Google Photos…. unsung hero!

One of the biggest selling points of any smartphone now a days is its camera capabilities. Thanks to smartphones with biggest possible megapixel of camera and the so many channels of social media waiting to savour our creativity. There is no age limit and minimum skill required almost everyone has big bunch of pictures taken from his smart phone or downloaded from social media.

Although smartphone photography has revolutionized our photographic capabilities and our way of doing things on daily basis, its also the cause of lots of misery for many. Biggest undesired side effect of mobile photography is deficiency of disk space in expensive real estate of mobile disk space. Thanks to social media and messengers like WhatsApp, there is no limit on constant bombardment of “valuable” 😉 media into our smartphones day and night. The shortage of disk space is greatly contributing to degraded system performance and all kinds of system instability. On top of it if at all there is a sudden breakdown of the mobile phone either because of the hardware/software failure, or total loss of mobile phone itself causing complete lose of the valuable media collected over time. Unfortunately there is no way to recover them back. Everything from your child’s first day at school to your presentation pictures at your company board meeting all gone!

So there is a serious need for mobile media backup, so what are the choices? Well there are lots of free services already available such as Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Drop box, box etc. But there is one a little gem called “Google Photos’ always stands out in the crowd. Google Photos is another product from Googles arsenal of free services launched about a year back. Unfortunately its not very well utilized by people in my opinion. According to me “Google Photos” is one of the “Must Have” applications for any smartphone user. It doesn’t matter if you have iOS or an Android or a Windows Phone, you must have this app. If not, start using it from today….. Why? Read on..

Google Photos is a gallery application which lists any media file on your phone just like hundreds of Gallery applications available freely in the market. But what makes this little app special is kind of services it is offering other than just being a gallery app.

First biggest thing is its ability to sync the folder of your choice along with your camera folder to Google’s cloud storage! Yes its internet based sync, which backs-up your media into your own google account automatically. There are two modes of synchronization; it can synchronize files full size uncompressed, i.e. if your image is 5 mb in size then the whole 5 mb file is uploaded as it is. But this method utilizes the googles free allotted 15 GB data (which is shared between your email, google drive and other google services). Sad news is eventually you are gonna use up all the storage and either forced to buy more storage or start deleting the files manually. OR you could use the “best option” that is to use “Compressed” option, where google automatically compresses your image as it uploads and gives you unlimited storage space on googles cloud! Yes you heard it right, its unlimited space!  And more importantly when I say compressed don’t expect reduced quality image which is of no use; I could not make out the difference in quality between the original file and the compressed file. I have been using the compressed backup option since google released photos app and I am very happy with this arrangement.

Next biggest thing is capability of the application’s built in search functionality. You can search for a location, say, “New Delhi India”, you will be presented with the photos you have taken during your New Delhi trip. You can also search for “Beach” to get all your beach pictures; you can also search for things such as “Dog” or a “Drink”. Sometimes it’s fun to play with search function. I am surprised when I asked for “Black shirt” and to see all my pictures where I am wearing a black shirt. Amazing huh…?

Also google photos can now group people by face, yes, yes , yes. Facial recognition is not a new thing but this little app does the job perfect. Now you can tag all suggested faces to your contacts in your contact list. Once done app keeps adding people to the list automatically and now you can search for contact name too. You can also search for things like “Me and Dog” or “Me and John”; it would just filer the image and shows you the result set.

Now the important thing, let’s say, now you have run out of space because you had lot of images in your phone, now what? Just pull up the side menu in the app and choose “Free up space”, Google Photos would automatically find out media which are already backed up and deletes them from your phone. Still it would show you the thumbnails of all your synced media but it’s not taking space on your phone. If you really need a copy you can manually download it any time as long as you have internet connection.

You can also share an image or a folder with other google users and start a discussion on the image. Also you can share any number of folders from your phone to be synced into google cloud.

Some important settings to note down in the app:

Backup and Sync > Backup device folders and choose all the other folders you want to sync.

Upload size > High Quality (free unlimited storage)

Cellular data backup > I disable this as I don’t want to use up my mobile data, this way it will only backup on Wi-Fi network.

While charging only > This way I get enough time to delete unwanted images manually, otherwise any picture which you don’t want to backup will also get backed up moment you connect to Wi-Fi.

You can access any of your synced data from any computer by accessing the link photos.google.com from any device and anywhere. Also note that if you delete a photo from photos.google.com its deleted from cloud as well as your phone.

Hope this information is enough to get you started. Now important thing, since you have decided to go for online storage of your personal data, be aware that google can read it, I mean see it. Your account can get hacked and all your personal pictures can go public. So understand the risks and take action. If you continue to use this option, make sure your google account is secure and has a complex password. Your mobile number is associated with your google account so that you will be able to reset your password using the OTP from google. Also I strongly advise you to setup two level authentication mechanisms. That’s how I have setup my account. Use your wisdom to choose what is best way to backup and protect your data.

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