android has dethroned iOS as the largest mobile OS, and it will do the same to Dropbox simply because people like to get all their information from one place, and do not like setting up new accounts.

    All it will take for this to be a massive success is have the next version of the mobile app automatically include the camera folder, and then place a notification on the gmail desktop client saying "Back up all you phone pics yo your computer in one click". A good number of people will do that and when people find out that just saving things in that folder will make them show up on the phone will naturally happen.

    Now you have integration for the non tech savvy and you have beat dropbox with an update and a text ad.

    • Aaron Echols

      It really wouldn't be hard for Dropbox to add this...

      • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

        They already did, and it is ok, but not great.

        My real point is that the biggest thing Dropbox has going against it is a separate set of login credentials. That is what will eventually prevent it from staying the king of consumer cloud storage.

        Don't get me wrong, I love and still prefer Dropbox, but realistically the biggest mistake Dropbox ever made was not figuring out how to sell to Google.

  • MattEden

    I would say the one feature that no one seems to be talking in depth about is the Drive API and third party app integration.  This one feature really pushes the "Browser as an OS" mentality that Google has been pushing for awhile now.

    With this I can open up my "explorer" (GDrive), click on a photo and open up a high class photo editing suit (I.E. Pixelr) all within my browser.  While this is somewhat limited now, imagine the possibilities.  Someone could easily make a better version of the Word Processor in Google Docs. Someone could (and already has, although I haven't tried it out) create a better Slideshow editor.  The possibilities of third parties really utilizing this API are endless and seriously make a strong argument for the browser to be the only local application you need.  Or at the very least a strongER argument than existed before.....

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Well, to be fair, Dropbox also has an API and had one for a while, which plenty of apps utilize. I do agree though that the API will also lead to Drive's best features getting unlocked in the future (most importantly, hopefully a straightforward and widely adopted Android-friendly SDK - the current Java one isn't Android-friendly).

      • MattEden

        Yeah Dropbox does have an API but I've only seen it utilized inside other Apps (such as on Android or iOS or the like) as opposed to inside itself.  I've never been able to go into Dropbox, right click a photo and open it up in a photo editor. Maybe no one else cares about this but it definitely makes me excited for the possibilities! To me, this is one of the key ingredients that was missing to get me super excited for Web Apps. 

        And yes, this being an Android blog I think we can all agree with your last point and cross our fingers fervently!

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          You're right, that's definitely something Drive does that Dropbox doesn't, good point.

          • MattEden

            Don't get me wrong; all your criticisms are valid and I agree with them (have you tried removing files that are shared with you? If so, have you succeeded? I DOUBT IT). But most Google products appeal to me due to their potential.  I can overlook their early flaws because I see how they can be incredibly useful down the road and I want to support them. Granted....that's why I used Google Wave and well.........

  • Kyriakos

    SkyDrive will dethrone both - better pricing, better terms and conditions. They should get an official android app out and it will do very well. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/alan.tucker1 Alan Tucker

      Agreed, with the free upgrade I got to 25GB I think Skydrive takes it.

    • Skillit

      It has a file size cap, and the limits are very small especially for this age of HD videos and large cam sensor on phones, there is no API available and several other caveats.

      It's not just about the size of available storage or it's pricing. it's about what  you can do with it and in that area MS solutions is the worst of the available cloud storing option.

  • Willdutton

    the problem with gdrive is that you sync the files to your computer but you cant edit them unless you are online -WHAT IS THE POINT OF HAVING YOUR FILES ON YOUR COMPUTER IF YOU HVE TO BE ONLINE TO USE THEM? i apologise for the caps but this is the first time i have ever actually wanted to shout loud enough that google will hear me, i am totally baffled by this, if i have to be online to edit then why bother syncing, totally flabbergasted

    • Freak4Dell

       You should be able to edit any non Google Docs file in whatever program you use to edit them. Even with Google Docs files, wasn't there something about offline support a while back? I don't know...I don't use Google Docs. All my files are in formats that can be edited by normal desktop software, and they work just fine offline or online.

  • http://thekonietzkystrain.tumblr.com/ NeuroMan42

    Dropbox and Evernote are still the best for me. I would love to drop BOTH, and just have everything on Drive but the lack of features make it not worth it yet. Evernote and Dropbox combined are a smaller client than Drive, and they are both much faster to sync and open files.

  • Aaron Echols

    I am in process of moving from Dropbox to Google Drive. A lot of little issues right now, but I know that'll all get shored up. Really, for me, it's about economics. I was paying $19.99 a month on DB for 100Gb. Well, I'm paying the same for 400GB now. That is so much better, and knowing Google, they'll probably up the limits over time, seeing how Gmail, etc always did the same. Either way, I'm happy with the choice.

    Nao give me my Linux client or a way to mount my storage. :) Thank you. :)

  • Robert Oliveira

    I think it would be unlikely that you could pay for 1TB, "load it up" and stop paying without sacrificing something. If that were true, why charge for the service at all. I think it would be more likely that you'd be bumped down to the 5GB free plan, and then what happens to the remaining 1019GB's of data you've uploaded?

    Also has no one heard of INSYNCHQ? It syncs with your Google Docs account and for now has delivered nicely on my iMac, MacBook and EVO 4G. That said, I still have a paid subscription to Dropbox for about 55GB which I plan to keep for the foreseeable future. ;)

  • Sakkar_arg

    estos son los términos y condiciones de ambos servicios: Google Drive vs SkyDrive

    GDrive: "Cuando sube o de otro modo envia contenido a nuestros
    Servicios, le otorga a Google una licencia mundial para usar, almacenar,
    reproducir, modificar, crear obras derivadas, comunicar, publicar,
    públicamente reproducir, públicamente mostrar y distribuir tal
    contenido."

    SkyDrive: "Excepto por el material al que nosotros le damos licencia
    de uso, no reclamamos propiedad del contenido que provee al servicio. Su
    contenido sigue siendo suyo. Tampoco controlamos, verificamos, o
    endosamos el contenido que usted u otros ponen a disposición en el
    servicio."

    Gran diferencia, no?
     

  • Kamil Zabiegała

    I dont notice any similarities between these logos. ;P

  • moelsen8

    dropbox could just sell out to google drive too.... they would probably stand to make enough to live comfortably for a long while.

  • Luiz Mazzaferro

    All Google products you cited are successful because they always did their "core" activities pretty well and competition was poor. That's not the case here.
    Google Drive is one of those products that Google has, but nobody uses.

  • LazarusDark

    I saw someone mention something yesterday that I think would be the absolute killer functionality:
    Full Google Drive.

    Meaning, not just Docs and file storage, but having Drive be a central access point for ALL my Google files like Music, Picasa, G+ images/video, Docs, Books, Movies. Everything. Think about it. Right now I have three icons in my Win7 task tray, one for Chrome Offline gmail/calendar, one for Drive, one for Music, and a separate app for Picasa. What a waste of resources. Drive should morph into a one stop service for all my Google files, one program to sync them all to my desktop.
    That would be the Killer app.

    Get on it, Google.

  • Thomm

    I think the problem with Google Drive is, i cannot check my existing folders on PC to sync but only drag into GD folder to sync those folders.

  • Mark Arpon

    "Google offers 100GB of storage for $9.99 a month"

    Mistake there. :)

  • Dieter Vandenbroeck

    It is a nice comparison between Google Drive and Dropbox. But have you ever looked at Spideroak? This also provides free online backup, syncing between different devices, sharing with other people, an online dashboard of your files, a free 2 GB and version control + deleted files. The main difference is that it does this securely, and you can choose what folders to backup (including filters for files, so filter on extension, size, ...). This is really useful if you also want to backup your config files for example, without copying them or something. I do doubt if they have mobile support though. 

    If you would want to try it out, please use this refer-a-friend link https://spideroak.com/download/referral/37b4a7cb4b4d70a1b9b2e0165b2caec3

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1388298542 James Phillips

    Anyone hoping to use Google Cloud for business purposes should know that it is wholly unreliable, especially when it comes to file versions. For instance, I have the Google Cloud Sync plugin installed in Microsoft Excel, and every time I save a spreadsheet it uploads it to the cloud. However, when I go to view the uploaded document in Google Drive, even though it is there and has the correct "last modified" date on it, what I'm shown when I load it is the previous uploaded version.

    For instance, I have a spreadsheet in the Drive which was modified and uploaded on November 11. When I look in the Drive, it's listed as having been modified on Nov 11, but when I load it, I get the version that I uploaded on October 29.

    As you can imagine this is a disaster. I need to be able to view up to date spreadsheets on my phone when I'm on the move, and this is unusable. It's not reliable in the slightest. Like most Google products, it's forever in the "beta" stage and will always feel like an unfinished experiment. They never fix problems like this and never respond to any complaints or bug reports.

  • TtKk

    I was using Dropbox (not enough free space for me), Sugarsync (same like Dropbox, and for me slow).

    Now I am using new service - Copy. They will give you 15GB for free.

    If you register on Copy by this link, and install their application to backup / sync your data, you will get 20GB for free!
    Here is the link: https://copy.com?r=zPku0e

    Bonus for you is, that if you will find some referral, you will get next 5GB for free per each! Like this, you can get unlimited space for free!

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