The camera technology in today's phones is one of the most competitive areas of modern electronics. Every big phone release leads with the specs of the camera. This includes megapixels, low light capabilities, auto focus, and of course HD video. While the capability to capture higher quality imagery has arrived, the included storage on the phones has essentially stayed in the 16GB to 32GB range. Since that storage has to share with the phone's operating system and all the apps, it is good to have all your photos on a constant conveyor belt to the cloud.
Our cellular telephones take amazing pictures nowadays. The one's with the ability to take a photo used to be called a camera phone. Now the feature is so ubiquitous, you actually have to special order phones that don't have one. If your camera is sixteen megapixel, each photo might be around five megabytes. If you take 100 of these you now have 500 megabytes worth of photos. That for the mathematically challenged is a solid half a gigabyte. If you decide to take high definition video (720p, 1080p, 4K) your flash storage will fill up faster than a thimble from a fire hose. I thought maybe Apple would increase the free iCloud storage at yesterday's event WWDC 2017, but unfortunately it stayed at a fairly stale and dated 5GB.
There are two major reasons to have a cloud backup solution:
- If you lose your phone, you won't lose all your pictures.
- Your phone will run better if it is not always 99% full.
Losing your phone is an awful thing. I've witnessed the second wave all too often as well. When the realization comes that not only is the phone gone, but so are the precious photos. Sometimes this can be lost loved ones, once in-a-lifetime trips, or even a coveted celebrity selfie. These photos can't be recovered from a lost phone. They should have been in the cloud!
I am literally amazed at how many people I see deleting photos to take new ones. If you haven't seen this commercial for Google Photos have a look. I think it nails a pretty common issue.
What the video doesn't touch on, and what a lot of people don't seem to know, is that running your phone 99% full all the time results in just about everything on the phone running slower than it should. A good rule of thumb for any computing device with storage is to keep a minimum of ten percent free. This means 1.6GB on 16GB models, and 3.2GB for 32GB models. Luckily once your photos have made their way to Google's little fluffy cloud, they have a function called "Free Up Space" to delete the items off of your phone that are already backed up.
OK, How Does it Work?
All you need for Google Photos is a Google account, and preferably a WiFi. You want to use WiFi, or the sending of photos to the cloud will take up your monthly data allowance. Once you download the app you will need to launch it, sign in, and choose your backup settings. I use the High Quality setting described as "great visual quality at reduced file size," instead of the original size which is an option but would eventually result in additional chargeable storage. If you happen to have an unlimited data plan you can set it to actually backup via cellular but remember this will also drain your battery faster. For this reason there is a setting to only backup while charging.
One of the main benefits to using Google Photos is all the artificial intelligence running behind the scenes. The photos you back up get scanned though, and you get notified when there are new creations like collages, videos, panoramas, animated GIFs, and random stylized photos. The app will also recognize all the faces present in your photos, and start to create an impressive index of photos based on who is in the shot.
Amazon's offering is a little different. While there unlimited storage option keeps the original size and resolution of the photos you capture, it is also not free. You only get it with your active Amazon Prime membership. Also, whereas Google Photos will also allow your videos to be stored for free at 1080p, Amazon is only offering 5GB for videos and files.
Take the Time to Set Them Up
The main deterrent from people using these solutions is often just the setup. Yes, you will need to know your password. Yes, you will want to make sure you connect to your WiFi regularly. Take a few minutes to set it up once, and you'll never have to worry about losing your precious photo memories again.