I have a Windows Phone 8.1, Android 4.4 and an iPhone running iOS 7.1 and each platform has it’s own cloud backup service for photos you take and I thought it would be great to consolidate them all into a single service, so all my photos are in one place along with any screenshots I take on the device. It sounds simple doesn’t it? What could possibly go wrong? I didn’t realise this would end up being a four week test of trials and tribulations.
I have Amazon Cloud Drive, Box, Dropbox, Google+, OneDrive and SugarSync to name a few along with Google Drive, but I’m going to focus on the more usable solutions which are Amazon, Dropbox, Google+ and OneDrive.
By default out of the box, here’s where each platform backs up photos to
- Android -> Google+
- iPhone -> PhotoStream
- Windows Phone 8.1 -> OneDrive
So as you can see, there’s room for consolidation here! Before doing so I should say that Android uploads photos seamlessly to Google+ without the need to open an app, it does it in the background. The same for iPhone to PhotoStream, it syncs whether the phone is locked or not, and the same for Windows Phone 8.1, it backs up seamlessly to OneDrive without the need to open any application. So all of these work well to their own cloud systems but what I want is a single cloud storage platform where ALL my photos and screenshots get saved to.
- Amazon Cloud Drive
- I installed the Amazon Cloud Drive app, it’s slow, not the fastest on the block to show thumbnails in the cloud, but that’s not what I want it for, I want it to backup my photos seamlessly to the cloud. The app is in it’s infancy, Amazon have just beefed up its service recently to support auto-upload, the app seems to upload photos and videos perfectly fine to Amazon Cloud Drive without the need to open the app.
- I installed Dropbox but had some issues with it not auto-uploading the photos, recently Dropbox released Carousel and I tried that, it works a lot better and works flawlessly. Okay that’s two apps that work great on Android.
- There’s really not a lot to say about Google+, it uploads photos automatically without any problem whatsoever, although I have had previous Android devices that don’t seem to upload well or stall the photo uploading. I’ve had this under iOS too, so when it works well it works well, but sometimes can hiccup and fails, although Google+ is the native cloud storage for Android, so that’s 3 apps that work well now.
- I’ve hit into a few problems with OneDrive, sometimes it seems to upload and sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time it does auto-upload, but maybe it’s just not happening as fast as I expect it.
So there’s almost a 4 out of 4 there in terms of camera auto-upload on Android. However, there’s one problem, although all the photos uploaded perfectly fine, the screenshots didn’t. Screenshots don’t get saved in your Camera Roll, they get saved in a folder called Screenshots. So to get Screenshots to auto-upload, well they just won’t. You have to either open each of the above apps and manually select and upload screenshots you take, or you have to manually copy/paste them from the screenshots folder into the camera roll to get them to then auto-upload.
- PhotoStream is only available for iOS, it works a good 90% of the time but sometimes photos don’t get uploaded. I see this a lot when I look in iPhoto on the Mac or check another iOS device. Sometimes you can force it by adding the photos to another Shared PhotoStream and suddenly they then appear in your main PhotoStream. This works well with phone locked, although for the purpose of this test, I wanted to use ONE system, so as Android and Windows Phone can’t use PhotoStream, then this test fails, so onto the next app.
- Amazon Cloud Drive
- The annoyance with Amazon Cloud Drive and I think it’s an iOS native problem is that although the application works in background mode, you constantly get notified in the notification centre that the app has stalled to upload photos, you need to open the app to re-upload. So you re-open the app, it starts to upload, you browse away to another app or lock phone again and you get notification again that you need to open the app. So for me, this fails because the next time I go to launch the app because I keep forgetting to launch it, I have several hundred photos which takes 20 minutes to upload.
- Dropbox seems to be affected just like Amazon Cloud Drive by the same problem that you need to keep opening the app. However, Dropbox released Carousel recently and this seems to not have this problem, or at least not from what I’ve seen so far.
- Google+ seems to stall a lot just like Amazon Cloud Drive, the problem though I have with Google+ is that there’ son way of jump starting it once its failed to upload photos, so unless you manually tag photos to upload it won’t catch up.
- OneDrive unfortunately fails in the same way as Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox native app and Google+ where you find you get the notification that the app needs to re-open to start uploading photos.
So for iOS, PhotoStream is pretty much the most accurate auto-uploader but if you want a centralised cloud photo backup system then Dropbox’s new Carousel works extremely well in my tests.
Windows Phone 8.1
- I’ll cover OneDrive first because OneDrive is the native solution for Windows Phone 8.1. OneDrive works flawlessly unlike under iPhone and some problems under Android. You’d expect it to work right though wouldn’t you?
- Amazon Cloud Drive
- There’s no official app on Windows Phone 8.1 for Amazon and any of the third party apps don’t offer auto-upload from what I can find which rules out Amazon.
- Again there’s no Dropbox native client on Windows Phone 8.1, there are other apps like CloudSix for Dropbox, they do offer auto-upload functionality although these have failed dismally for me. I have to open the app manually and let it sync the photos which isn’t my intention.
- Google don’t have a native Windows Phone 8.1 app, in-fact Google don’t have any native apps on Windows Phone 8.1. There are third party developers apps available but none that will upload to Google+ as it’s a closed system with no API’s allowing for third party developers to hook into their system to upload photos.
So for Windows Phone 8.1, this is where auto-upload for photos to Cloud Storage really falls down. Pretty much the only one that works is OneDrive, and it does work flawlessly but it seems as though I won’t get a single platform to store my photos on unless I upload them manually. Now, here’s another problem that I hit into. Even though OneDrive works flawlessly, there’s still another problem, just like Android, the screenshots get saved to a different folder, and these don’t get uploaded automatically as OneDrive app can only monitor the main camera roll and not the screenshots folder. Which means you have to manually open up OneDrive app and choose your Screenshots folder and manually upload each screenshot you take.
I’ve come to the conclusion for now that Windows Phone has to stick with OneDrive for auto-upload of photos to the cloud as no other cloud system with auto-backup works. Android works flawlessly (pretty much) across all the cloud platforms and apps, I found Dropbox to be the most reliable using the Carousel app from Dropbox. iOS works well with Dropbox’s new Carousel app and just like PhotoStream it works about 90% of the time. So I’d have to say that Dropbox is as close as I could get to using a single Cloud Storage for my photos with auto-upload although Windows Phone still doesn’t play well. I’m half tempted to just stick to OneDrive for Windows Phone 8, Dropbox for Android and PhotoStream for iOS but at least getting iOS onto Dropbox means I have 2 out of the 3 platforms using the same cloud backup system.