iPhone backup experts wanted! Most logical ways to backup iPhone stuff?
September 19, 2018 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I want to be able to delete photos from my iPhone, even if I just took one, and then quickly access it and view it and/or download it from the cloud. What backup or storage service should I use, and how should I best configure it? Help me simplify and streamline a backup workflow, that can transfer from phone to (new) phone each year and save me in case my phone breaks or is lost, too.

iCloud, Dropbox, Google Photos, Google Drive, iMazing, AnyTrans, etc. There are lots of ways to backup and store iPhone photos, videos, music, app content, messages, etc. Ahhhhh!

After the iPhone 7, I've been sticking with the 64gb models each year. As a result, I need to start really offloading photos, especially. Right now I pay for 50gb of iCloud storage and 100gb of Google storage. I also have a Dropbox 1tb account.

At the same time, I have a PC with plenty of space for backing up photos (although they end up in Dropbox for safer keeping, anyway).

A few requirements: I want to be able to know that the original, full size (raw) image (or video, including if it was filmed in slow-motion) is retained when backed up, and that when I delete it from the phone it survives in whatever cloud service I backed it up to. Both iCloud and Google Photos make it somewhat difficult to discern what will happen when "deleting" or removing photos. Is "Archiving" in Google Photos app what I want? Is "freeing up space" what I want? If I backup to Google Photos does it retain those iPhone specific photo features (that push to watch a few seconds before and after feature, for example?

Then there's iCloud. It is seemingly a pain, if not impossible, to literally just download the photos stored there to a local drive so that I can upload them to Dropbox. I'd be happy to get rid of iCloud, store my photos in Google, and just backup the other iPhone stuff using iMazing or AnyTrans on my PC SSD. Important stuff (message backups, for example) would then get uploaded to Dropbox.

I want to be able to delete photos from my iPhone, even if I just took one, and then quickly access it and view it and/or download it from the cloud. What backup or storage service should I use, and how should I best configure it?

Between iMazing and Anytrans, what would you recommend? Seems like iMazing's feature of being able to transfer from an old phone to a new one is pretty handy. However, I found (in the demo) that just pulling photos off the phone to my PC to be an issue. I also wonder what features from the photos or videos I lose doing it this way.

I just vomited up a lot of stuff. If I need to clarify anything please ask. Thanks for any and all advice and help!
posted by rbf1138 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure I understand the aversion to iCloud. It sounds like you're jumping through hoops to avoid it when it appears to be exactly what you need.
posted by howling fantods at 1:29 PM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: How do I get the photos saved in iCloud onto my PC, especially if we're talking thousands of photos? When I delete photos from my phone, how do I know it's not syncing with iCloud and deleting them there?
posted by rbf1138 at 1:40 PM on September 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Google Photos would work for you. I delete off my phone daily and everything is in the cloud. I never bulk download to my PC though.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:13 PM on September 19, 2018

Response by poster: @DarlingBri Can you elaborate on your specific "workflow" in using Google Photos? It just backs up when you're on Wifi, then you delete them where? In the Photos app? From the Google Photos app? Do you choose "Archive" or some other option?
posted by rbf1138 at 2:18 PM on September 19, 2018

Dropbox on iOS can be set to automatically upload photos from your iphone to the "Camera Uploads" folder in your dropbox account. Does that not give you what you are looking for? and you skip the whole icloud > PC > dropbox steps.
posted by eatcake at 2:28 PM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

There used to be a way to select a range of photos on iCloud.com (by SHIFT-clicking) but not anymore... that's dumb. CMD-click still works but isn't feasible for thousands of photos. So yeah, their tools weren't great and are now worse.

To answer the question re deleting photos from your phone: yes, they will also be deleted from iCloud (eventually... they're kept for 30 days post-deletion. Similar to e.g. Backblaze) Originals are automatically offloaded to iCloud to make space though, so my phone only ever has a minimal amount of storage taken up by photos.
posted by howling fantods at 2:32 PM on September 19, 2018

Seconding eatcake's suggestion of dropbox. My wife and I have it on our phones and any pictures we take are automagically uploaded to our shared dropbox account.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:55 PM on September 19, 2018

Response by poster: @eatcake and It's Never Lurgi Do you backup as jpeg or HEIC? Are you losing any element of the photo with the Dropbox backups, like slow-motion video or HDR in photos? Just curious if it's a 1-1 transfer or if it's downgraded in any way. Also, I'm assuming that Dropbox doesn't do a "sync" with the phone and end up removing stuff from the Dropbox folder if you delete photos from the phone, right?
posted by rbf1138 at 3:00 PM on September 19, 2018

slow-motion video is not preserved if you let dropbox auto-upload the files. I usually manually export any videos where I want to keep the slow-motion effect but that works for me because I don't use it a lot.

As far as photos, I have a 6s so as far I know it can't do HEIC so I'm still in jpeg-land. But I save the originals along with the HDR version and I get both uploaded since the HDR is just another photo file as far as dropbox is concerned.

It's not like google photos where it will down-sample the resolution of the photos or videos. It's just uploading whatever is in your main photo album on the iphone.

It's a one-way sync. So dropbox uploads, you can delete from your photos app and it will remain in dropbox.

For my use case what I am doing is using dropbox to get the photos off my phone, then on my mac I have a hazel automation script which moves them out of the dropbox folder and organizes the photos and videos by year and month. That way my dropbox folder stays clean and I don't need to purchase additional storage but at the cost of maintaining storage at home, which I then back-up to a few cloud storage providers using arq backup.

So this happens every night, photos/videos from the day go to dropbox then to my local storage, then they are backed up at night. So I could delete everything from my phone and still have things backed up and safe.
posted by eatcake at 3:48 PM on September 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I started using Google Photos a little while ago.

It's easy to get photos out, either individually or as an archive. This makes it a little easier to trust.

It's set to upload on wifi, and occasionally it prompts me to "Free up space". When I say yes, it deletes any photos on the phone that are safely uploaded to the cloud. You don't need to "Archive" to ensure that photos are saved - the default is to save to the cloud and it'll never auto-delete something permanently as far as I can tell. I don't really use "Archive", I think it'd be better named "Hide". You use it for photos you want to keep but not see unless you search for them.

If you do delete something from the Google Photos app (or website), it will remove it on any devices you have linked to it. This is nice because I can go through and cull bad photos on my big laptop screen, and they get deleted from the phone automatically - after asking.

Another nice thing is that there's a photos sync app for Mac OS (and windows I assume) that lets you sync a folder to your Google Photos storage. This was a convenient way for me to load all my saved photos up into the cloud.
There isn't a native Mac viewing client for Google Photos, but the web site is very good.

Finally, I didn't really compare with Apple's pricing, but the ability to pay for "Google One" storage and share the storage with family members was a nice thing.
posted by mmc at 4:32 PM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

You really sound like you should be using iCloud for this.

That way your three steps are:

Turn on iCloud Photo Library on your Windows Computer, turn on iCloud Photos on your phone/iPad/whatever, select "Optimize iPhone Storage" on your phone/iPad/whatever, the end.

At this point there is never any reason to delete anything as the originals are stored online, but optimized files are stored everywhere you choose to do so. Any photos/videos that get loaded into one device get loaded up everywhere else including online.
posted by sideshow at 5:33 PM on September 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

As for backing up jpeg or HEIC, you can pick which you'd prefer.

Slow motion video is, apparently, weird and you may need a different backup solution for that. but for everything else, Dropbox should work great. As you have gobs of storage there it sounds like your best bet.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 7:22 PM on September 19, 2018

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