Image management on iPhone is a mess for Explorers … and everyone else

Today I worked on my chapter on Photos and Video management for Guides and Explorers. Before I could write out about how to incorporate still images into Notes as a memory tool I felt I had to address issues with managing storage demands of video and still images for an Explorer’s iPhone. Ironically this hasn’t been a problem for our Explorers — #1 deletes liberally and #2 isn’t that interested in images. It’s been a problem for the rest of the family though!

I’ve been afraid of this topic. I knew it was ugly. Apple cultivates a deserved reputation for creating beautiful images, but Apple geeks know that Apple’s photo management strategy went off the rails years ago.  Thirty minutes of 4K video (10GB) can consume all the free storage in lower end iPhones.

Today I put out my first draft and I feel my fears were justified. It will be interesting to see if iOS 11 and updated iCloud features help — but I’m not too hopeful. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is their “solution”, but it’s too expensive (Wifi and high quality broadband, $120/year data fee) for many Explorers.

I hope someone has a better solution. Here’s the draft for the storage management chapter (draft form, footnotes omitted):


iPhones in current use may have as little as 32 GB of storage (some of which is used for Apple’s basic apps) or as much as 256GB. Once upon a time this was a vast amount of storage, but 30 minutes of modern video may use all the local storage on a low capacity iPhone. Eventually video use will consume any amount of iPhone storage. Generous use of the still image “burst” feature will also use storage quickly.

There are no great solutions to this problem. Apple’s solution is to purchase iCloud Photo Library storage (see the user guide for how to do this). At the moment 2TB of iCloud Photo Library storage costs $120 a year and practical use of iCloud Photo Library requires high capacity WiFi. If an Explorer has the money to spend, and if they have high quality WiFi, then the iPhone will automatically move photos to Apple’s servers and free up storage on the iPhone. All the Explorers images will be saved — at least until they hit the 2TB storage limit (200 30 minute videos will do that).

With iCloud Photo Library there is an option for Guide to manage the Library. A Guide can use a web browser and an Explorer’s iCloud credentials to view their iCloud Photo Library. A Guide may then delete videos and images to free up space. Items deleted from the iCloud Photo Library will eventually be removed from the iPhone. Unfortunately there is no way to select more than one item at a time in the iCloud web view, so this is only practical for deleting large videos.

Apple’s iCloud Photo Library solution is not affordable for many adult Explorers. Technically inclined Guides may find Google Photos is a cost-effective way to manage iPhone images, but the complexity of using Google to mange iPhone storage use is well beyond what I can address in this book. Heck, it gives me headaches to contemplate it!

For an Explorer without WiFi the simplest practical approach is to go to Settings:Photos & Camera and turn off “iCloud Photo Library” and “My Photo Stream”. For simplicity I also recommend disabling “iCloud Photo Sharing”.

With these settings images will be stored locally. If the iPhone is backed up (see Chapter ___) then images will also be backed up, and they will use iCloud backup storage.

These images they need to be periodically deleted. This can’t be done remotely, a Guide or Explorer has to have the iPhone in hand to remove Photos. This is tedious, though deleting “moments” can help, or a Guide can go to Albums:Camera Roll and slide a finger over many images to select and then delete them.

What about images that an Explorer or Guide wants to keep? The simplest approach here is to select them on the Explorer’s iPhone and mail them one at a time to a Guide’s account for archiving. Another approach is to “share” them to, I’ll discuss that in the next section.

The bottom line is that image management on the iPhone is a mess. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is a solution for higher income Explorers, but limitations in the web browser view make it hard for a Guide to help manage storage. Most Explorers will need to keep their images on their device, and either the or a Guide will need to periodically remove them. Only a few images will be saved by mailing them to a Guide or keeping then as Notes.