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nquinn

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 25, 2020
829
621
Looking to buy a macbook for my mom.

Here's the scenario: 68 years old, mostly just needs it for web browsing, but she takes a zillion photos on her iPhone (64gb), which she can go through really quick unless she starts deleting data.

I'm looking at getting her a Macbook Air, probably 16gb (because it's 2020), but deciding on storage. I really don't want her to have to spend a fortune on SSD storage just to backup photos, and going to 1TB would cost an additional $400.

How does Apple Photos & iCloud handle photos when iCloud might exceed the device? Some options I'm thinking of:

1. Just go with a 512gb SSD and deal with it later. $1259 educational pricing (she's a teacher)
2. Stick with a 256gb model ($1079) and add a family iCloud storage plan (though I hate recurring fees, $10/mo would be enough but annoying once she exceed 200gb or so). I'm not sure how the Macbook and iPhone handle images when cloud storage exceeds it exactly. I saw the "optimize storage" option which might be interesting but confusing. With that said, it's also going to be confusing to explain that some photos are in one place but not another.
3. Some kind of USB-C external drive solution where she unloads photos to that

Currently I have Google Photos on her iPhone backing up photos for free with compression, but maybe that's not the best solution

Open to other ideas and ways to keep costs down - just need a simple machine with a lot of storage, but SSD's make that expensive.
 

mk313

macrumors 68020
Feb 6, 2012
2,010
1,111
Personally, I'd go with the 256 Model & use iCloud to store the photos. I have a 12" MacBook 256 GB & use iCloud. It does a nice job of removing photos from the SSD when it needs to free up space, and they're always available for download to any device should she need it. It does show a thumbnail of the photos that have been removed from the laptop/ phone & you can just click on the photo & it will re-download the full-sized pictures. It does everything automatically & in the background. It's a pretty elegant solution IMO.

I guess it depends on how many photos she takes. I'm not a huge picture taker, but I have photos in cloud photo back to the 1990's & I just went over the 200 GB this year.

Paying for iCloud, $10/month would take a year and a half before you break even (vs buying the 500 GB SSD & no iCloud). After that you're obviously playing more overall vs the larger SSD. If you're already paying for iCloud for yourself, then adding her to a family plan would cost less than $10/month in additional fees, so the breakeven would take longer. Personally, I like having my photos backed up to the cloud, just as an insurance policy, in case something happens to my computer.

I think there are automated ways to use Google photos and/or Amazon storage for less per month than iCloud costs. It's been a while since I looked into these, so that info could be out of date, but neither of those solutions are as seamless as iCloud (again in my opinion).
 

justashooter

macrumors 6502
Apr 8, 2020
335
194
Does she need to have all these pictures available wherever she goes? If not I would suggest a 2 bay raid with hard drives to store her images. Set up in RAID 1, mirrored, she would then have two complete copies of her images.
 

glenthompson

macrumors demi-god
Apr 27, 2011
2,983
844
Virginia
She may find dealing with photos on an external drive more hassle than a cloud solution. You didn’t say how much space her current photo library takes up. That would determine how much iCloud space she would need. 200gb is only $3 per month. $10 nets you 2TB. Not many people have more than 200gb in photos. With optimize storage full resolution pix are kept in the cloud with thumbnails on the device. Full resolution pictures are downloaded as needed. She will need a decent internet connection.
 

nquinn

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 25, 2020
829
621
Does she need to have all these pictures available wherever she goes? If not I would suggest a 2 bay raid with hard drives to store her images. Set up in RAID 1, mirrored, she would then have two complete copies of her images.

That just feels overkill to me. First, she'd have to have some regularly run backup program to hit the NAS. Second, a 2-bay NAS like the synology costs $170 for the cheapest unit plus let's say, 2 3tb drives at $60 each on sale = over $300 with tax for a setup like that.
 

nquinn

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 25, 2020
829
621
She may find dealing with photos on an external drive more hassle than a cloud solution. You didn’t say how much space her current photo library takes up. That would determine how much iCloud space she would need. 200gb is only $3 per month. $10 nets you 2TB. Not many people have more than 200gb in photos. With optimize storage full resolution pix are kept in the cloud with thumbnails on the device. Full resolution pictures are downloaded as needed. She will need a decent internet connection.

She's deleted quite a few pictures, but I probably have one full phone backed up to a desktop (50gb or so) plus another full phone, so maybe 110gb as of right now. I wish there was something in between the 200gb and 2TB tier.
 

nquinn

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 25, 2020
829
621
If you're already paying for iCloud for yourself, then adding her to a family plan would cost less than $10/month in additional fees, so the breakeven would take longer. Personally, I like having my photos backed up to the cloud, just as an insurance policy, in case something happens to my computer.
I'm actually considering getting the family plan and just sharing it with her, since I don't have iCloud backup myself either (I just use the free version for contacts & notes).

We're both using Google Photos at the moment on the free tier to get everything backed up in a compressed state.
 

BrianBaughn

macrumors G3
Feb 13, 2011
9,699
2,449
Baltimore, Maryland
What's the reality with "optimized" storage of iCloud photos? That is, at what point does it decide to do it? Does it wait until your iOS device or Mac is maxed out space-wise before it starts switching to low-resolution, onboard versions of your photos? That sounds horrible to me.

I'm using Google Photos and my (paid, full-resolution) photos storage there is currently at 20GB. My iPhone reports that the Google Photos app is using less that 200MB. This seems more like how it should work.
 

nquinn

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 25, 2020
829
621
What's the reality with "optimized" storage of iCloud photos? That is, at what point does it decide to do it? Does it wait until your iOS device or Mac is maxed out space-wise before it starts switching to low-resolution, onboard versions of your photos? That sounds horrible to me.

I'm using Google Photos and my (paid, full-resolution) photos storage there is currently at 20GB. My iPhone reports that the Google Photos app is using less that 200MB. This seems more like how it should work.
I've been trying to figure out the logic, but of course Apple hides it. Some articles seem to indicate that at least on a laptop, OSX will look to see when the disk hits 10% free space or less and then starts deleting/leaving stuff only in iCloud. Not sure if iPhones are treated the same. Some people apparently hack this by creating new volumes with quotas and moving their photo library there.
 

BrianBaughn

macrumors G3
Feb 13, 2011
9,699
2,449
Baltimore, Maryland
I've been trying to figure out the logic, but of course Apple hides it. Some articles seem to indicate that at least on a laptop, OSX will look to see when the disk hits 10% free space or less and then starts deleting/leaving stuff only in iCloud. Not sure if iPhones are treated the same. Some people apparently hack this by creating new volumes with quotas and moving their photo library there.
That's a good idea on the hack…but I'd guess that even folks that can figure out how to do that would prefer a setting.
 

ApfelKuchen

macrumors 601
Aug 28, 2012
4,335
3,012
Between the coasts
What's the reality with "optimized" storage of iCloud photos? That is, at what point does it decide to do it? Does it wait until your iOS device or Mac is maxed out space-wise before it starts switching to low-resolution, onboard versions of your photos? That sounds horrible to me.

I'm using Google Photos and my (paid, full-resolution) photos storage there is currently at 20GB. My iPhone reports that the Google Photos app is using less that 200MB. This seems more like how it should work.

Yes, your Google Photos example is in line with my experience with iCloud Photos.

In my experience Optimize Storage does not wait until you max-out. Not at all. I have to use my iPhone as the example, as I don't use iCloud Photos on my Mac (over 800 GB of work-related images from my "good" cameras that I don't need to upload to the cloud):

64 GB iPhone
43 GB of 64 GB Used (that is, 21 GB Available)
105 GB of photos in iCloud Photos
3.55 GB of Photos stored on-iPhone (Optimize Storage ON)

Overall, the principle should be the same on Mac.
 

mk313

macrumors 68020
Feb 6, 2012
2,010
1,111
Yes, your Google Photos example is in line with my experience with iCloud Photos.

In my experience Optimize Storage does not wait until you max-out. Not at all. I have to use my iPhone as the example, as I don't use iCloud Photos on my Mac (over 800 GB of work-related images from my "good" cameras that I don't need to upload to the cloud):

64 GB iPhone
43 GB of 64 GB Used (that is, 21 GB Available)
105 GB of photos in iCloud Photos
3.55 GB of Photos stored on-iPhone (Optimize Storage ON)

Overall, the principle should be the same on Mac.

Agree with Apfel. On my mac, I still have over 100gb left but photos have already optimized.
 

nquinn

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 25, 2020
829
621
Has anyone looked into Google One upgrades / Google Photo instead of iCloud? It's obviously less integrated, but I'm thinking:

1. Google Photo search is probably better than Apple's
2. I could use the extra space on Google Drive for other backup purposes, while with iCloud I don't believe it would be as easy of a backup solution for other files outside of photos. (Arq backup, for example, supports Google Drive but not iCloud).

Mostly thinking things sitting in my documents & downloads folder.
 
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s66

Suspended
Dec 12, 2016
472
661
Options:

1. internal storage in a laptop

Pro:
- simple solution
- one-time up front cost

Problems to be solved:
- backups also need to be scaled for the bigger internal disk
- not a solution on the phone itself
- What if she needs more storage over time?

2. icloud

Pro:
- "it just works" solution in the apple ecosystem

Problems to be solved:
- Cost per month adds up over time
- What if she goes over 2Tbyte ?
- Not a solution unless you use photos
- Ties you down into the ecosystem

3. external storage (disk, NAS, ...)

Pro:
- Almost "endless" expansion possible

Problems to be solved:
- backups need to be done (all sorts of options exist)
- not a solution on the phone itself

4. Google Photos

Pro:
- I fail to see one, but others seem to like it

Problems:
- icloud solution is always going to be much more integrated into the ecosystem
- different ecosystem (wrong one?) for some users
- trust issues (privacy, continuity of service (remember google reader), ...)
- ...


Cost:
===
- calculate the total cost over 3 to 5 years. Depends on how long you expect the mac to be good for her. Don't go too far into the future: it becomes really hard to predict things beyond 3 to 5 years in the IT world.
- add in the user experience
- assume a continued growth (a bit exponential, not because she'll make more pictures but because sensors become bigger (and hence files get bigger as well)

That should give you the best choice for her.
 
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