Out of Room: Why iCloud needs a new photo storage solution | iLounge Article


Out of Room: Why iCloud needs a new photo storage solution

Though traditional computer users—particularly tech-savvy ones—tend to take massive hard drives for granted, the shift to iOS devices with limited, flash-based storage has had an unintended but predictable consequence: people are running out of storage space. Music collections and movie collections aren’t the biggest problem; instead, it’s photo libraries, which continue to grow thanks to ever-improving cameras and the popularity of documenting everything, including meals, baby steps and funny things that happen in public or private. There are millions of memories to capture with a camera that’s always in your pocket, but if you’re not backing up everything on a computer, eventually running out of space is guaranteed. As more people adopt a “post-PC” lifestyle, the question of where and how to store iPhone, iPad, and other self-recorded content is going to become increasingly important. We’d like to propose an answer: iPhoto in the Cloud.

Years ago, the thought of carrying around precious memories on a device that could be easily lost, stolen, or dropped didn’t appeal to many people. Yet as soon as those same people started taking photos with the iPhone’s built-in camera, it became obvious that Apple’s cell phone would one day become an important photographic tool—and as the cameras became better, it was apparent to more people that these weren’t just throwaway images; frequent backups would be necessary to ensure the worthwhile photos were safe. Today, Apple users have 5- and 8-megapixel cameras, HD video recording, and iPads that can import huge photos taken with even more advanced, dedicated cameras. They also have ever-growing Camera Rolls that demand added storage space, the only major non-computer solution for which is iCloud. If you own an iPad and an iPhone and rely upon iCloud for backups, the odds are pretty high that you’ll need to upgrade your storage based on photo storage alone—Photo Stream doesn’t count against your free storage allotment, but photo backups do—and using iCloud for either temporary or permanent photo storage isn’t ideal. Some users might manually go through and delete unwanted images to save space, but over time, those libraries are going to get bigger and more unmanageable.

Eventually, a large library will push any iOS device to the limits of its storage management capabilities. Our editors often purchase Apple’s most capacious devices, but many of us have been forced at times to delete videos and or apps from a device just to create enough space so it can update apps—an unpleasant chore even for people familiar with iOS storage management, and a potential nightmare for common users. The problem is only made worse by Apple’s adoption of over-the-air Software Updates in iOS 5; iOS devices untethered from iTunes now require free space at times, and if you’re not using a backup computer, your only solution is to get rid of content to make space.

At the same time, the world of online photo sharing is in upheaval. Once unstoppable services like Flickr are seeing increased competition from social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and others, and Apple’s prior solution, MobileMe Gallery, is preparing to close down for good. So it stands to reason that Apple could easily kill two birds with one stone, either by building its own new photo sharing service—which would double as an online repository for all your iOS-synced photos—or by purchasing an existing solution, such as Flickr. Yes, that sounds crazy at first, particularly as Apple has been reluctant to make large acquisitions in the past. But Yahoo! is in the midst of a massive restructuring, and a purchase of Flickr by Apple would be far more feasible than it might have seemed a few years ago. Regardless of whether it fits with Apple’s past acquisition strategies, it would be a great move for the company, and for users.

Ideally, such a solution would be deeply integrated into iOS itself, allowing users to keep a certain subset of photos on their device, with the rest accessible from iCloud via built-in controls—see the “load more photos” button in the Instagram and Flickr apps for an example. These same cloud-based photo libraries could be integrated into iPhoto and Aperture on the Mac, providing similar functionality to the current Photo Stream feature but without the need to download each and every photo to local storage, and without the pesky 1,000-photo limitation. The libraries could even be accessed via web browser, should Apple decide to provide a HTML front-end for the service, letting users share their latest shots with a simple link instead of a full image upload. In effect, the service would be iPhoto in the Cloud, complementing the existing iTunes in the Cloud offerings, removing the next-largest storage concern from the discussion, and giving users more room for apps and other content.

Apple is keen on steering users into a post-PC future—and dominating it—but given the importance of photography to iOS users, it’s clear that a solution is needed for this particular issue. You can’t move into the post-PC future without a PC replacement to back up and manage your pictures; iPhoto in the Cloud would be the most sensible alternative.

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Long time reader first time commentor. I had to on this topic. iPhoto for the cloud is so needed, and your proposal is spot-on.

Storing and managing photos on my iPhone are the single biggest hassle of using this magic device.

Posted by Adriano on April 27, 2012 at 3:56 PM (CDT)


Yeah, i have been a huge MobileMe user and fan with photos.  IMHO, MobileMe is the sweetest synergy with iPhoto and Aperture.  Albums are trivial to create and upload.  And they look really nice when you send a link to someone.  I have countless albums on MobileMe.  iCloud has nothing but PhotoStream which is a pain.  EVERY picture you take goes to it.  I can’t afford to share it with ANYONE as you cannot limit it for anyone.  And, the spouse picks up the iPhone and takes a “fun” embarrasing shot… BOOM… it’s on the big screen TV in the living room in 3 minutes.

Apple needs a photo solution.  They are sending us all to other vendors in the center of the home media war.


Posted by Jim on April 27, 2012 at 7:43 PM (CDT)


Apple venture into these areas, then abandon them (and their customers).

I was one of the people who bought the iPod Photo and photo adaptor. It was only made apparent AFTER I “upgraded” to an iPod classic for more storage, that newer iPod’s were not compatible, a fact even the Apple support staff were unclear on at the time.

The recent release of the same device for the iPad just annoyed me, as again, it was not compatible with mainstream iPods or the iPhone - for no sensible reason. I wouldn’t even gamble on it working with the iPad3, because the chances would be 50/50.

Apple need to stick with products and support them, or people will lose trust in the company. If the old adaptor won’t work, release a new one, don’t just drop the product and it’s users!

How long before they get bored with iCloud and move the the next thing? Or just drop it because the storage space for so many photostreams is costing too much?

Posted by Anthony H. on April 30, 2012 at 11:28 AM (CDT)


I upgraded to an ipad 3 64gb to exclusively store more photos. i presently have approx. 24000 photos at 1200 x 900 pixels (low res) and approx 500 (best shots) at 12MP. I use icloud only for shots I take with my iphone 4S to view on my ipad. My next step is to get either the Seagate Go Flex Satelite 500GB wifi hard drive or the Cloud FTP wifi with a 1 TB portable hard drive as opposed to buying more icloud space.

Posted by bruce on April 30, 2012 at 4:00 PM (CDT)


Personally, I don’t trust cloud services.. anyone remember ClubPhoto?  I had many photos there, and lost all when then suddenly shut down without notice.  Now MobileMe, which I thought was stable and secure, is also shutting down - at least they are giving us some time to recover our data.

Nope.. for me it is a 1TB Western Digital portable HD:  it is fast with its USB3 interface (used on a PC), requires no external power, and is cheap: approx $100.

Posted by Paul on May 1, 2012 at 8:42 AM (CDT)


This article strikes a chord with me…
I am new to the Apple world, except for a few iPods and running iTunes in the Windows environment.
I bought my wife the new IPad 4G 64GB version and an Apple TV for Mother’s Day this year. One of my main reasons was to give easier access to out photo collection.
We have somewhere around 48,000 photos and 3,000 videos stored on our main computer at home. Even with the 64 GB IPad version, we come no where close to the ability to store all of these photos on one easy to use device. I have been searching the iLounge on ways to use the iCloud to fill such a need.
This article tells me that there is not an Apple solution to this storage war.
I don’t have a problem searching through file directories looking for particular photos, but I was looking for something a little more user friendly for my wife in order to easily access photos from 10 years ago or 10 minutes ago. I guess a Network Attached Storage device is the only way to go, and access to that would be limited to when we are actually at home. (Having to log onto another site/service might intimidate her.) Ease of use was the objective. Oh, well…
Any thoughts on how to ease the transition from PC to Apple when the main thing we use our computers for is photo storage?

Posted by H8NS8N on May 11, 2012 at 6:22 PM (CDT)


I’ve been using all of the iOS devices since day one. I’m also a hobbyist photographer. With all due respect, the issue you are dealing with is how much data do you really need in your iOS device? 

We have over 10 terrabytes of drive space in our house with not a whole lot of unsed space. We also spend at least 4 months a year traveling.  Yet I moved from a 64gb iPad 1 to a 32 gb iPad 3 because I didn’t need the space. On our current trip we have a 32 gb and 16 gb iPhone, a 32 gb iPad and a 256 gb MacBook Air. Important shared files are kept encrypted on DropBox and amount to perhaps 3 gb.

Music files?  An iPad is a lousy music player, too big, dumped.

Raw files?  For what, the iPad can do little to nothing with them. Other than using the iPad as a storage device on trips, dump them.

Video?  How much video can you possibly consume between syncs?  That’s about how much space you need for video. If its more than an iPad can hold, you might want to ask yourself if that’s how you want to spend your life.

Jpeg’s?  When’s the last time you looked at 10 year old photos?  How many images do you need to fully capture you last holiday?  Is the IQ of everything in the iOS device worthy of being saved.

You are looking for a solution in the wrong place.

Posted by Ray on August 15, 2012 at 6:48 PM (CDT)

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