Executive Editor, MacworldMAR 19, 2021 3:30 am PDT
Image: Michael Simon/IDG
We all know how easy it is to share photos with friends and family who also use Apple Photos. But when you throw an Android or PC user into the mix, things get a little more complicated. Since they won’t be able to view an iCloud Shared Album, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to be sure they can see your photos.
There are a couple of issues at play here. First, of course, is that they don’t have an iPhone so they can’t use Apple Photos. The other issue stems from the format Apple uses on newer iPhones. Since iOS 11, Apple has used HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format) for photos and HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) for videos since they take up less space. It’s not a proprietary format, but it’s also not nearly as ubiquitous as JPEG, so some devices and apps won’t be able to read it. But there are ways to ensure they will.
The first thing you can do is change the way photos are handled and shared. HEIF and HEVC are turned on by default, but you can switch to more standard formats.
1, Head over to Settings and scroll down to the “Camera” tab. Then tap “Formats” and switch to “Most Compatible” to shoot all photos and videos in the widely used JPEG and H.264 formats, respectively. The quality of the images won’t change, only the size of them.
2. You can also make sure shared images will send in the most compatible format, a necessary step before sharing using the methods below. Back out of the “Camera” tab in Settings and tap on “Photos,” scroll down to the bottom of the page to the “Transfer to Mac or PC” tab. Tap “Automatic” to make sure photos and videos you send will be sent using JPEG and H.264 formats.
Share photos between platforms
Now that you know the format is readable, you have several options for sharing. You can go to the Mail app, long-press, and swipe to “Insert Photo or Video,” select the Photos icon in Messages, or use any other app that allows attachments. Or if you want to stick with the Photos app, you can share images and videos using the sharing menu. Just select the photos or videos that you want to send, tap the share icon in the bottom-left corner, and choose the app that you want to use to share. Just note, images texted to Android phones might be very low resolution due to compression.
You also have the option to send an iCloud link via Mail or Messages. Simply select the photos you want to send, tap the share icon, and pick the app you want to use, whether its Messages, Mail, Outlook, WhatsApp, or whatever app you’d like to use. You can select as many images as you’d like, but keep in mind that the service you’re using might have a size cap. Also, texting pictures and videos to an Android phone might result in major compression depending on the app and carrier.
Share and sync with Google
However, your best bet for sharing pictures and videos outside of the Apple ecosystem is Google Photos. It’s a free app that you can download in the App Store, and it’ll sync all of the photos on your iPhone. You can store as many as you want for free now, but as of June 1, uploads will count toward your 15GB Google Drive storage allotment. But that should be plenty since Google Photos gives you the option to store your photos in “High Quality,” which are compressed to a max of 16MP but are still quite good.
Once you’ve got your photos synced, sharing is a snap. Like’s Apple’s Photos app, you can select and send individual photos and videos either through a messaging app or cloud link, or you can send pics directly in the app like you would an iMessage. Just use the Share in Google Photos tab, select a contact (they’ll only appear if they have a Gmail address and are using Google Photos as well), and drop them a line.
You can also opt to share an album by inviting people to view and contribute to it. Head over to an album or create a new one, tap the menu in the top right corner, and select Share. Just like when you share an individual image, you’ll see a list of contacts to choose from. Pick the ones you want and you’ll now all be able to view photos as they’re added, and anyone invited will be able to contribute to the album as well using the Google Photos app on their Android phone or the Google Photos site on their PC. It’ll stay synced and if you opt for automatic updates, will add photos of people as soon as they’re snapped.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.