Google Photos vs. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library

If you use an iPhone, you are in the Apple world, and it seems logical to use the Apple photo solutions: Apple Photos and iCloud Photo Library. But, you also have the option to use the Google solution called Google Photos. Apple Photos is for use with Apple devices only. If perchance you also own an Android device, using Google Photos allows you to work with the same library of photos on all of your devices.

These are both large, sophisticatd apps with lots of features which work differently from each other, but, in my opinion, there is 1 defining difference between the two – the way they use the cloud.

Google uses the cloud as the final destination. Everything gets collected in the cloud and you can work with your library there – make albums, edit photos, share. The app in the cloud ( has nearly identical features as the app on iOS or Android.

Apple uses the cloud as a utility to keep all apple devices in sync. Delete a photo from one device, it is deleted from the cloud and all other devices. Add a photo to the cloud on one device and it is added to all devices. When viewing your photos in the Apple cloud ( you have very few tools, no editing, no making albums. The only way to work with your photos using a computer is to have a Mac with the Photos app.

I am a Google fan-girl, and I use Google Photos for all my photos. I use an Android phone and Windows computer. I also have an iPad, and an iPhone so that I can test how things work and be able to help people who use the Apple ecosystem. I do use both Google Photos and Apple Photos. There’s no real problem of having them both active on one iPhone as long as you take the time to understand it, especially when you delete photos. Google Photos allows you to delete a photo from the phone leaving it in the cloud, but if a photo is deleted from the phone, Apple iCloud will synchronize that deletion everywhere.

The Common Purpose

Both Google Photos and Apple’s iCloud Photo Library will store all of your photos online (aka “in the Cloud”) and allow you to view them all using a mobile device or computer. Both of them will automatically upload photos taken by your phone (or tablet) to your account online. Once all your photos are collected online, you can view them by going to a website ( or or using an App on your mobile device. Both Apple’s App and Google’s App are called “Photos.”

But that’s where the similarities end.

The Fundamental Differences

  1. Devices Supported:
    Apple’s iCloud supports iOS, Mac, and PC, but not Android.
    Google Photos supports iOS, Mac, PC, and Android. So, if you have an Android device that you use to take pictures, Apple’s iCloud solution is off the table.
  2. Deleting Photos from Device:
    Apple’s iCloud Photo Library cannot delete from device. If you delete a photo from any device using iCloud Photo Library it is deleted from every other device. There is one exception – if you have installed iCloud Photo Library on your Windows computer, it will receive all new photos added, but will not remove photos deleted from elsewhere. In other words, there is no “Sync’ing” with iCloud photos on Windows after the initial download of the photos.
    Google Photos allows you to delete photos from the mobile device that took the picture, while leaving the photo available in the Cloud. You must use the delete from device command to do this, not the normal delete – trashcan.
  3. Basic Cloud Philosophy:
    Apple: Apple uses the Cloud as a service to keep devices in sync. You can see the photos by going to, but you can’t do anything with them there.
    Google: Google uses the Cloud as the end game. It is where all our your photos collect and live forever. You can edit and create with them there. Once they’re in the cloud, Google Photos doesn’t care whether they are on the device where they started.
  4. Original vs. Compressed File Size:
    Apple Apple uploads your original size photo and allows you to shrink the copy left on your phone.
    Google Google allows you to shrink the photo that is uploaded and leaves the copy on your phone untouched. You can then delete the phone copy to free up space.
    I prefer Google’s method since it takes less bandwidth to upload smaller photos online. It also means that your web photos will be faster to view and use. Google’s compressed size is called “Storage Saver” and it maintains up to 16 Megapixels of photo quality while compressing the file size by about half. These are plenty good enough quality for family memories, you can print a good 8X10. If I really want to keep the original, I can use another method to copy my original photos. Either another cloud service like OneDrive, DropBox, or Amazon, or use a USB cable and copy the photos to my computer.
  5. Cost:
    Apple gives you 5GB of free iCloud storage space. That fills up quickly with full size photos. For only $1/mo you can purchase 50GB more or 200GB for $3/mo. See more pricing here.
    Google gives you 15 GB of free storage shared among Google Photos, Google Drive, and GMail. To buy more, is $1.99/mo for 100GB or 2.99 for 200GB.
  6. Sync with Computer
    Apple iCloud
     sees your Mac computer as another sync’ed device as long as you have iCloud Photo Library turned on. Add a photo from any device and it adds to every other one, delete a photo from any device and it deletes from all. The Photos App has a version that runs on the Mac – so your Mac computer is like a mobile device in the way Photos works. You can, however specify original sized photos to be used on the Mac. Windows computers have a version of iCloud Photo Library which will download the pictures, but there is no Windows version of the Apple Photos app, so there is no synchronizing.
    Google Photos only sees computers as a source of photos, computers are not sync’ed devices. You can upload photos from a Computer to the Google Photos library in the Cloud, but the connection ends there. Deleting from the library or from the computer will not delete from the other. Editing a photo on either side will not update to the other. You can also download photos from your online library to your computer.

Moving to Google Photos

If you agree with me that Google is the better option, the next question is: How do I get my pictures from Apple’s iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos? You can Install the Google Photos App on your iPhone or iPad and turn on Backup and Sync. Assuming you have iCloud Photo Library turned on, this will upload your complete iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos. It starts with your earliest photos and works its way to the present. In my test it was able to upload 400-500 photos per hour. Of course, your mileage may vary especially depending on your Internet connection speed!

That is how I uploaded my iCloud photos to Google, but there is now another way. You can request a copy of your iCloud photos to be transferred to Google Photos. Here is the official Apple Support page on how to do that.

If you are a Geeks On Tour member, we have a full series of tutorial videos on Google Photos. Here are the videos for just getting started. Notice that there are a few labeled *Free, meaning you don’t need a membership to watch them.


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