I activated iCloud Photo Library, only to realize a few months later that I shouldn’t have. iCloud Photo Library is easily the most seamless way to access photos on all your iOS devices but there is a catch – you must pay. Monthly.
Apple offers 5 GB of free iCloud storage. But try storing iPhone backup files, app documents – and now – photos and still fall within the 5 GB limit. Gotcha!
What is iCloud Photo Library?
iCloud Photo Library is designed to push photos you take on the iPhone directly to iCloud so that photos are accessible from any iOS device (or Mac) connected with your account. It first came out as a beta feature in iOS 8.1 and has since been around for about a year.
You can enable or disable iCloud Photo Library from the iCloud settings on the iPhone. In iOS 9, I found that it comes automatically enabled.
To me it just looks like a
carrot apple-and-a-stick approach to make some extra cash at the expense of unsuspecting iOS users.
iCloud Photo Library is not Photo Stream. While Photo Stream keeps a number of your latest photos in sync between multiple iOS devices, iCloud Photo Library syncs all photos you take or have ever taken. In addition, unlike Photo Stream, iCloud Photo Library counts against the 5 GB limit.
Ready to bring back your photos from iCloud? Scroll down to see how I did it
Why I don’t like it?
I bring my iPhone with me wherever I go. And I take photos; lots of photos. I bet I’m not the only one and I refuse to believe that this is a problem. Yet, taking photos is exactly what’s at stake. Here’s what’s wrong?
Second, you don’t really free up iPhone space by activating iCloud Photo Library. Even if you enable “Optimize iPhone Storage”, low-resolution versions of your photos are still saved to the iPhone while originals are uploaded to iCloud. The drop in both iCloud and iPhone available storage is inevitable. As a result, when I tried to bring my photos from iCloud back to my iPhone by tapping “Download and Keep Originals”, a notification appeared “Not Enough Device Storage”. Alas, all I ended up having on my iPhone were the low-res versions of my photos while iCloud got hold of the originals.
Third, it is extremely difficult to bring back your photos on a PC once they are in iCloud. For example, I fired up iCloud Control Panel for Windows and it only displayed 75 photos out of some 3,000+ saved in iCloud! I then tried to download the photos via iCloud.com… To put it mildly, this felt like a prelude to a nightmare. (Hint: I was asked to select and download each of my 3,000+ photos one by one at which point Firefox gave up on me and crashed. I’m sure Chrome would have not stood up to the challenge either.)
Now I had thousands of photos in iCloud without a viable way of bringing them back to my iPhone or PC.
After a number of dead-ends and a punishing army of notifications for “Not Enough Storage Available” and “Photos no longer updating”, I had no other choice. I paid the ransom. I unlocked a cornucopia of extra iCloud storage (50 GB) for an unimportant monthly charge (of $1).
Albeit, my photos remained in iCloud, but at least the notifications stopped. This brought me to a question whose answer is the crux of what’s wrong with iCloud Photo Library:
Did I just start paying monthly for the right to take photos with my iPhone?
A dollar a month is nothing; for most of us anyways. Does that mean that we are bound to start giving away a dollar a month for something else as basic as taking photos on our very own mobile devices?
For the time being, at least until Apple does something about it, I’ve decided to get off the hook.
Getting off the hook
Quitting iCloud Photo Library after having started paying for extra iCloud storage is as hard as giving up on your credit card after a long vacation. Yet for me it was worth coming back to where I was before. I wanted to be in control of my photos and to continue keeping a backup on my PC.
Click here to learn how I got my photos back from iCloud