Whether you use an iPhone or an Android as your daily driver, there are millions upon millions of apps out there to pick from. But in the past few months I've found that one app has exceeded my expectations by such a degree that I just can't shut up about it: Google Photos.
Originally developed as part of the company's doomed Google+ social media platform, Google Photos has blossomed into the best app you can get for an iPhone or Android phone. While other apps on my phone like the web browser, the camera, Google Maps, Spotify, and messaging services get just as much usage, Google Photos is the only one I honestly can't live without.
Like most people, I take tons of photos with my phone. When I get a great one I might share it to Facebook, or text it to my friends, or save it for editing later, but I rarely have time to do anything else. The only other time I might look at something I shot is when I run out of space and need to delete the photos I can live without.
The problem? I'm a new parent, and there just aren't that many photos I want to live without. Google Photos has a simple solution: back up everything to the cloud automatically. As soon as I get to work or get home, Google Photos starts storing my photos online, attached to my Google account.
The free app provides unlimited storage of all my photos at a reduced size, with 20GB of free storage for shots at original quality. For photos taken with my phone, the compression isn't that destructive so I rarely bother to dig into my 20GB. (Google also offers unlimited storage at original quality for photos taken with its excellent Pixel phone)
The beauty of Google Photos is that it does all this without bugging me, and it doesn't slow my phone down while it's working. And once photos have been backed up, the app periodically asks me if I want to delete the originals off of my phone to save space. As someone who used to have to constantly juggle photos around to free up storage space on my phone, eliminating that anxiety alone was a life-saver.
And while losing the original does make the quality-obsessed photographer in me squirm a bit, the convenience of having all of your photos online in one place just can't be beat.
If I want to show off a photo on a larger screen, it's already on Google Photos and all I need is a web browser to access it. And when I switch phones (something I do at least four or five times per year when we are reviewing a new one), all my photos are available on the new device once I download the app.
Where Google Photos truly shines is in its clever use of artificial intelligence, though. Despite never tagging any images, I can just search "baby" and photos of my daughter come up. I can also tag her face once and search for her by name. Creepy? Sure! But it's also super useful.
I've even taken to relying on Google Photos to assemble little videos for me. The service automatically takes any bursts of photos you shoot and composes them into short GIFs. This means when my daughter is doing something cute I can capture a burst of photos, knowing Google Photos will find the best one, save that, and turn the rest into a cool little clip.
While I might print out the stills and put them on my wall, the little videos are actually what I show to people when I'm playing the role of Proud Dad. Some of my favorite photos of my daughter are these clips that Google Photos created, sometimes from photos that I would've deleted without a second thought otherwise.
For a free app to save me so much time and so much hassle is incredible. Sure, the fact that thousands of photos of my family are living on a server somewhere is a little creepy. But having all those photos stuffed into a shoe box in a closet somewhere would just be sad.