Recover Space For Photos On Your Phone With Google Photos App

by Matt Mrowicki
March 22, 2017

Recover Space For Photos On Your Phone With Google Photos App

You're at a really cool live event, or a family get-together, or just need a good shot for Instagram and just as you’re about to take the perfect photo with your phone's camera you get the dreaded "cannot take photos" message, you're out of storage space.

Most people use up space on their phones in one of three ways: installing apps, storing music, and taking photos and video. With streaming music becoming more popular and common than buying and storing music locally, that's becoming less of an issue. But, those photos, thousands and thousands of memories that you never want to lose, can eat up storage on your phone really quick. If you don't have an iPhone, you can probably increase the amount of storage space on your phone with a MicroSD card, but off-loading those photos into cloud storage and off your phone's storage is the best way to reclaim the space on your device, while keeping your photos safe and accessible.

There are a number of services that offer cloud storage for photos, including Apple's iCloud and free photo storage available to Amazon Prime members, but one of the most popular and easiest to use is Google Photos, which offers free photo and video storage to both Android and iOS/iPhone users.

How To Install Google Photos

To install, go to the Apple App Store or Google Play and search for Google Photos.  You'll need to have a Google account, which you should already have if you're using Android and may have for another Google service, such as YouTube, if you're on iOS. If you don't already have a Google account, the app will help you set up one for free.

When you launch the Photos app and sign-up with your Google account, Google Photos will automatically start backing up the photos on your phone (over wi-fi, or on the cellular connection if you set that option), to the Google Photos cloud storage.

Accessing Your Google Photos

Once your photos are backed up to Google Photos, you can view them on the Photos app on your phone, or via a web browser at photos.google.com. You can download photos if you wish, and perform some basic photo editing. Photos are automatically sorted by date, and you can organize them by album.

Google Photos Assistant

The coolest feature of Google Photos is the Assistant. While the Assistant can perform some neat tricks, like creating collages or animating a series of photos, what we want is to get that space back on our phone so we can take more photos. On your phone, tap on the Assistant button and you'll see a message that lets you know how many photos on your phone still need to be backed up, and the status of any current backup. Ideally, you'll see a message that says "Backup complete," which means that all of your photos are safely backed up to Google's cloud storage.

Removing Backed-up Photos From Your Phone

If you then go to the hamburger menu (the three horizontal lines in the upper left-hand corner of the app), one of the options on the drop-down menu is "Free up space". Select this option, and Google Photos will tell you how many photos/video on your phone are safely backed-up to Google Photos and can therefore be removed from your phone ("Finding items that are already backed up".) After a few seconds, you'll see a prompt that will show you how many photos and videos can be safely removed from your phone. Tap "Remove" and Google Photos will remove the items from your phone, giving you back that storage space. Note: if you're using an iPhone, Google Photos moves the photos to the recently deleted folder, and you’ll need to empty that folder to finish the process and recover the used space.

Limitations of Google Photos

The automatic removal of backed-up photos is an all-or-nothing deal. Google Photos doesn't let you filter photos to keep on the phone, or allow you to lock certain photos to keep. So, if there are photos that you want to keep on your phone, you'll need to remove backed-up photos manually, or put the photos back on your phone from Google Photos after they've been cleared off your phone.

The Take Away

Backing up the photos on your phone to Google Photos or another cloud service is a great way to keep your photos safe, as well as recover valuable space on your phone to use for more photos.  Keep those memories backed up and click away!

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