iCloud Photos synchronizes images and movies across all your linked Apple devices that have the feature enabled. It can sometimes be recalcitrant, requiring a real kick to restart syncing. But Photos should upload and download queue photos via iCloud almost any time it’s connected to a network, and there’s enough power remaining in your iPhone, iPad, or Mac laptop.
There’s an exception, though that’s hard to spot: when you’re using cellular data from your iPhone or iPad to your Mac via USB. It’s seemingly not a popular option, as most people rely on the Personal Hotspot feature that lets you connect via Wi-Fi to your iPhone or iPad: no cables required. However, I’m a fan of plugging in a USB-C to Lightning cable to charge my iPhone while using a cellular network connection. I find it more reliable, and I don’t run out of juice during the sometimes heavy power draw required to relay cellular data.
In testing during a planned electrical outage at my house to upgrade service, I discovered that iCloud Photos refused to sync while connected via USB. The solution was simple: click the Control Center menu icon, click the right-pointing arrow next to the Wi-Fi section, and select your iPhone or iPad’s Personal Hotspot. Once connected, syncing starts immediately.
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