My experience migrating from iCloud Photos and Dropbox to Google

I have just too many photos, accumulated through a decade of digital photography and spread in sections between different services.

Hearing all this fancy talk of “Cloud”, “Machine learning” and other voodoo like computational magic, I gave in and decided to consolidate all my digital photography into one service. Before we begin, I must declare that I use an assortment of ecosystems for photos: An iPhone, my trusty and beloved Windows desktop and a Windows convertible.

This means I cannot buy into one ecosystem… yet.

The library was already synced in Dropbox, but it was a pain to sort and access from all the devices varying memory limits.

I already used a basic iCloud subscription of 50GB for whatever images I captured with my Phone. Which were uploaded to Dropbox and synced to the Windows devices by it. Seeing that my complete library was well over that, I went ahead and upgraded my tier to 200GB.Then setup iCloud for the first time on my trusty Windows machine.

Why iCloud and Google Sync?

iCloud for windows offers two main options after logging in:

To choose a download folder, where I suppose all the pictures are downloaded. I didn’t try it so I don’t know if there is a selective download option of sorts.

And an upload folder. I created a new folder and moved all my disorganized pictures into it; waited several days, disabling Dropbox camera uploads feature and including the very same folder to the queue.

Note about this: It appears iCloud does recognize duplicated files, since the camera uploads folder contained several already downloaded pictures, but I can’t guarantee it.

In the photos app, I extensively use the “all photos” section to see the latest ones. Sadly, syncing old photos meant they were added to this section in the upload order.
Luckily you can use the “Moments” section in order to keep the date sort, but to this day some random pictures still appear in the “all photos” section. You can’t easily go back to the recent ones, you either give your thumb a good exercise scrolling back to bottom or you force close the photos app.
Well, this wasn’t going to be a problem since I went ahead and activated a Google Drive account at 1TB tier. Set the quality to original and let the phone go at killing my upload for several days. The good news is that the photos are only saved once locally, so there is no penalty to the device capacity in trying.

Why this overly complex move? I want to try both iCloud and Google offerings before settling. Mostly if I can use the optimized mode on the iPhone and have the original save to Google Photos. Will update on that as I’m scared to try right now.

Anyway, once that was done, both iCloud and Google gradually gave me automatically sorted albums. By dates, faces and locations.

The main differences between both photo services.

I do appreciate the privacy oriented Apple way, since they claim the device does all the processing. But I can’t yet decide if I’m in awe or fear of the lord of thunder within Google’s image search. It’s eerily accurate in finding even things. It identified concerts, nightclubs, freaking whiteboards in my pictures. I have a category for “Whiteboards” in my pictures.

I just can’t yet believe it. Not because how amazing it appears but I wonder what other sort of things could it identify without telling us.
I need my tinfoil hat.

Moving on…

I really like that in Google Photos, I can tap the top bar and come back to the most recent, which I can’t in iCloud Photos. Also, the little scroll thingie-anchor in Google Photos is of massive help when sorting through years of photos on a tiny device, which isn’t available in iCloud.
This makes Google Photos much more useable when managing an enormous library.

I also get a copy downloaded to my Drive folder, just like with Dropbox. And I can access it via web through drive or the photos site.

One interesting difference is that Google photos allows me to change certain metadata, such as the date of the picture. I can’t to that in the Photos app. Photos can; However, markdown pictures and screenshots.

Maybe having both services isn’t so bad in the end.


What made me change over from Dropbox was that I already used gSuite. Including the photos and using the paid Drive space to integrate everything was an attractive idea for the same 10 USD.

With gSuite I stopped paying for Office, Dropbox and includes personalized domain powered by gmail.

What’s not to like?

The only thing left is to jump back to the basic iCloud tier for device backups and pictures and see wether or not “Optimize iPhone storage” option harms my collection in Google.

Or maybe I’ll keep the iCloud tier if I find an extra that Google does not provide.

Will update once I go ahead with the change.

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