Automatically backing up photos via cellular data
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: I’m wondering if there’s some way that I’m missing to get iCloud Photo Stream to work over a cellular data connection or if there’s some alternative out there. I’m on the road a lot, and snap a lot of important photos on my iPhone, and hate the idea of losing everything if something happened to my iPhone before I got near a Wi-Fi connection. I know I can manually upload them somewhere using other apps, but that seems like a big hassle to do one at a time. Any ideas?
A: Unfortunately, Apple still doesn’t allow the iCloud Photo Stream feature to work over a 3G or LTE data connection, presumably for bandwidth reasons, so in terms of the built-in feature, you’re basically stuck waiting until you’re near a Wi-Fi network. Note that Shared Photo Streams do in fact work over a cellular data connection, but you not only have to select and upload photos to a shared stream manually, but the uploaded photos are scaled down to a lower resolution, since the feature is designed for sharing photos rather than backing them up.
The somewhat good news is that alternative solutions do exist in the form of third-party apps. However, since Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to simply run in the background, the process is somewhat less automated than the built-in Photo Stream feature. Essentially, even apps that provide automated photo transfer capabilities require that you actually open the app in order to begin transferring your photos. Further, if you have a large number of photos to transfer or a slower data connection, you may have to leave the app running to ensure everything gets uploaded; Apple only allows third-party apps to remain in the background for ten minutes, so if you close the app and it takes longer than that to transfer your photos, the process will simply stop and you’ll basically have to open it back up again to continue.
For example, Dropbox provides this capability as part of its native iOS app. You’ll need to sign up for at least a free Dropbox account to use this feature, however that includes 2GB of storage and the ability to automatically sync your files back to your PC or Mac.
Within the Dropbox app you have the option of enabling Camera Uploads for photos over either a Wi-Fi or Cellular Data connection. Photos are uploaded by the Dropbox app in full resolution, and stored in a “Camera Uploads” folder that will by default sync back to your Mac or PC as long as the Dropbox desktop app is running. Dropbox can also upload videos automatically—something that Photo Stream doesn’t support at all—however this is only available when using a Wi-Fi connection. A badge count also appears on the Dropbox app while it’s uploading in the background so you can keep track of how many images it still needs to deal with.
Dropbox has also recently added one other clever feature to try and work around the ten-minute iOS background limitation—if you’re moving around a lot, you can now enable “Background Uploading” which will use iOS background location services to restart the Dropbox app and resume your photo uploads automatically whenever your location changes. It’s a bit of a cheating method to get around an Apple limitation that arguably shouldn’t exist in the first place, but it should work quite well if you’re moving around a lot.
There are other apps that provide similar automatic upload capabilities, although these are most commonly related to social networks such as Facebook and Google+. Many of these services don’t necessarily upload your photos in full resolution, since they’re designed for sharing rather than backup purposes, although it’s notable that Google+ recently began doing this in its Android app, so it’s possible the feature may be coming to the iOS version at some point in the future.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- WSJ: Apple brings in trusted executive Mansfield to head Apple Car project
- CarPlay to be available in all 2017 Ford models
- Rumors claim new iPhone will be released Sept. 16, could have ‘iPhone 6 SE’ name
- Photos claim to show alleged ‘iPad Pro 2’
- Apple to sell limited-edition Olympic Apple Watch bands exclusively in Brazil
- Report: iPhone 7 will include Lightning adapter instead of Lightning EarPods
- Edward Snowden designing device to prevent iPhone wiretapping
- Report: Apple Car team running into challenges, launch may slip to 2021
- Corning announces Gorilla Glass 5
- Apple under fire for providing refurbished replacements under AppleCare+
- Netatmo Tags for Welcome Smart Home Camera
- iDevices Socket HomeKit-enabled Light Adapter
- Koogeek Wi-Fi SmartPlug for Apple HomeKit
- Marbotic Smart Letters for iPad
- Ecoxgear Sol Jam Bluetooth Speaker
- Gumdrop Cases DropTech Case + Hand Strap for 9.7” iPad Pro
- Braven BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker
- Braven BRV-Blade Bluetooth Speaker
- Invoxia Voice Bridge
- Incase Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Photos gets Advanced Computer Vision
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Music app delivers ‘clarity and simplicity’
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Maps gets a major redesign
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 shakes up the user experience
- Inside the betas: watchOS 3 promises a real speed boost
- Inside the betas: A sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 9.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.3
- Opinion: Why Apple needs a dedicated HomeKit app