As iPhone users, we’ve had it pretty good over the years. Watching Steve Jobs take that stage to announce the very first iPhone was a mind-blowing experience. But as good as the iPhone is, 12 years later, we’re still dealing with some nagging usability issues.

One of those is the lack of storage. While I was at home for Thanksgiving, I dealt with this first hand with my mom, who has an older iPhone 6S with just 16GB of storage. Her iPhone is her primary camera, and 16GB is not a lot in today’s world.

While she had iCloud Photo Library turned on, the photos were still being downloaded to her device. It prevented her from running the most recent iOS update. Sure enough, looking at her iPhone Storage, most of it was utilized by photos. While Apple was optimizing the photos that it was downloading to her phone, there still wasn’t enough space for the update to occur.

So what was she to do? Luckily, there was a much simpler solution by an unlikely party.

Going to the dark side

Believe it or not, Google Photos is the solution here. While it’s similar to Apple’s Photos app, offering a “For You” section, photo albums, sharing and the like, there’s one major advantage. Free, unlimited backup that even Apple users can take advantage of.

By downloading the free Google Photos app, you can back up all of the photos in your Apple Photos library, in high quality. Note this isn’t at the original quality — you can select that, but you’re limited to your Google account’s storage space — it’s a high quality compressed image.

For phone photos, this is probably OK for most of us. For me personally, I really only use my phone for behind-the-scenes photos, as well as a quick camera when I’m not able to take my Olympus with me. So how does this all work?

Getting started

The process to getting your iPhone photos into Google Photos is easy. First, download Google Photos on your devices (in this case, an iPhone) from the App Store.

Once the app has downloaded, you’ll be prompted to give Google Photos access to your photos. Click OK. Then login to your Google account and click Back up as [your name].

From there your backup settings will default to High quality (free unlimited storage). Keep this selected unless you have a plethora of Google account storage accessible to you. Click Confirm.

This will take you to the Photos screen. Here, you’ll see the backup progress at the top. As photos are backed up from your phone to Google Photos, you’ll also see an option to free up space on your device. If you click this, you’ll be presented with a prompt asking if you want to delete those items. Note these photos have already been backed up to Google Photos — you’re just deleting them from your phone.

Note that when you click Delete, your photos will remain accessible in the Apple Photos app for 30 days unless you manually delete the photos from the Recently Deleted album.

Going forward

After your initial backup, your photos will automatically be backed up any time you open Google Photos. If you don’t have the option on the Photos screen to free up space, you can access that by clicking the top left menu, and choosing Free up space.

You’ll be able to view these on any devices you have the Google Photos app on. You can also view your photos on the web at

A few notes

When you bring your photos into Google Photos, you will lose some functionality. Namely, any albums you’ve made in Apple Photos won’t exist in Google Photos without you recreating them.

When you hit Delete after clicking Free up space, your photos will not automatically be deleted from your iPhone. Instead, they’ll be put in a Recently Deleted album in the Apple Photos app, which you can then go in and manually delete from. If you don’t, the photos will be deleted automatically after 30 days.

Finally, if you have photos on your computer that you wish to upload to Google Photos, you can do that too through the web interface. Be aware that these will not be put in your Apple Photos library.

Lead photo by Jordan McQueen on Unsplash