How Optimized iPhone Storage works with iCloud Photo Library

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If you use iCloud Photo Library, iOS has a feature called Optimize iPhone Storage to help save storage space on your iPhone. Your original photos and videos are kept in iCloud Photo Library, and optimized versions are kept on your iPhone.

Macworld reader Alexandra asks about optimized photos, iCloud Photo Library, and uploads:

I have Optimize iPhone Storage turned on on my iPhone. If I decide to order some photos from my iPhone through an online photo processor, will the photos be uploaded to the web site in their full or reduced resolution?

This is a terrific question, because the answer is completely non-obvious in the interface. Whenever you use a photo selector in any app, or browse in Photos, the originals of any images or videos that you select get retrieved from iCloud before they’re available for upload or manipulation.

This can be confusing in the interface, because it’s not always clear that iOS is in the process of downloading the image. I’ve noticed in Instagram, for instance, that I see a slightly blurry photo, tap on it, nothing happens, but after a moment it’s crisp and available. In the Photos app, you’ll see a tiny circle outline that fills and then disappears as the image or video loads and completes.

iOS effectively prevents you from uploading an image thumbnail through its selector: the operation should be available or start before the download occurs.

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