Losing photos and videos due to hardware failure hurts you more. Hence, it is crucial that your photo and video library is adequately backed up, especially in decent cloud storage. Easier said than done – the high resolutions associated with smartphone cameras combined with miserable storage offerings mean you’ll run out of space sooner rather than later.
OneDrive and Google Photos are two cloud storage services that offer top-notch syncing capabilities when it comes to backing up multimedia content. However, among certain aspects, the functions they offer differ greatly. So, how do they stack up against each other on the major mobile platforms? Let’s find out.
While OneDrive gives the impression of being a cloud storage for all kinds of files in general, it also doubles as a photo backup service. It’s available on both iOS and Android, and it works well, thanks to Microsoft’s uncanny taste for high-quality mobile app development. You can get it either from the App Store or Play Store.
On the other hand, Google Photos focuses only on photos and videos, leaving other file types to Google Drive – this reduces confusion about what the app actually does. Google Photos comes pre-installed by default on most Android devices, but you can download it from the Play Store if you remove it at some point. For iOS devices, the App Store is the place to get it.
OneDrive and Google Photos allow seamless uploading of photos and videos to the cloud. On iOS and Android, install the OneDrive app, enable camera upload from within the Settings panel, and you’re good to go. Google Photos does the same thing once you provide it with the appropriate permissions required upon installation – the app prompts you automatically as soon as you try to set it up.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of both apps. OneDrive’s upload management capabilities seem rather limited. On Android, you can manage certain preferences such as enabling video backups, selecting Wi-Fi-only uploads, and choosing individual media folders to take a backup. The iOS version has a bunch of extra features like background uploads, photo organization by month or year, and automatic conversions of HEIC photos to JPG. But that’s about it.
On the other hand, Google Photos offers a larger set of options that include modifying upload preferences for both photos and videos, grouping photos by face, customizing assistant cards, etc. Several settings are also included that allow you to easily add contacts with whom You want to share your photo library with, as well as multiple ways to select the items you want those people to see or have access to.
But perhaps the most useful feature is the ability to free up massive amounts of space locally. To do so, tap the Free Up Space option, and any backed up photos and videos will be deleted automatically. This feature is very useful for devices running on low storage space.
Tip: The Free Up Space option is available within the Google Photos menu as well as within the app’s settings panel.
Free storage available
The free storage available is where the seams really start to appear between the two services. OneDrive offers 5GB of storage for your photos, but since the quota is shared with any other files you might upload, expect it to fill up pretty quickly. However, Google Photos offers a generous 15GB of free storage, which is three times the capacity of OneDrive – it’s also shared with Google Drive, but that’s not the end of the story.
Google Photos has two modes to backup your photos in high quality and original. They look quite similar at first glance. However, the mode you select can have a direct impact on how Google Photos consumes your storage. The original works just as one would expect – Google loads the images in their original resolution and therefore takes up a lot of storage space.
High quality, on the other hand, compresses your files, but not significantly – photos and videos are re-encoded to a maximum of 16MP and 1080p respectively, which is more than enough for normal use. But what makes this mode preferable is that it requires absolutely no storage space. This is correct. Upload thousands of photos and videos, and you’ll still have 15GB of storage left for other purposes.
View uploaded photos
OneDrive and Google Photos, albeit with some slight differences, work quite similarly on both Android and iOS. In the OneDrive app, clicking on photos moves the user interface to photo view. Named tabs show all your photos, albums, and tags, allowing you to easily view uploaded photos from all your devices regardless of platform.
The Albums tab in OneDrive, in particular, is very useful — while you can create your own albums from scratch, expect to also find auto-created albums that display recently-loaded collections of photos or past photos as memories. The same goes for the tags tab, which scans images and categorizes them with tags – person, animal, city, etc.
Google Photos takes things to a higher level. With advanced machine learning algorithms at work, expect all your photos to be intelligently analyzed and grouped by person, geographical feature, location, object type, etc. While OneDrive’s pre-set tags aim to deliver the same concept, Google Photos goes to the tiniest aspects – for example, OneDrive categorizes all photos with people under the broad #person tag, while Google Photos uses facial recognition technologies to group people individually.
Expect all of your photos to be intelligently analyzed and grouped by person, geographical feature, location, object type, etc.
Then there is the Assistant feature that provides you with the ability to easily create your own albums, movies, and animations from scratch. Do you want to paste some videos together to make a movie? Or do you want to create an awesome photo collage using a combination of photos? Not a problem!
On top of that, you also get access to a range of touch options and basic editing tools with a single click. Any changes made can be instantly re-uploaded to the cloud or shared with others.
Compared to OneDrive, Google Photos is significantly better in terms of photo management tools available at your disposal.
Your 5GB of OneDrive cloud storage is bound to run out in no time. And even with a Google Photos display of 15GB, you can fill up your quota pretty quickly if you start uploading photos and videos in original quality. When it’s time to upgrade your storage, here’s how the paid plans for both work.
OneDrive instant upgrade tier is 50 GB and costs $1.99 per month. Compare that to Google Photos, which offers twice the storage (100GB) for the same price, and you’ll have a clear winner.
The situation gets muddled with the higher tiers, with Google Photos offering 200GB and 2TB for $2.99 and $9.99 per month respectively as opposed to OneDrive’s $6.99 (or $69.99 per year) monthly fee for 1TB of storage. In the end, Google Photos is still ahead in terms of value per gigabyte.
Note: Prices are based on renewed Google One storage plans. Some regions may still use old Google Drive pricing structures.
However, OneDrive offers a bit of a middle ground with a 1TB storage plan, not to mention that the tier also carries a free Office 365 subscription. There’s also another 6TB plan, although that’s something equally shared by six users.
At the end of the day, you’ll never have to think about paying for storage if you plan to use Google Photos’ high quality mode. But with OneDrive, upgrading is an annoying reality right from the start.
on the desktop
It’s always better to be able to easily check out your media library on a bigger screen, but no matter what cloud storage you choose, it’s something you don’t have to worry about. OneDrive and Google Photos both feature PC and Mac support, with dedicated desktop apps that sync photos locally in real time. OneDrive uses the OneDrive sync client (pre-installed by default on Windows 10), while Google Photos requires the backup and sync client to be installed.
Tip: Alternatively, you can also use web applications OneDrive or Google Photos to access your photos via a browser at any time.
Once synced to a desktop, OneDrive uploads the photos into the Camera Roll folder by year (or month), while Backup & Sync categorizes them under a folder called Google Photos.
The desktop versions of OneDrive and Google Photos also offer the ability to automatically detect and backup locally stored photos and videos, as well as copy photos from connected SD cards, cameras, and USB devices to the cloud.
Aside from the fact that you can also upload photos to Google Photos using the high quality mode, there are no other noticeable differences between the desktop versions of the two cloud storages.
Well, what is the best?
Google Photos is definitely the better choice of the two – there’s simply no way OneDrive can beat its high-quality offering with unlimited photo and video backups. Even if you want to upgrade at some point, things still tend toward Google Photos with its cheaper tiers and better photo management features.
Unless you have a solid reason to stick with OneDrive (perhaps due to its close integration with Windows 10 and Office 365), there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t use Google Photos as your primary multimedia storage medium.