I had someone on Twitter ask me about how iCloud Photo Library was working out, so I thought I would provide an update. iCloud Photo Library is officially still in beta, but I’m so tired of managing photos across my Mac, iPhone, and iPad that I’m willing to be Apple’s guinea pig in this regard. I previously uploaded all of my photos to iCloud Photo Library thanks to the power of the Photo Transfer app. After a few weeks of testing, I took the leap and uploaded all of my videos as well. So I’ve gotten to the point where all of my personal videos and photos are loaded into the cloud.
One new thing I have to report on is the experience of using iCloud Photo Library in conjunction with the beta version of the Photos app on the Mac. I installed the public version of the new OS X beta in the stupidest way possible — I assumed that the beta would be smart enough to detect that I had already uploaded all of my pictures to iCloud Photo Library in the past. Big mistake. I chose the option to migrate my iPhoto library to the cloud, and to my horror, the photos app started uploading all of my Aperture pictures to iCloud, creating duplicates and triplicates of each of my photos.
This duplicating of my library resulted in over 24,000 photos (when I really only had about 12,000). This was so many photos it was actually lagging iOS whenever I tried to bring the photo manager up in iMessage on my iPad. After painstakingly deleting duplicates and getting rid of old photo albums I knew I was never going to view again, I’m back at around 9000 photos (leaner than ever!). The photo UI lag is gone in iMessage, and I no longer have duplicates taking up precious space.
That Syncing Feeling
My new issue, which is a bit more mysterious, is that iCloud Photo Library likes to play this game where a single device will just stop syncing with the rest. It will drop out of the race, concede defeat, and stop syncing anything. Resetting the device and toggling Wi-Fi on and off doesn’t see, to help. The only fool proof method I’ve found has been to toggle iCloud Photo Library off and back on again. iCloud presents me with the choice of deleting all photos or downloading them to the device. I always pick the delete option, since it’s faster than having to download full versions of all of my pictures. This issue of paused syncing doesn’t happen all the time, but it has been one of the most significant issues I’ve had to deal with while testing iCloud Photo Library.
As for now well optimization is working now: 9000 photos on the “optimize” setting ends up at around 6.3 GB. The device tends to keep the last 1.5 months, including video, downloaded in full, so it’s pretty easy to review more recent stuff without having to download the full versions to my iPad. Anything further back does require some downloading, though.
When it works, using iCloud Photo Library across the Mac, iPad, and iPhone is a real pleasure. I love editing from right within the Photos app and watching the changes sync across all of my devices. Deleting files across all of my devices with a single tap can also be a little spooky, so I’m glad that the Photos app keeps deleted photos around for 30 days before actual getting rid of them.
I’ve certainly felt the sting of beta software over these past few months, but there’s no denying how awesome iCloud Photo Library is for managing me memories. I love it, and I think it’s one of the strongest features that Apple offers in terms of their software ecosystem. Dropbox has Carousel, Yahoo! Has Flickr, and Google keeps trying to make Google+ into a real service, but as far as I know, iCloud Photo Library is the only service of its kind out there. Nothing else syncs so photos and their edits so seamlessly across all of my devices. Apple still needs to work on the reliability of sync and faster streaming of videos, but I think they’re onto something amazing here, and I’m glad I decided to bet on them.