Gone are the days of requiring all your data to be on your devices all the time. Sure, it’s convenient having instant access to that crucial document, but why carry it around with you, letting it use up space that could be better used by the camera or other apps on your phone?

What you want is some cloud storage. Within just a few years of being introduced, services like Dropbox and its ilk have gone from “hey this is useful” curiosities to indispensable parts of our daily lives. They give us the convenience of having access to all our important files, whenever we want, without the hassle of burdening the limited storage in our smart devices with hundreds or thousands of files.

While most of the cloud services on offer have decent desktop apps that let users back up or sync their files to that magical hard drive on the internet, the real test is how good their accompanying mobile apps are. After all, when you need urgent access to a document it’s most likely when you only have your phone on you, and not the luxury of a laptop with all your files. To help you remain mobile, we’ve rounded up the best cloud storage apps for iPhones. They’re all available for Android, too – but features might vary, so keep an eye peeled for that review and roundup.

Dropbox

dropbox

As best-known and oldest cloud storage solution, Dropbox should have an advantage over its competitors. And, when you look at what its iPhone app does, it really has. There are enough power features to satisfy technical folks without too much stuff to intimidate mainstream users – the kinda people who just want to get stuff done.

Dropbox lets you sort files by date or name, so you can quickly find recently added files. There’s also a great search function, if that won’t help. The interface is clean and uncluttered, but files are only ever displayed in list format – a downer when you’ve used preview tiles in some of the other apps.  most importantly, you can click on files and immediately get a link to share them with others.

It’s possible to manage create new folders – but not delete or rename them – and you can mark files as favourites, which stores them offline.  It supports opening certain files for viewing, but not editing, though you can open them with other applications on your phone. That option is hidden in a submenu, though, and not readily presented. It’s also possible to sync your iPhone’s camera roll (which will gain you 3GB of free storage, if you haven’t yet claimed it).

Finally, all of your data can be protected by a PIN code – important, if you value privacy.

“Perhaps too simple?”

Mega

mega

Kim Dotcom might have a nefarious reputation online, but that doesn’t stop products associated with his name from being popular – or good. And that’s just what Mega is. If 50GB of free storage doesn’t get you, how about lots and lots of security? All files uploaded to the service are heavily encrypted, and encryption keys let users share files with one another.

Sadly, the app doesn’t generate those public links to share files with the public (something that can be done on the Mega web app, from a desktop computer). Instead, with the app you can download files (there is an offline storage mode) and handle them manually – email them, send them to another app, or print them. It’s not as convenient but hopefully Mega adds the option to share a public link, in future versions.

The security theme continues with Mega’s app offering a passcode lock as per Dropbox and Box, and it also has a photo sync feature that’ll pull all the files from your camera roll. Sadly, it lacks a sorting function as well as a search feature. You’ll have to organise files carefully to make sure you find them in a hurry on your phone.

“Lacks key features.”

OneDrive

onedrive

Believe it or not, Microsoft makes good software even when it comes to competing platforms. It’s OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) app for iOS is a great example.

It has some design cues taken from Microsoft’s Live web apps, but the clear interface elements work well on Apple’s operating system. The app lets users access their 7GB of OneDrive storage to sync their camera photos and videos, or upload and download other files. It has integration with Office Mobile, which you need an Office 365 subscription to use, and keeps track of who you’ve shared files with, as well as which recent changes have taken place in your cloud folder.

As for usability, it lacks search and sort functions. Like the Mega app, you’ll have to make sure you organise files if you want to access them in a hurry on your phone. You can, however, view files in a tile mode which makes better use of the screen space on a phone.

It lacks a passcode for accessing the app, but makes up for that with tools to rename and move files, and you can also share files with specific users if sending links is not your style.

“A winner from Microsoft.”

Box

box

It might have a simple name, but the Box app is anything but. In fact, of all the services here it has the most fully-featured mobile application. It’s also one of the more generous ones: sign up, and you’ll get 10GB to play with.

Everything you store in that 10GB of space can be protected, too, since the Box app is one of three apps here that supports passcode protection for your files. Once you’ve unlocked it you have access to a powerful app. It doesn’t have multiple view modes, but there’s a powerful search function and sort modes to arrange files by date, size, or filename. It’s also possible to rename, move, copy, and delete both files and folders – the only app here to offer all of that. Of course, you can access your files offline, as well. Adding comments to files is also supported, to help you keep track of everything.

Sharing files can be done by sending links via email or Messages. Alternatively, it can copy a link to the clipboard for later sharing.

The only flaw, really, is the custom interface. It doesn’t resemble the rest of iOS and uses custom elements that clash with the Apple look and feel.

“Powerful features.”

Google Drive

google

Given that, to some people, Google represents a big part of the internet, it’s no surprise that the company also has a cloud storage offering. What is surprising, though, is how late Google arrived in the market, and it shows in its application.

The Google Drive app lets users access their 15GB of online storage (shared between Gmail, Google Drive, and Google+) and the files stored there. If you’ve opened documents or spreadsheets in Gmail, they’re automatically added to your Google Drive and you’ll see them in the file list here. Besides a search feature (which we’d expect Google to have) it also has sorting options for when files were last edited, modified, and opened, as well as sorting them by filename. The file list can also be arranged as a tile list with previews.

It feels basic, but tapping the (nearly hidden) info icon on a file opens up sharing options (a link or Google account sharing), as well as a file manager for moving and renaming files. There are also integrated editors for documents and spreadsheets. It even lets you create blank spreadsheets and documents – none of the others offer this, and it’s a nice touch for people who want to be productive.

“Great Google integration.”
Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.