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Apple needs to fire a big shot in the photo wars

Dan Moren | June 2, 2015
Free, unlimited photo storage is a lot to ask, but Apple needs to do something to compete with Amazon and Google.

ios8 photos

Weird as it may sound, I'm still using iPhoto.

Yes, I know Photos for Mac has been out for a while now, but I've yet to make the jump. Granted even saying that I'm "using" iPhoto is a bit of a misnomer; I haven't purposefully launched the app in months, at least. That's not to say I don't take photos--like everybody else with a smartphone, I snap my fair share. Last week I traveled to Portugal and the UK, and took a couple hundred alone.

iPhoto, for me, is really just a repository for the photos that get imported to it via Photo Stream--someplace that I know that all my photos are safe and sound. And I've been wary of adopting its successor, iCloud Photo Library, in part due to some concerns about its uploading process, but mostly because what I have right now works fine, and its stability is a matter of record.

Still, I know this system is untenable in the long term, as Photo Stream will probably go the way of iTools and Ping in the not too distant future. And if recent announcements from Amazon and Google are any indication, my photos are about to become a hotly contested battleground.

Or, as a certain Jedi master might say, "Begun, the photo war has."

Accept no substitutes

Photos occupy the intersection of data that is both cumbersome and difficult to replace. If I lose another media file, such as a movie, TV show, or song that I've bought, chances are I can redownload it or find it again online. Photos, on the other hand, are often irreplaceable. And unlike my other irreplaceable files, which are primarily word processing documents and PDFs, photos occupy a lot of space. We're talking about an iPhoto Library that's 55GB, goes back over 15 years, and contains thousands of photos. And that's still pretty small compared to other folks I know.

Of course I do back up my photos, both to a USB hard drive nightly and daily via the cloud backup service CrashPlan, and while that makes me confident that my photos aren't about to totally disappear into the ether, neither of those do anything about providing ways to access or view those pictures.

In truth, what I want--and what Apple, Amazon, and Google are all promising to various degrees--is the ability to store and access my photos, no matter what device I'm using. Given that all are offering similar features, the question then becomes: to whom do I trust my precious, irreplaceable pictures?


This is where we get into priorities. I've spent enough time with products from Amazon, Google, and Apple to be able to figure out the respective strengths and weaknesses of each. Amazon, for example, is great at scalable storage, but it doesn't have much of an ecosystem and its software, especially for Apple devices, is often lacking. Apple, on the other hand, creates great software, but often falls down when it comes to online services.


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