For iPhone photographers, how will the new Google+ stack up against the rest?
A few weeks ago, Google held a press event focused around the Google+ social platform, unveiling a ton of new features and improvements. One of the big focuses was photos, backup, sharing and editing in particular, along with background sync and full-resolution uploads for the iOS application. So, potentially some big tools for iPhone photographers, but its a crowded space. Some folks might be happy enough with Photo Stream, but we're looking outside the Apple ecosystem here and considering more cross-platform solutions.
So, how well will the new Google+ stack up with your photos against three of the biggest competitors? Lets find out.
The Google way
Currently, Google allows you to upload an unlimited number of your photos to Google+. It's a pretty sweet deal but with a sizeable caveat; the images are downsized to 2048 pixels at the widest point. For casual photographers, and casual sharing with your friends this isn't a bad deal, but more serious photographers aren't going to want to backup downsized copies of their photos. The newest version of the Google+ app – not available at the time of writing – allows for full resolution photo uploads from your iPhone, but these count against your Google Drive storage quota. Google isn't the worst when it comes to free allowance levels, but likewise far from the best. You're given 15GB, but this is shared with all your Google Drive files, including documents.
Google will of course sell you increasing amounts of Drive storage for different yearly rates. If you're serious about your iPhone photography and you're going to be using it a lot, then stump for the most you can afford.
Google will also employ a bunch of auto-magical editing techniques to your photos, the so called 'Auto Awesome.' Again, this is probably as great for a lot of people as it is not necessary for many others. Google does now own Snapseed, and gradually in both desktop and mobile form the fruits of the acquisition are being seen. The Google+ app includes basic photo editing and a wide range of filters to add to your photos at the time of upload. Snapseed continues to operate as a standalone, free application for the iPhone, and the latest update sees a HDR filter included.
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So, that's what Google offers in a nutshell. Full resolution uploads are a huge deal, as is that Google has hooked into the background sync capabilities of iOS 7. Take some gorgeous photographs with your new iPhone 5s and back them up to Google in all their glory.
The competition - Flickr
The biggest deal with Flickr, and possibly the deal that sets it apart from all other photo services, is the free storage. Earlier this year Yahoo! gave it the overhaul and in the process gave all users 1TB for free. That is a ton of storage, and is unrivalled in the space. And, since Flickr only handles photos and videos, you won't be 'contaminating' your storage allowance with regular files. Google will offer you 1TB, but it'll cost you a less than cheap $49.99 per month.
Otherwise, the iOS app offers all the same goodies as Google+; Filters, auto upload, and with the added benefit of being able to share out to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Auto upload isn't the most reliable feature yet in our experience, but it is there. For serious photographers – iPhone or otherwise – Flickr is hard to beat for backup and sharing.
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The competition - Dropbox
For more years than we can remember, Dropbox has been the undisputed king of cloud storage. But that doesn't mean it's the best option or value for money. New Dropbox accounts get a pretty paultry 2GB of free storage, with a further 3GB free on offer for using their photo upload service. There are other ways to get more for no outlay, but ultimately if you want a lot of storage you might have to pay.
One bonus to Dropbox is that it's so widespread in its use that many other third-party services and apps can hook into it. Dropbox does also have an auto-upload feature in its current iOS app, but it must be open in order for that to occur. We've seen signs of a new, iOS 7 inspired update on the horizon, so hopefully proper background sync will soon be in play. But unless you know how to get lots of storage for free, Dropbox could soon become something you need to pay for to store all your photos. And if you want even basic photo editing, you're out of luck with Dropbox.
The competition - SkyDrive
Microsoft's cloud offering might not be the first thought for an iPhone photographer, but it's worth consideration. Again, SkyDrive goes beyond just photos if you're looking to combine all your cloud storage needs. It doesn't come with as much free storage as Google Drive, but more than Dropbox at 7GB. And, storage plans are actually pretty reasonably priced but do max out at 200GB on a personal account.
On iOS, the SkyDrive app doesn't have any form of auto-upload – also no iOS 7 update either – but it will work across your Mac and Windows PC as well as all other major mobile operating systems should you require. Since it's basically a cloud locker, SkyDrive also doesn't offer any form of photo editing in its iOS app.
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The bottom line
For serious photo takers, it's hard not to recommend Flickr as the better option if for no other reason that the massive amount of free storage. Google is making good steps in the right direction, and for anyone already deeply entrenched in their ecosystem it may turn out to be the best option in the long run. The added creativity tools and auto-enhance is perhaps more desirable for more casual photographers, but we're at least presented with several good options to choose from.
We appreciate that there's options out there far beyond these offerings from these four big hitters. But, there are a bunch of other options out there that we want to hear about from you guys. Have you found a photo sharing and storage service that you're really happy with? Drop it into the comments below and share it with us!