If you have a mobile phone then you have a camera. Most are decent and can take better photos than the cameras we were buying 20 years ago. We have moved on from the world of showing people holiday slides or books of photos. Today we can instantly share the scene in front of us. We can also create videos.

Higher resolution photos have become the norm and have forced the storage requirements of mobile phones to increase. In fact the “phone” part of a mobile phone is now just an app.

Not so long ago we would connect our phones to a PC and sync the pictures to a PC photos application. To keep the memories safe we would attach a hard disk and make a backup. We would then buy a photos application to manage and curate the photos. This would take time and care.

Then the cloud arrived. By flipping an option on your device your photos would be transferred to cloud storage. The cloud storage provider would read the metadata of the date, time and location, then categorise your photos for you.

At the start of the transition to the cloud the “free storage” offered by Apple, Google and Microsoft was enough. Hundreds of megabytes. How would you even fill it?

It turned out that filling these cloud services with photos was quite easy. Apple was always quite miserly on the free cloud storage bandwagon. Its phones were also poor on providing device storage. However, the options to buy additional space were fairly cheap. Microsoft had Skydrive, then renamed Onedrive, had loads of space for WindowsPhone users. They never really opted for free space to encourage WindowsPhone. They then had a period of offering unlimited storage for consumers for a basic fee. When some users put 100tb of pirated movies online they stopped that. However, the 1tb of space now on offer for a monthly fee is a good deal.

Google offered free photos storage and a really good photos app. This offer went on year after year. People just set up their devices to send every picture to Google. Google AI picture search became ever better. Even Google eventually decided that it could not all be for free. In 2021 they announced that if you wanted to keep uploading your photos you needed a Google Drive storage plan.

Amazon will also look after your images. Joining Amazon Prime is enough.

We are now in the situation where all the major tech companies have paid plans to store your photos.

Most people end up using the provider that has the built-in apps for their phone. To use Microsoft you need install OneDrive. To use Amazon you need their photos app. If you use iPhone then you will mostly sync photos to Apple cloud.

Problems come if you want to move from one cloud platform to another. This happened to me. Even when I was on WindowsPhone I used a Google account as a secondary backup of my photos. it was free and “good enough” as an extra storage location. After the death of WindowsPhone I used Android devices for a while. My primary photo store was Google and my secondary store became my OneDrive.

Now I have an iPhone. With their Apple One plan for music and TV that I can share with my wife I get 200gb of storage for photos. This weekend’s plan was to move my Google Photos to my Apple icloud storage via a Windows PC. It sounds strange. There is no “cloud move” tool to do this.

The first step is Google Takeout. Google offer a service to take your data from Google services and put it somewhere else. You create compressed zip files. Google does all of this in the background and sends you an email when it’s complete. For me, this took about 24 hours. It could take days.

What you get is a series of downloads. In my case I got 18 compressed 2gb files. You download them. I decided the easiest transfer was to download Apple’s Windows Icloud application. The easiest way of getting this is via the Microsoft Store. The store also keeps the application up to date. After it is installed, it creates a folder in explorer called photos.

The next bit will differ for each person. However, my Google Photos was organised via folders of events, places and years. Once I downloaded the zip files from Google I could cut and paste folders straight into the Apple photos folder on my PC.

There are some problems. Apple is going to use metadata to organise these pictures. If the picture doesn’t have the date and time it was taken in the file, or the location then this is going to be difficult. The only other date available will be the date of upload so you will suddenly get a bunch of photos taken today. Even when they weren’t taken today,

I had thousands of photos. It a long time for them to sync with the Apple photo service in the cloud. Then it was done. A modern problem of managing personal data when you change from one mobile device to another.

Photos. Something we rarely think about while taking them on a mobile phone. However, it can become a big data problem. 


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