Free Your Camera Roll

How to Back Up Your Smartphone Photos Easily and Securely


We capture our lives with our smartphones, that’s a given. But, if those pictures aren’t backed up, misplacing or dropping a phone could be the end of countless memories. Thankfully, the best solution is the simplest: the cloud. No heavy hard drive or tangle of wires needed.

Cloud-based storage frees up vital space on your phone, and you’ll never run into this message again. Plus, you’ll be able to access all your photos from all your devices. Two worthy options are Google Photos for Android, and the iCloud Photo Library, for the Apple ecosystem. Both are easy to use, secure and free at their entry levels. (Also note: Google’s app will work nicely with your Apple products if you prefer, but iCloud doesn’t work well with Android.) Here’s your guide to setting up each.

Google Photos

1. Download the app on your phone (if you have an Android it might already be there).
2. Once you’re connected to wi-fi, open the app and it will start uploading your whole camera roll to the cloud. In the app’s settings you can set pictures to delete from your device once they’re uploaded, freeing up storage space.
3. Google Photos will sort your photos by date and location, and will make them searchable with keywords. This quickly becomes useful when you’re looking for a specific shot, but don’t remember the context.

Tips & Tricks:
Check the Assistant tab often. Like magic, new and old photos will be turned into ready-made slideshows and short animations. Multiple shots of the same subject can be automatically turned into animations, and Google will often create an album for you based on similar photo locations.

Once your photos are uploaded, the platform will regularly present old photos for you to rediscover. This is one of the app’s best features, allowing you to automatically bring back old (hopefully cherished) memories.

Turning on notifications will push pre-made animations and stylized photo straight to you as soon as they’re created.

Tap the menu button in the search bar to activate the “free up space” feature when you do your first backup in the app. This will go through your camera roll and remove everything that has been safely uploaded. No need to manually delete your photos once they’re up.

You can store your analog prints with the rest of your digital shots, too. Download Google’s companion app, PhotoScan, to quickly add your printed memories to your online photo library. This will put everything in one place, and you can enjoy all the features of the digital app with your printed photographs.

Bottom line: Free, unlimited storage and smart machine learning that nicely catalogs photos, and is accessible from any device.

iCloud Photo Library

1. iCloud Photo Library may already be enabled on your iPhone. If not, it’s under “Photos & Camera” in your settings.
2. While you’re in those settings, turn on “My Photo Stream” so all your photos are uploaded to the cloud.
3. Now you can access your iPhone camera roll anywhere. You can view your photos on any of your Apple devices, either in the “Photos” app, or on iCloud.com. If things aren’t syncing properly, you may need to go into preferences on your Mac and turn on “iCloud Photo Library” to sync.

Tips and Tricks:
If you don’t want all your photos across every device, there is a way to turn the feature off. Turning off “Upload to Photostream” in your settings will still let your camera roll upload, but it won’t download the pictures to your iPad or Macbook. It’s a smart move if you’re sharing your devices with others.

There’s a “Recently Deleted” folder in your photos app. If you scrapped a photo but want it back, it will be there for 30 days.

Any edits you make to a photo are synced across all your devices through iCloud.

Bottom Line: Your photos will be accessible across all of your Apple devices, hopefully leaving you with one less thing to worry about. You’ll see features similar to Google’s services, but here your data is kept private*. You’ll likely end up paying for Apple’s platform given the storage options, but the convenience can justify the small fee.

  • 5GB of storage – Free
  • 50GB of storage – $0.99 per month
  • 200GB of storage – $2.99 per month
  • 1TB of storage – $9.99 per month
  • 2TB of storage – $19.99 per month
*Apple encrypts your photos and data when you upload to iCloud, while Google can use your pictures to help target ads to you.