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How to back up your iPhone photos and videos (with the new HEIF and HEVC file formats), and make more room on your device

HEVC and HEIF video and photo formats introduced in iOS 11 (https://www.apple.com/apple-events/june-2017/)

iPhone (and iPad) storage is dear. For instance, Apple cost £150 to leap from a 64GB iPhone eight, eight Plus or X, to the subsequent mannequin up with 256GB of storage. Importing your information to the Cloud, not solely retains them protected, nevertheless it additionally permits you unlock area in your telephone. It additionally has the added bonus of creating them very straightforward to share.

There are a selection of providers that may mechanically add all you photographs and movies to the cloud, however on this article I’ll be taking a look at Apple’s personal iCloud Photograph Library, Google Photographs and Dropbox.

Apple’s new file codecs

HEVC and HEIF video and photograph codecs launched in iOS 11 (apple.com/apple-events/june-2017)

Apple newest working system for iPhones and iPads, iOS 11, launched a big change to how photographs and movies are saved to your system. For pictures, they changed the JPEG format which has been round for years, with the brand new HEIF format (which Apple pronounce HEEF). And for movies, iOS 11 now saves utilizing the HEVC format, changing H.264. These new compression algorithms roughly halve the area required, theoretically with none loss in high quality. These new codecs are particularly essential for the brand new excessive body fee, 4K movies the newest iPhones can document at, much more so with their restricted and non expandable inbuilt storage. Even with this new compression, a 5 minute video clip on the highest high quality makes use of up 2GB of area.

Storage requirements of different video settingsStorage necessities of various video settings

That is all nicely and good, however these new codecs aren’t very properly supported but. Moreover, because the iPhone 6s, Apple launched Stay Photographs, the place a video file is saved along with the photograph, recording one and a half seconds earlier than and after the image is taken. And Apple’s twin digital camera telephones, the 7 Plus, eight Plus and X, even have a Portrait mode which in iOS 11 by default data to the brand new HEIF format (with a HEIC extension). This file format permits a depth map channel to be saved within the file permitting the background blur to be turned on and off (and far more in different apps like Digital camera+ and Photoshop (Mac solely at present)). I’ll talk about these modes in additional element in an upcoming article.

Choose between High Efficient or Most CompatibleSelect between Excessive Environment friendly or Most Suitable

So whenever you’re importing your information to the cloud, relying on what providers you employ, chances are you’ll be dropping some or all of this extra info. I’ll talk about how the totally different providers deal with these information as I contemplate them in flip. You do have an choice in your iPhone or iPad to modify off these new seize codecs in Settings | Digital camera | Codecs. By default Excessive Effectivity might be ticked, however should you tick Most Suitable, the gadget will revert to recording in JPEG/H.264 with far wider help (though the 4K 60FPS and 1080 240FPS modes require Excessive Effectivity). Nevertheless I wouldn’t advocate doing this: the providers I talk about under all help to a point the brand new codecs, and with Apple’s backing, I think about it gained’t be lengthy till there’s even wider help.

Utilizing iCloud Photograph Library

iCloud is a service from Apple that shops your photographs, movies and paperwork within the cloud, and makes them out there throughout all of your units together with iPhones, iPads, Mac’s and Home windows PC’s and on the internet at iCloud.com – though there’s no Android app in the mean time. You get 5GB free which is subsequent to ineffective for photographs and movies, however further capability is fairly priced at present costing 79p per 30 days for 50GB of on-line storage, £2.49 for 200GB and £6.99 pence for 2TB ($zero.99, $2.99 and $9,99 respectively within the US). The 200GB and 2TB choices might be shared amongst your loved ones.

Enabling iCloud Photo Library and selecting Optimise iPhone StorageEnabling iCloud Photograph Library and choosing Optimise iPhone Storage

Should you allow the iCloud Photograph Library underneath Settings | Photographs, any pictures and movies you’re taking, might be uploaded at full high quality to iCloud and grow to be obtainable on all of your different units. And if you choose Settings | Photographs | Optimise iPhone Storage (default), as your telephone begins to get low on area it intelligently substitutes the complete decision pictures and movies for thumbnails as required. Whenever you then faucet on a thumbnail of one among these information, it dynamically pulls the complete decision file from iCloud. Sadly there isn’t any management over this. You’ll be able to’t determine for instance how a lot of the gadget’s storage must be allotted to pictures and movies.

Switching Portrait mode on and offSwitching Portrait mode on and off

The service works very properly, and it’s the one choice that may keep all of your non-destructive edits. For instance for those who use the Portrait mode, however later discover it didn’t do an excellent job on the background blur, you possibly can merely Edit the photograph, faucet on Portrait to show off the background blur, and that file is routinely up to date throughout all of your units. You’ll be able to nonetheless simply flip it again on once more at a later stage.

And you’ve got full management over Reside photographs, with choices to vary the important thing photograph, add numerous results like Loop, Bounce and Lengthy Publicity, or flip the audio on or off, once more all non destructively.

You can also make primary changes to publicity and color, with all of the edits synced throughout all of your units and absolutely reversible. When you have a Mac with Excessive Sierra (10.13) or above, the Photographs app provides you much more modifying performance, together with retouching.

The brand new Pictures app (model three.zero) on a Mac has truly develop into fairly succesful. It arranges your photographs in a sometimes Apple, muddle free method. The faces and object recognition works pretty nicely, so you possibly can seek for individuals and issues with out having to painfully add key phrases manually. The face recognition, in contrast to Google Photographs which is computed within the cloud, is completed regionally on the system itself for privateness causes, however in contrast to older variations this does sync throughout different units Apple units.

Deleting a photo from your camera roll deletes it everywhereDeleting a photograph out of your digital camera roll deletes it in all places

There a couple of points which can or will not be essential to you. Firstly, you possibly can’t delete pictures or movies out of your system with out deleting them from iCloud and subsequently all of your units. Secondly, sharing your photographs is over difficult. You need to allow iCloud Photograph Sharing, create a shared album, add individuals to share with who have to be Apple customers. Then relatively bizarrely it goes away and creates decrease decision variations of your information, earlier than sending the hyperlink to your invitees. There’s a barely hidden method of making a public hyperlink to a web-based album, which may be shared with anybody. Choose your photographs, Share to iCloud Photograph Sharing, give the album a reputation, depart To: clean and faucet Create after which Submit. Then go into Shared tab, faucet on the album you simply created, faucet on the Individuals tab on the backside, and activate Public Web site, after which Share Hyperlink. This hyperlink could be shared with anybody together with non-Apple customers, however it’s far too difficult for my part.

There’s little question the service works greatest for those who use solely Apple units. In my hybrid setup with Macs, PCs, iPhones and Android tablets it’s barely restricted. For those who set up the iCloud app in your PC, it should obtain your iCloud Photograph Library information to an area folder. And it’ll create an Add folder which you can drop information into. However there’s no Home windows Photographs app so what you are able to do with these information is restricted. It does make the information out there to you to drop into an e mail or simply backup for instance, however that’s it. And it does at the least obtain the unique Excessive Effectivity information and a transformed JPEG because the HEIC photograph format shouldn’t be but supported in Home windows. There’s additionally no help for Android – even iCloud.com shouldn’t be supported on an Android pill utilizing Chrome – though you’ll be able to select Request Desktop Website as a workaround however it’s not preferrred.


  • Sync works nicely more often than not
  • Storage expenses are affordable in case your photograph and video library isn’t too giant
  • All edits are non damaging and synced throughout all Apple units
  • Stay Pictures and Portrait information keep modifying capabilities
  • Works nicely with Pictures app on a Mac


  • No management over Optimised Storage
  • 5GB of free iCloud storage is way too little
  • Can’t delete information regionally from the system, with out deleting all over the place
  • Can’t share full decision information, and sharing over difficult, particularly with non-Apple customers
  • No Android app and doesn’t work properly with Home windows machines – no Home windows Pictures app. Restricted to utilizing iCloud.com
  • Want a more moderen Mac with Excessive Sierra or later for full modifying capabilities utilizing Photographs three.zero (or later)

The free choice: Google Pictures

Google Photographs gives limitless backup of all of your photographs and movies and is free. The free service supposedly compresses your information and can resize information bigger than 16MP, however the 12MP information off my iPhone X captured within the default Excessive Effectivity format aren’t altered in any approach on add. The unique file captured in HEIC format is uploaded to Google Pictures. In fact this might change at any time. It does make sense although, since that is already meant to be a really environment friendly format so there isn’t any level in Google making an attempt to compress it additional.

Movies often are re-encoded to the marginally much less environment friendly H.264 codec, and if bigger than 1080p, are additionally resized. A 40 second 270MB 4K, 60FPS file off my iPhone X, resulted in a 56MB 1080p 60FPS file, with noticeable however acceptable compression. Google helps the HEVC video information and typically the iPhone X information are uploaded untouched. However it’s not clear how the algorithm decides when it’s going to re-encode the file.

Google do supply a paid service too that may add all of your information of their unique high quality, nevertheless it’s over twice the worth of iCloud Photograph Library. Nonetheless, should you don’t have one other backup choice it might be value consideration.

Google Pictures helps Reside Photographs, so whenever you open certainly one of these pictures, you’re routinely performed the brief three second video loop with sound, and you may faucet to show the movement off as you want. When you obtain this Stay Photograph, you’ll get the unique HEIC picture file and the unique accompanying HEVC film file.

Google Photos supports Live PhotosGoogle Photographs helps Stay Pictures

As a result of the Portrait mode information are additionally uploaded of their unique format, though Google Pictures doesn’t allow you to flip the mode on and off, you might obtain the unique file and edit in your Apple gadget for those who needed.

Google Photographs “Unencumber area” function

Importing out of your smartphone works virtually seamlessly and is quick. And as soon as uploaded the app can delete your information off your iPhone (or iPad) to save lots of area, having safely backed them up.

Sharing information could be very straightforward by means of Google Pictures, and places iCloud Photograph Library to disgrace. Faucet and maintain on a photograph to pick, then drag your finger to pick different pictures. Faucet the share icon, and select Create Hyperlink which you’ll be able to then paste into Mail, Messages, WhatsApp and so on. It couldn’t be simpler, and the recipient has the choice to view the album and obtain the complete sized pictures too.

Google additionally presents an Assistant that works away within the cloud, compiling collages, animated GIFs, stylised photographs and far more and makes ideas you could ignore or save. You possibly can flip the function off however with an enormous catalogue, it may be fascinating to see what it comes up with.

One other welcome function of Google Photographs is the Companion Sharing the place you possibly can share your complete library with whoever you want. I might like to see this function in iCloud Photograph library too.

Google Photographs will routinely recognise Issues, so like iCloud Photograph Library, you possibly can seek for boats, the seaside or no matter you want. Oddly within the UK, face recognition doesn’t work, which can have one thing to do with the truth that Google Photographs does its recognition within the cloud and which will battle with privateness legal guidelines in Europe. As famous above, Apple does this on the system, principally more likely to get round this. Face recognition might be one of the helpful options of storing all of your pictures within the cloud, particularly with the facility of the Google search engine behind it.

Luckily you’ll be able to very simply trick Google Pictures into turning face recognition on. Uninstall the Google Photographs app and set up the free Tunnelbear VPN app. By default the app will place you within the US which is ideal. Obtain Google Photographs once more and open the app, which can activate face recognition because it sees your connection within the US. Now you can uninstall Tunnelbear and Google Photographs will get to work. It takes somewhat time, however inside a day or two it is best to see the Individuals album start to refill.

With limitless storage, I’ve uploaded my complete 18 years of pictures and movies (over 100,000 pictures and movies) utilizing the desktop Backup and Sync app. With an honest connection (my add velocity is 10 Mbps), that is quicker than you’d anticipate. I select to disregard RAW information, since with my mirrorless digital camera I all the time shoot RAW+JPEG and the JPEG information add in a short time. I even let the desktop app mechanically add my 4K video information (that are downscaled, however good for sharing). I don’t see this as a backup as such (though you by no means know), however a really helpful accompaniment to my Adobe Lightroom catalogue for locating and sharing photographs and movies.


  • Limitless storage for pictures and movies
  • Help for Reside Pictures and retains Portrait mode depth map knowledge (for downloading)
  • Quick importing
  • One faucet removing of native storage (Release area)
  • Google search engine
  • Wonderful sharing choices
  • Assistant lets you rediscover previous photographs in an fascinating method
  • Companion sharing function


  • Paid storage choices costlier than iCloud Photograph Library
  • Photograph recognition disabled in UK at the least (though see workaround)

The all-rounder: Dropbox

Dropbox has been round for years and provides both a free 2GB choice or a paid 1TB choice for £7.99 ($9.99) per 30 days, in addition to different enterprise targeted choices. It’s rather more than a photograph backup service and I’ve used the paid model for years, not solely backing up my smartphone pictures, but in addition for all my paperwork. In reality every little thing I’ve labored on within the final 10 years exists in a Dropbox folder, which syncs throughout all my units and it really works flawlessly.

Dropbox’s photograph options have lowered within the final couple of years, however you’ll be able to nonetheless routinely add your digital camera roll when you set up the app in your telephone. All of your photographs and movies are uploaded of their unique format and Dropbox helps the HEIC and HEVC codecs within the app and on-line at dropbox.com.

Sadly there isn’t any help for Reside Photographs, and furthermore the accompanying Stay Photograph film file is discarded. Dropbox has additionally by no means supported burst mode, so solely the primary photograph is uploaded, though I’ve by no means discovered that to be an enormous concern.

Even with Background App Refresh turned on, I often discover I have to open the Dropbox app to get importing began, however after that uploads are pretty fast. It’s simply not as seamless as Apple or Google’s service.

Sharing photos is very easy with DropboxSharing photographs could be very straightforward with Dropbox

Sharing could be very simple with Dropbox: choose the information you need to share, faucet share and Copy Hyperlink and paste the hyperlink into your e mail.


  • The syncing works completely throughout all my units
  • Far more than a photograph and video backup answer
  • Sharing could be very simple


  • Costly and no choice to extend storage past 1GB
  • Photograph recognition disabled in UK at the least (though see workaround)
  • Doesn’t help Reside Photographs (doesn’t add accompanying video file), or burst mode (solely uploads primary shot)
  • Even with Background App Refresh on, often have to enter Dropbox app to start out importing
  • Photograph and video organisation restricted. No face recognition. Doesn’t even help albums


Google Photographs is a transparent winner for most individuals. With free limitless storage, virtually seamless importing, wonderful organisation and looking capabilities and straightforward sharing, it’s onerous to beat. There could also be some discount in high quality, however photographs off my iPhone X have been uploaded of their unique high quality and video compression was noticeable however not vital. Moreover, Stay Pictures are nonetheless out there via Google Pictures, as are bursts and even the Portrait mode information that are uploaded unaltered, could be re-saved again to your iPhone if you wish to make any changes.

Should you don’t thoughts the the continued subscriptions costs, iCloud Photograph Library is excellent, notably should you principally use Apple units. With the ability to non-destructively edit your photographs after the very fact could be very handy however sharing must be improved and I’d like some management over what I carry on my gadget.

Dropbox continues to be a very good choice if you have already got a subscription, though photograph and video help doesn’t appear to be a precedence for the builders. It does an honest job of backing up your pictures and movies, however with no help for Stay Pictures, Bursts, face recognition and even primary album help, if I wasn’t utilizing Dropbox for my paperwork too I’d more than likely cancel the subscription (and nonetheless may).

My present suggestion can be a mixture of Google Photographs and iCloud Photograph Library, however with only a 50GB subscription. So long as you’ve got another technique of backing up your photographs and movies (and you need to!). The 50GB subscription is sufficient for a superb few months a minimum of, and it’s often the newest pictures that get edited and shared. It’s additionally handy to have these in your digital camera roll to work seamlessly with different apps. However as soon as these information have been synced to your Mac or PC and backed up, you should use Google Photographs to view your whole photograph library and delete older information out of your iPhone’s digital camera roll as required. (I gained’t go into extra conventional backup strategies right here, however keep in mind which you could all the time simply connect your iPhone to your pc with the USB charging cable, and import pictures the “quaint” method, after which again them up.)

For me the power to additionally use Google Photographs to add information from my mirrorless digital camera, camcorder and certainly motion cameras, with none concern for operating out of storage is an actual boon. And having a single library with each photograph and video I’ve taken during the last 18 years in my pocket is sort of unimaginable. In fact Google Pictures is a free service and who is aware of the way it will develop. However that’s actually true of any cloud service, paid or not.

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