Google announced a new service recently called 'Google Photos', and I was instantly intrigued. I don't use many Google services apart from search, but keeping memories safe is top of my priorities when it comes to online services.
I currently use OneDrive (and before that, Dropbox) to backup photos and was thinking of using Apple's iCloud Photo Library in addition to this. I like the idea of having every photo I've ever taken (in recent memory at least) available from the photo picker in iOS, and on my Mac. However from what I've heard in reviews, doing this slows down iOS devices (I have an iPhone 5, which not being the latest device from Apple means it's inevitably slowed down anyway) and I also want more control over what gets stored on my device. Apple may make nice looking products, but when it comes to storage they are stingy as hell, and my phone is forever warning me that I'm running low on space. I tried iCloud Photos for a few months and found it didn't save space on my phone as promised, I still ended up with the majority of space on my phone used by the photos I'd taken. It's also not cheap – you get 5GB 'free' from Apple – no matter how many devices you own. So me, with an iPhone, 2 iPads (home and work), as well as a Mac get the same as someone with just an iPod Touch. Out of this 5GB comes any backups you make (which is the majority in my experience), any emails you receive to your iCloud email account, and of course any photos you upload to iCloud Photos. Buying more space is expensive considering you've already paid a premium for the hardware in the first place.
So a combination of being expensive and not that good made me decide to stick with OneDrive (despite the fact it can be buggy, it's at least cross platform and a good price, you get 1TB of space and Microsoft Office for less than £10 a month). Then Google announced Google Photos….
With any Google product there are two things you need to consider: How long will it last before they shut it down, and what are they doing with my data?
I hope this product lasts, and doesn't go the way of Google Buzz, Reader, Notebook, iGoogle or Latitude (and Google+ ?). With Google, you never know. That's a big risk when you're trusting it with your lifelong memories. Luckily it's free (if you are happy for all images to be down-sampled to a maximum of 16 megapixels – my camera is nowhere near that resolution, so I am) so I would urge anyone using it to also use a service like Dropbox or OneDrive who have a better reputation when it comes to shuttering services.
What are they doing with the data? I've no doubt the GPS coordinates tagged inside every photo will be extremely useful to Google for targeting me with adverts. It's basically my location history. I'm fine with this really.
The app itself is very well written. If you have 3000+ photos to upload like me, then you'll want to download the helper application that will sit in the background and upload instead of using the browser interface. The web interface scrolls very smoothly and makes it easy to go back a decade without trying to load everything in-between. Unlike the OneDrive web interface, it correclty uses the EXIF data in images to pull out the date, rather than the file's timestamp. In OneDrive it looks like I took all my photos in March 2015, because that's when I copied them accross from Dropbox. Google Photos isn't so stupid, thankfully. Like Apple's iCloud Photos, you can make edits from within the Google Photos interface. Apple's approach cleverly stores what you changed in a photo, as opposed to the end result. This means you can adjust the brightness on one your phone, but undo it and add a filter on your laptop without any loss in quality (it doesn't create a losssy JPEG each time). I'm not sure if Google is doing something simular, but it wouldn't supprise me.
So all in all, I am impressed – I'm just worried it will be switched off in 4 years when Google get bored of it.