Is iCloud the only way to go about backing up your iPhone photos? What do Amazon Photos and Microsoft OneDrive have to offer? Read on and find out!
NOTE: I originally wrote a post about Google Photos and their storage plans, which has since been changed by Google. If you wish to read about Google Photos and their changes, click here.
There are three main competitors to iCloud that vie for the images on your phone. Like iCloud, they all have some fee that is required for those services. All of these services will backup the photos from your iPhone as well as the video files you record. The main differences between the services are the price and the apps provided to make it all work
Amazon Photos is a benefit for all Amazon Prime members and there is no additional cost for the basic service. The basic Amazon Photos service will store unlimited photos from your device or laptop. There is a restriction on video storage of 5GB of video for the basic service. You can upgrade the storage from 5GB to 1TB for $6.99 at the time of this writing. Only your video storage would count against the 5GB (or 1TB).
All popular video and image formats are included, even RAW format storage for those pro or pro-am photographers out there shooting in RAW. Apple burst photos are not supported, however. You can find out more about supported file types here.
The Amazon Photos app works really well on the iPhone. It is a set it and forget it type of app. Once it is set up, you can hide it in a folder on your phone and not have to pay it much attention at all. You have the ability to set the app to upload photos to Amazon’s servers on WiFi only or it can use cellular data also if you choose. Occasionally you may have to open the app for photos to upload to sort of remind the app it has a job to do. Most of the time, though, it works well in the background. The app has decent search capabilities, though it does fall short of the Google Photos app in some respects.
Microsoft OneDrive offers file backup as part of the Microsoft 365 service. A 1TB storage drive is included with the basic Microsoft 365 subscription. At the time of writing, a family subscription is $9.99 for up to six people or a personal subscription for $6.99. Each plan comes with 1TB of storage (up to 6TB with the family plan) included.
Storage on OneDrive is not dependant on file type, there are no restrictions. If you wish to back up any files, they will use storage on your OneDrive account. Photos, videos, PDF files, or any other type of file can be stored.
The OneDrive app works quite well and also is a set and forget type of app. The app can be set to backup your photos and video via WiFi only or also using cellular data if you choose. Sometimes the app has to be opened to get the photos to sync, but most of the time it will work well in the background. You won’t have much search capability in the app, that’s not what it is designed for.
Google Photos has undergone a change recently in its storage model. Originally, Google Photos offered unlimited storage using its High-Quality storage compression. Google Photos also offered unlimited storage of video as well, which would also be downscaled to 1080P from whatever format it was recorded in. There really was no other deal quite like it.
All good things must come to an end, and so Google Photos announced on November 11th, 2020 that the deal would come to a close. Effective June 1, 2021, storage of video and photos on Google Photos would count against your Google Drive storage limits. Google Drive offers a free 15GB for each account, with additional storage available for a fee.
Using High-Quality compression from Google, the included 15GB would last most users for quite some time, totally dependant on how many photos they take and how many videos were shot. Upgraded storage at the time of writing was $2.99 per month for 200GB of storage or $9.99 per month for 2TB of storage. There are other, more expensive plans that most users would not need.
The Google Photos app is the best in the business, much like Apple Photos and iCloud. It works very well in the background never really needing attention. The search capabilities in the app are what you would expect from Google, fantastic.
All three services have provisions for creating photo albums and then sharing them with others. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, being the industry leaders in this space, make it easy to share photo albums. Simply create a photo album, populate it with the photos you wish to share, and then pass out the album link to anyone you want to have access to the photos. You can allow others to add or modify the album or you can lock it down in read-only mode, the choice is yours.
In my opinion, being able to share photos is the best way to share a collection of photos with those close to you. If you want to share your vacation photos with family, you can share an album of just the photos you want to be seen and then send the link to family and friends. In this way, you don’t have to plaster all of your vacation photos on Facebook to share them with others.
Another example, say you took photos at your daughter’s Girl Scout event. You can load those photos into an album and share them with all of the parents of the girls at the event. No plastering everything on social media, you can keep those private, and the parents you share with can download the photos and share them if they wish.
They are platform agnostic
These services work across all platforms. Whether you use an iPhone or Android, you can access these services and interact with your photos. In addition, you can work with these services from your PC or Mac.
If you use iCloud and you decide to switch your phone to an Android (the horror!) you can kiss iCloud goodbye. You would have to transfer all of those photos to a different service. It is true that you can access iCloud from an Android device, you are essentially left with a browser experience and not at all like the app integration of the other services on Android devices.
They can save space on your iPhone
Phone manufacturers make larger and larger storage capacities in their devices each year. Part of this is due to cameras having larger file sizes due to more megapixels, some phones used for gaming will need more storage for those games and the last is photos.
Most people store photos on their device and rarely if ever, remove any of those photos. Why would you want to remove those photos? You might need to get to an old photo to be able to show someone that picture you took three years ago. Most people feel comfortable with photos on their phones. You can hold them in your hand, therefore they are real.
If you store your older photos in the cloud with one of these services, you can free up storage on your phone. Let’s face it, we carry around way more photos that we typically look at. How many photos do you have from years ago that you just haven’t looked at in a while? Offload those photos to a cloud service for safekeeping and delete them off of your phone.
They work great on the iPhone
All of the services above work great on the iPhone. I have used one or all of them at any given time to back up my photos on my own iPhones. Currently, I use all three for backup. Yes, I am that guy, the one that is paranoid about never losing photos.
To me, photos are moments in time that you capture so that you can remember and reflect on them at some time in the future. Some of the moments you capture with your iPhone will never come around again, they are priceless to me. Those are what I want to keep forever with multiple backups.
Of course, most of my photos are just photos of nearly meaningless things that I won’t think about after a week. I might as well keep those too. I’m a packrat. Sue me.
There are multiple ways to back up the photos on your iPhone other than just iCloud. While iCloud is a very good backup system, I’ve always been of the opinion that “one is none and two is one” concerning backups. Having a single backup somewhere is not enough, as that single backup could be lost, it could fail, or it could be destroyed. Then you are left with nothing.
I prefer to have multiple backups of all of my images. Any of the above services will allow you to add an extra layer of security for your photos. I actually, right at this minute, use all three services for my backup needs. I’ve got backups galore because I happen to use all three of these services for other things as well, the backups are a side benefit.
If I had to choose one service for my photo and video storage, it would probably be Google One. The reason is that the Google Photos app is the best of the three for ease of use. Searching in the Google Photos app is as good as it gets, it is rock solid stable, and it simply runs in the background without having to be prodded. Storage for the Google One plan is reasonable, even with the change to photo storage.
If I was only worried about photo storage, Amazon Photos would run a close second. Unlimited full resolution photo storage is huge, even if the app can sometimes be a little finicky. If you are already an Amazon Prime member, then the choice is clear since there are no additional fees.
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