The problem with Optimize iPhone Storage and other cloud services

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Weisi Song wonders what happens when there’s a seeming conflict between local photo storage and a desire to upload images at full resolution to another cloud-hosting service—in this case, Amazon Cloud Drive:

When I check my iCloud photo settings, I saw it was set at Optimize iPhone Storage. Now I wonder if the pictures i uploaded to Amazon Cloud Drive are not in full resolution.

It’s all in the. Time.


As the old joke goes. If you have Amazon Photos for iOS set to upload media automatically, there’s are several separate issues.

If you take a photo with your iPhone (or other iOS device) camera, iOS doesn’t downsample or optimize images or video until it’s uploaded it to iCloud Photo Library and the storage is needed on the iOS device. It’s very likely that your photos will be uploaded to Amazon Cloud Drive before both conditions are met.

However, Amazon’s app only uploads videos when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. So it’s possible that the timing would be such that your iPhone would have uploaded the full-resolution version of the video over mobile (if you’re set to allow that), need the storage and optimize the version stored locally before it’s uploaded to Amazon.

Amazon notes explicitly in its help instructions for its iOS app that if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled with optimization turned on, “…your iOS photos may not be uploaded to Cloud Drive.” Note the “may”! Any images you’ve downloaded (by tapping to view) that weren’t stored on the iOS device can wind up on Amazon’s cloud service, too, but it can’t force that process.

One option is to disable iCloud Photo Library entirely, rely on Amazon Cloud Drive, and then regularly copy your images via Photos to a Mac for backup purposes—and delete them from your phone after you’ve imported them to the Mac. This requires more effort but lets you switch entirely to Amazon Cloud Drive.

It’s unclear whether Weisi wants to avoid paying for additional iCloud storage, too. Amazon charges just $12 a year for unlimited photo storage (free with an Amazon Prime subscription) and up to 5GB of other file storage (including videos) or $60 a year for unlimited storage of everything. iCloud (billed monthly) is $12 a year for 50GB, $36 a year for 200GB, and $120 a year for 1TB. Amazon’s option is cheaper (or free for Prime) if you plan to store mostly photos; Apple’s is cheaper until you pass its 200GB storage tier if you’ve got more than 5GB of videos or other files.

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