Apple yesterday released a preview of its upcoming all-new Photos app for Mac, which replaces iPhoto and Aperture with a simpler all-in-one photo editor and library manager. Most of the discussion of Photos focused on the huge number of changes from iPhoto and Aperture, burying one very important detail: Apple is changing the way it handles cloud-based photo storage.
Before Photos, Apple offered free storage of photos with limitations in a feature called Photo Stream, which didn’t count against iCloud storage. But the new Photos app uses Apple’s beta iCloud Photo Library feature, which was recently added in iOS 8.1. iCloud Photo Library promises to let you synchronize your entire photo collection including edits and albums across all of your devices… but you have to share your iCloud storage with photos, and album syncing and edits don’t apply to the free 1,000 – 25,000 image storage of Photo Stream.
As most long-time iOS users know, the free 5GB of iCloud storage Apple offers is often not enough to store much more than a single device backup, and for many that will mean no spare room for a photo collection. Consequently, Apple is suggesting that users should buy additional iCloud storage, paying monthly fees to store and sync their photos. As the Photos app is rolling out, Apple is allowing users to stick with the old Photo Stream feature and continue using the new Photos app without turning on the iCloud Photo Library. But it remains to be seen if that will be an option long-term once Photos is released publicly and how users will respond when they find out their free 5GB iCloud storage isn’t cutting it for their photo collection…