June 10, 2015 / Melissa Faudree

Today there are several cloud-based storage services. You can select from popular services such as iCloud, Dropbox, Amazon Cloud, Flickr, and OneDrive. Undoubtedly you utilize one of those services. But what happens when a new service comes along and takes the stage? Especially when it’s features beats out the competition. Will it affect other photo storage services?

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the release of Google Photos. The new service, which replaced Google+ photos, has created quite the stir. Many people have questions and are very curious about the options.

First, I want to say that I am one of those people that tend to be leery of using services to store my photos and videos from my iPhone. I have used up my entire free iCloud storage and refuse to pay money to store my media. The reason is mainly because I can do the same thing on my computer and external hard drive for free. However, it takes time to constantly back up my photos.

Secondly, I often like to go back and look at my pictures from time to time. However, like many others, I hoard my hundreds of pictures on my phone. What if I want to post a throw back Thursday photo? Or what if I need to show a friend something from a couple months ago? Due to the lack of space on my phone and desire to continue taking more pictures or videos, I am forced to dump them into my Photos library and delete them off my phone. While I still have the photos, I cannot easily access them if I am away from my computer. So I will admit, when Google Photos launched at the end of May, I was very intrigued.

What makes Google Photos so great? It’s the features!
Because I am an Apple user, I am going to compare iCloud with Google Photo storage briefly. iCloud offers users 5BG of free storage. Google will provide users with free storage as long as the photos are under 16 megapixels. Videos must be under 1080p, otherwise the photos and videos are compressed. If you want to store the original media you may choose to utilize Google Drive. Unlike Apple, Google Drive gives you 15GB of space for free. Otherwise, you may upgrade to different plans that start at $1 per month.

Free doesn’t always mean free. There is a catch to the storage with Google Photos. The unlimited free storage applies only to new uploads. Even if you select high quality (free unlimited storage), it will count against the space you have on your Google Drive. This is not something that is well advertised.


Break down of different pricing/plans for popular cloud storage services

Aside from the “free” storage, Google Photos offers a lot of features. The great thing about Google Photos is that it can be used on an Android, iPhone or your browser. Google Photos allows you to automatically sync your photos across your devices. Once you’ve transferred all your photos, all your pictures are organized and made searchable. All of your photos will be organized into one album by dates. Google Photos categorizes your photos and videos by people, places and tags. Are you looking for that picture from your Florida vacation last year? You just need to type in “Florida.” Or perhaps you are searching for that picture of the cute kitten from the humane shelter. Simply type in “kitten.” Google Photos uses facial recognition, dates and GPS to search all your photos.

The Assistant
The Assistant is a unique feature to Google Photos. It can create movies, collages, animations or stories of your photos. Google Photos uses an algorithm to bring your memories to life. If you are like me, I always keep different angled shots of the same thing. So if you have many repeat photos, the Assistant will organize and compile those pictures for you. It is kind of fun to see how Google Photos will compile your pictures. However, if you aren’t satisfied with any of the creations Google Photos makes, you can make your own. You now have a free app that converts your photos into GIFs, collages, and movies! With a few clicks you can create whatever you want within the Google Photos App.


Sharing is Caring
With Google Photos, you can easily share any of your pictures and other creations by clicking on the share icon. This should seem very familiar to you. You can choose from a variety of options such as uploading to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. You may also use the link to share your photos. The good thing about Google Photos is if you share with people who don’t have a Google account, they can still view your photos. Also you may view your photos even if you don’t have WiFi, as long as you’ve turned on sync and back up.

Additional Features
Google Photos allows you to edit any of your photos. The little pen icon allows you to make adjustments to your photos that will be changed on all your devices. You can select different filters to enhance your photos. You are also able to make adjustments such as lighting, color, vignette, or cropping. Don’t have time to edit your photos? Google Photos has an auto enhance button. I like that you can compare the changes you made with the original. You also have options to revert back to your original or save the new photo as a copy.

All my photos that I have on my phone were uploaded into Google Photos. What happens if I delete the photos? When you delete any photos, Google will give you an alert saying that this action will delete the photos across all your synced devices. In addition, deletion will remove the photos you shared on Google. Should you choose to continue to move the photos to the trash, they aren’t gone forever, at least not yet. Much like the photo albums on your iPhone, the photos will go into a trash album. All photos in the album will be permanently deleted after 60 days.



Free doesn’t always mean better
While I think Google Photos is on to something really great, I still have hesitations. It seems crazy to give Google thousands of my memories for free. Especially with a company like Google that collects data on us constantly. There has to be a catch. Oh wait, there is. If you read this section below from Google’s Terms of Services, you might think twice before using Google Photos.

“When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”

It sounds pretty terrifying to me. But before you panic, it has been confirmed that Google will never use your photos without your consent. So you will never find a photo of yourself on a billboard unless they have contacted you first. Whew! While this might be assuring, think about other companies that use your photos to collect data. Look at Facebook!

Just how private are your photos? Google Photos allows you to create private albums. However, I don’t see an obvious way to make these albums private. This aspect is not very comforting to me. If you choose to share any photos, is that the only way it becomes public?  All my photos that I have on my phone were uploaded into Google Photos. If I delete a photo from Google Photos will Google still have it? What happens then?

I will say that when I set up Google Photos, seeing as though I have close to 4,000 photos currently on my phone, the syncing process took forever as an iOS user. In fact, I didn’t even sync my whole library because of how slow it was. But it probably didn’t help that I had to stop it a couple times. Still, it was not a quick process. However, Google is currently working on making this back up faster. I know I’m not the only one out there who has close to 4,000 photos in my library. Think about those people who have never even backed up their library. Hurry up, Google!

Another bug Google needs to work on is what happens when you delete photos off the app. I learned that when I delete any photos from Google, they are also deleted on my iPhone collection. As I was testing the app, I went through and deleted all my photos on the app. I wanted to upload new ones as a test. However, I ended up deleting my entire photo collection on my phone. Storage services should not be allowed to do this. It should not delete it on my camera roll, unless I manually delete it on my phone. This is not a pleasant feature and needs to be fixed ASAP.

What happens to other cloud storage solutions?
While I don’t think anything will happen to the existence of popular services such as iCloud or Dropbox, I do think that Google Photos upped the ante. What will the competition do now? Will the competitors offer free unlimited storage? I wonder what new tactics they will use to keep customers, especially if another service is able to offer something better.

I do think Google Photos is worth looking into. It has a great interface, easy to navigate and has some unique features. However, I might slowly give Google access to your photos before you give them your entire collection.

Does Google Photos sound like something you would use? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.

Posted In: Blog, Mobile, Phone Apps