The photo backup saga

For a so called rambling technologist I have been rather quiet lately, but I’m back now and have a few projects going on that I felt were worthy of a post. 

The first and most important project is the one I alluded to in the title of this post. I was the first victim of this particular problem, but now it’s affecting my wife, sister-in-law, and most recently my mother-in-law. It’s the problem that Google likes to make fun of in their Google Photos commercials against iPhone users with the infamous “Storage full” error. 

When it just affected me nobody seemed to care and so I quietly went off into the abyss in search for a solution for myself. After reading up on multiple solutions I decided that Google Photos was the best bet because not only does Google Photos work well across both iOS and Android, but it works swimmingly well in the browser too. From a PAT standpoint it received the golden stamp of approval. 

What’s doubly awesome is that the mobile apps on both platforms provide really awesome tools for managing and editing your photos and videos. It even automatically creates albums and mini videos containing photos and snippets of multiple videos into a single “show” like a highlight reel of a given day/event. It does this all by itself and 99% of the time the end product doesn’t even need editing, as it all fits together nicely. If you wanted to modify one of these auto-generated highlight reels it’s super simple and a joy to use, which is simply super!

Now, the real magic is the option to actually be able to wipe your phone clean of ALL local copies of your photos and videos to free up space. Apple claims to store everything in the cloud, but when I looked at my wife’s iPhone the manage storage section said she was still utilizing 3.5GB of disk space for iPhoto despite having ~80GB’s remaining on her iCloud storage plan. At first I thought it would be a case of identifying the photos & videos manually and deleting, but that is not the case. First of all it’s not 100% clear what is local and what is in the cloud. Second of all once you have positively identified a local file you can’t delete it without a message saying “This video will removed from all devices”. Why!? Why would you remove it from all devices when we are paying for cloud storage!? Apple should provide an option to delete the local copy and keep the backup version in iCloud or do what Google does and provide the same “Free up space” option which checks to see which photos and/or videos are stored locally, backs them up to the cloud, the proceeds to delete the local copy once it has verified that everything is safely in the cloud!

My conspiracy theory is that Apple would rather my wife ditch her 64GB iPhone 6s and buy a 128GB iPhone 7. However, it is most likely a shortcoming in their ecosystem, but from what I’ve read online there appears to be no fix in sight. 

So finally I said enough is enough and I have taken everything I have learned from my transition experience from iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos and will be applying it to my wife’s setup. 

This isn’t​ the end of the iPhone for my wife. By doing this we are in fact prolonging the life time of her existing iPhone as we can now free up space properly. It does, however, solve the photo sharing hassle between my Google Pixel and her iPhone as we now use the same photo backup provider. 

So that’s it for today. I’ll write up about some other things that I am doing later on. 

Ciao!

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