Q: I got a notice from Apple saying My Photo Stream is shutting down, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about it.
A: Storing and managing photos is one of the most important tasks anyone with a smartphone needs to understand.
Apple’s feature My Photo Stream stopped automatically uploading photos June 26, and disappeared from Apple devices the same day.
Hearing the feature is shutting down may cause anxiety for some Apple users, but it shouldn’t.
It can sound scary and confusing for those who aren’t familiar with the intricacies of Apple’s photo management scheme.
What is My Photo Stream?
Launched in 2011, My Photo Stream was designed to make it easy to sync photos across multiple Apple devices — iPhones, iPads or macOS computers.
It automatically stored up to 1,000 of your most recent photos for 30 days so they could be easily viewed and downloaded by your other Apple devices. It didn’t upload live images or videos, just photos.
The photos are stored for free and do not count against your iCloud storage limit, which is likely contributing to Apple’s decision to shut it down. Apple wants to maximize income for its iCloud service, so anything that gets you closer to the storage limit might encourage you to start paying a little each month for online storage.
Most Apple users have an iCloud account set up and have all their photos and videos uploaded automatically, which can also be used to share across devices.
If you don’t have an iCloud account set up and have multiple Apple devices that can take pictures, it’s possible that photos will only be available on the device that took them.
The good news is if you only have one device or already have an iCloud account set up, there’s nothing you need to do other than make sure you are signed in on all your devices.
Check your devices
To see if you’re currently using My Photo Stream, open the Photos app, tap on the Albums icon at the bottom of the screen and see if My Photo Stream shows up in the My Albums section.
If it doesn’t, you are probably already using iCloud photos, which you can confirm by going to Settings, finding your name, then tapping iCloud and finally Photos. If it isn’t turned on, you’ll want to either turn it on or set up another service to create automatic backups of your photos and videos.
Google Photos alternative
Apple provides 5GB of free storage for iCloud users, while Google Photos provides 15GB for free. iCloud accounts can also back up email, notes, text messages and dozens of other non-photo-related data files, which leaves even less space for photos and videos.
Google Photos only backs up photos and videos, so it may make sense to use iCloud for everything except photos and videos.
Another great advantage of Google Photos is that it’s accessible from virtually any kind of device, so it’s better for families that have a combination of Android and iPhone devices.
Google Photos for iPhone and iPad setup instructions are posted here.