Google Photos has long been the preferred method to backup photos on Android. Google Photos offered unlimited high quality photo storage while limiting original or best quality photos to the storage available. OG Pixel benefited from free full quality photo backup forever. Subsequent Pixel users were offered free backup with an expiration date.
Google announced on 11 November 2020 that it would be changing its storage policy. Google claims that it hosts 4 trillion photos with an additional 28 billion uploaded every week. Sizzling storage, Batman. That’s a lot of photos. In a move that shouldn’t really surprise, any new photo uploaded after 1 June 2021 will count towards their storage limit. High quality photos uploaded before then will not count towards storage limits. Full quality photos currently count against that limit. Google has also made it easy to see how long existing storage should last.
Best Overall; Best For Android; Best For Current Google Photo Users
If Google Photos and the Google ecosystem work for you but you need additional storage, consider signing up for a Google One plan. Plans start at $20 a year for 100 GB (the going rate). By discontinuing free unlimited photo storage, Google hopes users get onboard with Google One.
Google Photos does offer excellent search capabilities. Google’s AI learns to recognize faces and objects extremely well making it easy to search through numerous photos. Editing in the mobile app or on the web is simple. There are also smart one click enhancements that will make almost any photo look better. If your main goal is a simple to use photo management service that can easily sort and search all of your photos, Google Photo is the way to go.
Google One can be shared with five other people. Unfortunately, the free 15 GB each user receives is sucked up by the One plans. For example, two users would have 30 GB of free storage between them. When both users are part of the 100 GB plan, they only have 100 GB total. Other services layer free storage on top of paid plans. Google includes it so a $20 / 100 GB plan is effectively 70 GB for two users or as little as 10 GB when all six users join a plan. Yes, that’s 90 gigs of free storage between six users and 10 gigs for $20.
The Best Google Photo Alternative
Part of what makes Google Photos so great is the AI: the ability of Google Photos to automatically identify different faces, group them together, create albums, and make it easy to search across countless photos. Amazon Photos rivals this ability with its own ability to identify different faces and group places together. Similar to Google, Amazon creates keywords that can be searched too. Even in my initial test with roughly 50 photos, Amazon accurately identified seven different people and populated keywords like glasses, smile, baby, tree, and dog.
The included photo editor has the standard options to crop, adjust, and add text. Various filters are available.
Photos can be shared in custom groups. The recipient is not required to have Amazon Photos to access or download the photo or video. Media can also be shared via a custom link.
The Family Vault makes sharing photos even easier. Up to five people can be invited to participate in the Family Vault (of course, they don’t have to be family). Photos can be selectively shared in the Family Vault with an option to automatically include all uploads. There is a single button to remove all of your photos from the Family Vault.
Amazon Photos includes a Hidden Items section. Photos and videos stowed away here will not show up in the Family Vault (or anywhere else) by default.
Deleting photos prompts for a location. Do you want to just delete from Amazon Photos or from your device? Or both. It is very clear what’s happening when a photo is deleted. Upon clicking delete, Amazon Photos will warn that the item will be permanently deleted after 30 days.
The Amazon Prime membership includes unlimited full quality photo backup and 5 GB of storage. That storage can be used for videos or files in the Cloud Drive. Prime membership runs $119 annually or $12.99 monthly. Other benefits includes faster shipping and Prime Video.
Additional storage is available. 100 GB is $20 annually, 1 TB for $60, 2 TB for $120, and so on. The prices are comparable to Google although photos won’t count towards that the storage limit on Amazon.
Amazon Photos is available on Android, Fire tablets, iOS, Mac, and Windows.
For Apple users, the iCloud is a no brainer. Apple’s iCloud integrates better with Apple products than anything else. Photos are automatically uploaded from iPhones to iCloud for safe backup. Unfortunately, iCloud is limited to iOS, Mac OS, and Windows. iCloud includes 5 GB for free with 50 GB costing $12 annually, 200 GB for $36, and 2 TB for $120. The 2 TB plan can be shared.
Flickr was the go to photo service for years. At one point, Flickr offered 1 TB of free photo storage. Like Google, Flickr eventually found that to be unsustainable. Today, Flickr limits free users to 1000 photos or videos. Flickr Pro is the paid service that includes unlimited photo backup. Pro is available monthly for $6.99, for three months at $18.99 (that’s $6.33 a month), and annually for $60 ($5 a month). Flickr is available on Android and iOS. Pro users have access to the Flickr Uploader that works with iPhoto, Dropbox, and Windows.
Best For Free Storage
Mega starts out with 50 GB of free storage, more than any other service listed here. That’s enough to hold roughly 16,000 photos. For those fleeing Google Photos looking for a quick free alternative, Mega is the best option. Mega’s lower tiers of storage are slightly more expensive while the higher tiers become much more lucrative. Mega is available on Android, iOS, Linux (DEB/RPM), Mac, and Windows. A more thorough review of Mega can be found on Linux Friendly Cloud Services in 2020.
NextCloud and OwnCloud
Best For Self Hosting
NextCloud and OwnCloud have been lumped together because their purposes are so similar. Both allow home users to easily host a personal server. Mobile apps are available to backup phones. Unlike every other single service listed, your photos, your data, your videos are never hosted anywhere else but on your own server. This is the best solution for privacy and security. NextCloud and OwnCloud are explored more in Linux Friendly Cloud Services.
A Microsoft product probably seems odd on Hacking The Hike, a website that actively promotes free and open source software. Microsoft’s OneDrive deserves a mention here given its versatility. OneDrive gives out 5 GB for free storage with 100 GB running a pretty standard $2 a month. OneDrive becomes more interesting with Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Family. Both 365 plans include Microsoft Office Online. The Personal plan includes 1 TB of storage while Family includes 6 TB total that can be shared with six people. Personal costs $70 a year and Family is $100.
If Microsoft Office is important to you, then consider subscribing to 365 to take advantage of Office and the included storage.
Like NextCloud and OwnCloud, Piwigo can be self hosted for complete control and privacy. For those looking for cloud based storage, Piwigo offers that too. For €39, Piwigo offers unlimited storage for photos only for one year. Discounted rates are available for two or three year plans. Enterprise pricing includes support for all files rather than just photos. Enterprise plans start at €45 annually for 50 GB. Piwigo is available on Android and iOS.
SmugMug is double dipping on this list. This service actually owns Flickr as well. The SmugMug “Basic” plan is $55 annually (or $7 a month) with the most expensive plan “Pro” hitting $360 annually. Feature wise, the plans are very similar. All of the plans include unlimited photo backup and 1080p video storage up to 20 minutes each. Pro accounts have access to more customizable websites, a helpful feature for aspiring photographers hoping to monetize. SmugMug has apps available for Android and iOS.
Best For Printing
Snapfish is a printing service first and cloud storage second. That’s not to discount Snapfish. It offers unlimited cloud storage with “active” use of its services. For those that want to print photos, Snapfish may be one of the more promising options. For the price of shipping, Snapfish includes 100 free 4×6 prints every month for mobile users. Snapfish claims shipping starts at $1.99. Photos can also be picked up at local drugstores like CVS and Walgreens. Snapfish is available for Android and iOS.
Snapfish lacks the basics many other services offer. There is no option to edit photos. There’s no sharing. There’s no family accounts. Its strictly a place to dump unlimited photos as long as prints are occasionally ordered. Snapfish does integrate with Google Photos, Instagram, and Facebook. Photos can be pulled from those to be printed through Snapfish.