Google vs. iCloud: Which wins the pick for your pics?


Picture this! Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Android

One of the best things to come out of Google’s I/O keynote on Thursday was Google Photos, a brand new service for storing, sharing, and organizing your images and videos.

It’s totally free — no matter howFriday-Night-Fights-bug-2 many items you upload — but is it better than the competition?

In this week’s Friday Night Fight with Cult of Android versus Cult of Mac, we pit it against Apple’s iCloud Photo Library service to find out which is the best pick for your pics.

Luke Dormehl (Writer, Cult of Mac): Happy Friday, Killian. Hope your heart rate has returned to its normal rate after yesterday’s scintillating Google I/O event.

Killian Bell (Writer, Cult of Android): It returned to normal about halfway through, when I realized the Android Wear updates I was incredibly excited for weren’t coming.

LD: It must be hard to stay in a relationship with Google for as long as you have. So much disappointment. But let’s talk Photos. Overjoyed?

The highlight of Google I/O

KB: Yes! I think Photos was one of the few highlights of the I/O keynote. It offers everything you want from a photos service, including automatic backup, a great selection of editing tools, the ability to share to almost anyone via almost everything, and best of all, unlimited storage.

Even for an iOS user, Photos has to be exciting. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to use it.

LD: I’ll admit the unlimited storage part is certainly appealing. Apple’s free 5GB disappears incredibly quickly.

With that said, having been a long-time Apple user I enjoy the ease of its Photos app. And then there’s the big issue, of course, which is the fact that I don’t understand why anyone would want to hand over the keys of their personal photo album to a company as data-hungry as Google.

I look forward to ads targeted at me based on the expressions I showed on holiday last summer.

KB: Trust me, Google isn’t interested in anything you’ve got in your photo library. Your photos are perfectly secure, and no matter how many of them you have, you can back them up for free. What’s more, Google will ensure they can’t leak out, so you won’t wake up one day to find your nudes are splattered all over the internet.

If only Apple could promise that.

Take that, iCloud Photos! Photo: Giphy

Take that, iCloud Photos! Photo: Giphy

LD: Ha! I knew you’d bring that up, but it’s a bit of a disingenuous dig at Apple. Of course security is going to be an issue for any cloud-based storage, but the fact is that Google’s entire business model is built on analyzing metadata to work out how best to sell products to you.

The whole ‘Fappening’ event was more than regrettable on Apple’s part, but there’s no way around the fact that Tim Cook has been far more outspoken about how Apple doesn’t want to look through your emails, your messages, your photos, and whatever else. I really do think this is going to matter to people, no matter how good Google’s new service is.

Which brings about my other question which is, is the only selling point on Google’s part the fact that it’s free? That’s definitely a positive, but is there much Google’s new Photo service can do that Apple’s iCloud Photos can’t? I’ve certainly never experienced any problems with Apple.


KB: Yup. A lot more.

Firstly, Google Photos is cross-platform, which is pretty important for someone like me, who uses Android and iOS devices. I can’t take photos on my Galaxy S6 and have them show up in iCloud Photos, but I can take photos on an iPhone and have them back up to Google Photos.

Google’s service also identifies people, places, and objects in your photos, so without any tags at all, you can search for things like “dog,” “toddler,” or “beach” and find relevant pics. Then there’s the awesome Photos Assistant, which automatically makes cool movies, collages, and animations for you.

LD: Tell me more about the way Google identifies people, places and objects without tags or mining of metadata , won’t you? To be fair, it does sound like this is one area Google’s done well, for the most part. Or at least well enough to have dragged something salvageable out of I/O. But for anyone who uses exclusively Apple products, I’ve still got to give the edge to Cupertino.

KB: How can you give the edge to Apple, though? I have to ask you the same question you asked me: What can iCloud Photos do that Google Photos can’t? Why should I pay monthly for a service that’s not as good, even if all I use are iOS devices?

LD: I’ll give you this, Killian: you’re persistent. I’ll admit that Google Photos definitely looks incredibly polished. Google has had its share of misses as of late, but this is far more likely to join the Maps, Books, Scholar successful end of the spectrum than it is the Google Glass trash heap.

I want to take a deeper dive into it before I can do a real head-to-head comparison, but I think a lot of people are going to be happy to pay Apple a pittance per year to use a service that doesn’t snoop into their family archives than a free one which does.

Can we agree that Google has created something that’s “creepily good”? That seems to cover all bases.

But I’ll sticking with iCloud for now. After all, when Google finally gets around to unleashing its army of killer robots which pictures do you think the would-be Terminators are going to be training their facial recognition machine learning tools on?

That’s right: those photos of you on the beach with your family last summer. Save us Tim Cook, you’re our only hope!

But seriously, if this move prompts everyone else to lower their costs of storage that’s not going to be a bad thing for anyone, is it? I’ll chalk this one up to a win-win all round.

You've got to give this one to Google Photos. Photo: Google

You’ve got to give this one to Google Photos. Photo: Google

KB: Ha! I can see plenty of people switching to Google Photos. iCloud Photos is nice if you only ever use Apple devices, but I don’t see why anyone would pay for a service with fewer features. And for that reason, iCloud Photos won’t be the only service that loses customers to Google; the likes of Flickr, Dropbox, and many more can expect their users to start running, too.

And if Google’s analysis of my beach snaps means it can recommend me awesome deals on Speedos when I’m shopping, then I’m all for it.

Friday Night Fights is a series of weekly death matches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?