Switching on iCloud Photos

We recently cancelled our cable/general TV subscription, which left us with a bit of an entertainment void. Not that TV was entertaining – we hardly watched anymore, hence the cancelling – but we do like to just “put something on” every now and then. So we decided to get Apple One (Premium, because we’re sharing with my mom).
I was, at first, a bit hesitant to enable iCloud Photos – we have nearly 40.000 photos/videos, and obviously we don’t want to lose any of them. So I asked my cousin how he felt about it (he’s been using it for quite some time). He seemed happy with it, so I was confident in turning it on. A couple of backups on multiple drives later, I clicked the checkbox in Photos’ preferences on my Mac – and the waiting began.

Upload Observations

All in all, it took well over 36 hours to finish the upload. I began in the morning, let it run overnight in the hopes it would finish, but the next morning, it still kept going for more than half a day. I noticed that Photos didn’t continuously upload all photos. It uploads for a bit, then does some encoding for a bit, and then uploads again a bit. Now thankfully, my connection is pretty good with a consistent upload rate of ~7MB/s so I thought it would be done fairly quickly, but I didn’t consider that any encoding could be going on. Judging from Activity Monitor, at least videos are encoded before they go up into the cloud.

My Mac (which has all the photos) was the first where I turned it on, and after it had finished, I also enabled it on my iPhone and iPad. Those were done syncing in about two days. “Thanks” to what Apple probably considers a “feature”: the constant pausing of the syncing process on iOS devices, in order to conserve battery: “Paused syncing to save battery”, it said anytime I looked. No! Why!? Sync!, that’s what the battery’s there for. Just do it, I don’t care. And don’t let me enable it for “a day”, let me enable it forever. Seriously. Get it done.

Comparing to Photo Stream

Previously, I mostly collected photos on my Mac via Photo Stream. And I have to say, while I do enjoy the new syncing features iCloud Photos offers (syncing albums, photo-edits, etc), newly taken photos now take noticeably longer to appear on other devices than before. Not a deal breaker, but noticeable.

“Unable to Upload”

65 photos were unable to upload, according to Photos on my Mac. Why? I couldn’t honestly tell you. Photos didn’t tell me. It should have, if you ask me. I’d have liked to know. And there’s no way to retry to sync those photos with iCloud. They’re just in the “Unable to Upload” smart-album forever.
Albeit, a bit of online research reveals an Apple support document with one of the weirdest and Apple-unlike solutions to a problem I’ve ever come across:
Step 1: Export the photos in question “unmodified” to a folder on your disk.
Step 2: Delete them from Photos (scary)
Step 3: Import those photos you just exported into Photos again to retry their syncing.
It worked (mostly), but still, why can’t I just do this in Photos itself?

Varying Photos count

An interesting tidbit: All my synced devices show a different photo count.

DevicePhoto countVideo count
Mac37.831461
iPad37.835461
iPhone37.834461
The video-count is the same on all devices, but photo-counts vary.

Of course, with that amount of photos, there’s no way – ever – for me to find out which photos are missing on which device. Because interestingly, when I connect the iPhone or iPad to my Mac, it tells me that the connected device only contains items that are already on my Mac. Go figure.

General Impressions

I’m happy with iCloud Photos. Finally, all my videos sync, and so do all “fancy” photos (with blurry backgrounds or any sort of effects) and edits, and the syncing seems to so far be very reliable.
No longer do I need to connect them once a month to make sure I have all photos collected on my main machine. Nice.

Face- and duplicates analyses appear to happen on each device individually, probably in the name of privacy (and iOS devices need to be – again, why? – connected to power for that to happen). I wouldn’t mind if that synced over (the found faces appear to, anyway).
It’s kind of weird that they constantly turn off those features to conserve battery, and then have all my devices do the same work. Wouldn’t it save even more battery if just one device did it? Oh well…

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