Further iCloud Photo Library observations

May 4th, 2016

On March 29th I began syncing to iCloud Photo Library using Photos on OS X. Today, over a month later, I’m just over halfway done. For context, you may want to read Photo stats and observations, and A few iCloud Photo Library observations.

As with those last two posts I’m going to provide a laundry list of observations that I’ve made. In no particular order:

  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that Apple throttles photo syncing. Telling Photos to sync takes a random amount of time to begin, suggesting that Apple has some queue in place. Also, I physically drove my external hard drive to a location with 4x the Internet connection that I have at home and I was able to upload roughly the same amount of data over the same period of time. Though, at that location the connection was still usable while syncing and at home it is not.
  • Library metadata is not kept up-to-date with every sync. For instance, I’ve begun tagging my photo library and on my Mac the keyword “kayaking” has hundreds more results than on my iOS devices even though those photos are already synced to iCloud Photo Library. I’m hoping that the metadata gets synced at the tail end.
  • During this month-long sync routine I’ve taken 445 photos/videos (not including Eliza’s hundreds of photos). As I take photos they are synced across my iOS devices but are not synced to Photos on Mac. So I have to manually import new photos/videos into Photos myself. I’m guessing this process will work (a new photo should show up everywhere automatically according to what I’ve read) once the entire library has been synced. In fact, Ben Brooks says it is fast.
  • Looking at my “Years” view on iOS I see a bunch of blank thumbnails unless I tap into each respective section over and over and over. Apple is likely trying to conserve as much space as they can by only loading thumbnails as you need them… but it is annoying. Tap tap tap tap.
  • There is no such thing as a photo on my phone anymore. Once my library has gotten to a specific size, I think, all photos are now going to iCloud Photo Library once I’m on wifi. So even recent shots need to “download” from the cloud. Since I typically post photos that I’ve taken within the last few weeks, it’d be nice if iOS kept 1,000 or so photos fully loaded.
  • Prior to syncing all of these photos to my iOS devices using Photos was lightning fast. Now, with  just about 45,000 photos/videos on all devices synced so far, everything to do with photos feels slower.

I’m looking forward to this process being over with. I have about 50GB still to go. On average I’m able to sync about 12GB a night. So perhaps in a week or two I’ll be completely done and I can really see how great this service will be.

One last observation: If I wasn’t a geek I wonder if I would ever go through this. My wife, as an example, can’t stand that our connection is down while this process is happening. I’m a little more understanding because, while I think Apple could prevent the issue, I understand it takes a lot of connection to sync so many photos. I’m willing to bet only the geekiest of the geekiest people would ever go through the relative pain I have to get this library synced. Google Photos, Flickr, and Picture Life didn’t have this issue.

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