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iCloud vs Amazon Photos: A Complete Comparison

Storing photos safely in the cloud is important for anyone with a growing photo library. The two most popular consumer options for cloud photo storage are iCloud and Amazon Photos. As an Apple user, you may assume iCloud is the best choice. However, Amazon Photos offers compelling features even for iPhone owners.

This comprehensive guide compares iCloud and Amazon Photos across all the key factors you should consider when deciding which service to use for your photo storage needs. Read on for an in-depth breakdown of availability, compatibility, features, pricing, infrastructure, security, and more.

Overview of iCloud and Amazon Photos

First, let‘s briefly introduce both services.

iCloud is Apple‘s proprietary cloud storage solution deeply integrated into Apple devices and apps. It first launched in 2011 as a successor to Apple‘s MobileMe service. iCloud handles wireless data syncing across Apple devices, provides cloud storage, and enables services like Find My iPhone.

Amazon Photos started in 2011 under the name Amazon Cloud Drive, focused on general file storage. It was rebranded in 2015 with a specific emphasis on storing and managing photos and videos. It taps into Amazon‘s vast AWS cloud infrastructure and integrates with Prime membership benefits.

Both services aim to be one-stop shops for accessing your photo library from all your devices. Now let‘s dive into how they compare.

Availability and Compatibility

iCloud and Amazon Photos take different approaches when it comes to cross-platform and device availability. This affects what operating systems you can use each service on.

iCloud is compatible with Apple‘s entire ecosystem: macOS, Windows, iOS devices like iPhone and iPad, and through the web browser on Android. There is deep native integration with Apple‘s software and devices. For example, all new Apple devices come with the iCloud app pre-installed.

Windows users can install the official iCloud app for Windows from the Microsoft app store. But there is no fully-featured native app available for Android or Linux. The web interface provides more limited access from non-Apple devices.

Amazon Photos delivers native apps for iOS, Android, Fire OS, and Windows, allowing subscribers log in and directly manage their photo library across mobile and desktop. However, like iCloud, Amazon Photos lacks official support for Linux devices.

The advantage goes to Amazon Photos for being accessible across more mainstream consumer platforms with official native app support. But iCloud still meets most needs if you mainly use Apple devices.

Supported File Types

When storing your photos and videos in the cloud, what file formats can you actually upload to each service?

Both iCloud and Amazon Photos handle the major image and video formats most smartphone and basic camera owners use – JPG, PNG, GIF, MP4, MOV and more. They both also support camera RAW formats from all major manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm.

Amazon accepts a few additional niche formats like BMP, TIFF, PSD and SVG that iCloud does not. Video format support is also more extensive with Amazon Photos adding compatibility for formats like AVI, Flash Video, and other legacy video codecs.

For most typical consumers‘ libraries, both services provide ample format support. But Amazon again pulls ahead for advanced hobbyists or professionals with more obscure, uncompressed image and video files in their archives.

Key Features

Now let‘s dig deeper into some of the standout features and functionality of each service as they relate to storing and managing photos and videos in the cloud:

iCloud Key Features

  • Automatic camera roll syncing – iCloud automatically uploads any new photos and videos from your iPhone or iPad camera roll whenever you have internet connectivity. Any edits or deletions also sync across linked devices to keep your library perfectly in sync.

  • Deep macOS and iOS integration – The Apple Photos app that comes preinstalled on Macs and iOS provides a seamless built-in experience for browsing, editing, searching and organizing your entire iCloud photo library.

  • Collaboration via photo sharing – Built into Photos on Apple devices, iCloud makes it easy to share albums with any other Apple ID user. They can view, download, and contribute their own photos to collaborative shared albums.

  • Privacy-focused premium features – Subscribers to iCloud+ gain access to enhanced privacy-preserving capabilities like Hide My Email and Private Relay, data encryption, and password protected cloud backups.

Amazon Photos Key Features

  • Unlimited full-resolution photo storage – Included with Amazon Prime subscriptions is unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos uploaded from mobile devices or desktop apps at their full original quality. RAW files and videos do still count against overall Prime cloud storage limits though.

  • Multi-platform auto-uploading – Smartphones and laptops can easily auto-upload any new photos and videos to Amazon cloud when connected to power and wifi through the mobile and desktop apps. Libraries stay synced between devices.

  • Family Library Sharing – Up to 5 other friends or family members can be invited to share uploads with each other while maintaining private personal storage through the Family Vault feature. Great for sharing between couples or with kids‘ accounts.

  • Powerful search capabilities – Amazon uses advanced computer vision and machine learning to automatically detect people, objects, scenes, text, landmarks and other subjects in the photos you store. This enables powerful search within your library.

  • Print ordering – Directly order high-quality photo prints for delivery through the Amazon Photos website and apps. Third party integrations like Shutterfly are also available.

Both iCloud and Amazon Photos provide excellent tools for curating, organizing and accessing your photo library across all devices. Amazon has a key edge with unlimited full-resolution storage for Prime members‘ irreplaceable memories.

Storage Pricing and Plans Compared

One of the most important considerations for any cloud photo solution is storage capacity. How much storage do you get, and how much does it cost? iCloud and Amazon take very different approaches here.

iCloud starts every user out with a paltry 5GB of free storage – not nearly enough for more than a handful of photos and app data for most people. Paid iCloud+ plans range from 50GB up to the maximum available tier of 2TB. Despite Apple‘s trillion-dollar valuation, they offer just three storage tiers:

  • 50GB for $0.99 per month
  • 200GB for $2.99 per month
  • 2TB for $9.99 per month

Amazon Photos stands apart by providing unlimited full-resolution photo and video storage included for all Amazon Prime subscribers. Other file types like RAW photos and videos still count against your overall Prime cloud capacity, but there is no limit on JPGs or MP4s from your phone or camera uploads.

For non-Prime members, storage tiers with Amazon Photos start at 100GB for $1.99 per month and go all the way up to 30TB for $1499.99 per year.

So if you‘re looking for vast capacity to grow into for years to come, Amazon Photos has a huge advantage. But iCloud‘s 2TB plan should still meet typical needs if you diligently curate your library. Printed photos, external hard drives, and other backup methods also help.

Cloud Infrastructure Compared

With your precious photo memories at stake, the technical backend infrastructure these services rely on is worth examining. iCloud and Amazon Photos leverage their parent companies‘ industry-leading cloud platforms.

Apple‘s iCloud runs on the same network as apps like iMessage and FaceTime. Reports indicate Apple splits this infrastructure between Google Cloud Platform and Azure in addition to custom-built servers. However security and privacy needs mean they don‘t rely too heavily on third-parties.

Amazon Photos taps into Amazon Web Services‘ globe-spanning network of data centers and servers for storage and delivery. AWS pioneered public cloud infrastructure and leads the industry in security certifications as well as redundancy.

Both Apple and Amazon invest billions in capital expenditures annually to maintain state-of-the-art data centers. Regular upgrades ensure high reliability and fast performance. Ultimately both offer enterprise-grade foundations you can trust for photo storage even if disasters strike.

App Feature Comparison

Both services provide mobile and desktop apps to facilitate uploading, organizing, editing and sharing your photo library in the cloud across devices. How do their respective apps compare?

The iCloud Photos experience centers around Apple‘s Photos app pre-installed on iPhones, iPads and Macs. It provides streamlined tools for curating albums, performing edits, enabling facial recognition, sharing content and more. The web interface offers similar management capabilities.

Amazon Photos delivers a slick, clean app experience across mobile and desktop platforms. Besides comprehensive photo management tools, it enables ordering prints, creating custom photo books, syncing new content automatically, and easy sharing.

From a features perspective, both provide excellent apps tailored to photography needs on all major platforms. Amazon holds the edge for broader platform support, while Apple offers tighter integration for iOS users.

Sharing and Collaboration Features

What about getting friends and family involved? Cloud photo services recognize storing life memories often means needing to collaborate with others. We rely on grandparents and cousins to fill the gaps in our own collections.

iCloud Photo Sharing allows creating sharable albums of photos and videos you select. These links can be shared with anyone to allow viewing, commenting and downloading. Members of your Family Sharing group can also add their own photos and videos to the album for ongoing collaboration.

Amazon Photos takes a similar approach but also folds collaboration into its unlimited storage offering. With the Amazon Family Vault, up to 5 close friends and family members can have unlimited full-resolution storage combined. Every member can privately upload their new photos and videos which others can access, download, print or gift.

Both deliver excellent tools for coordinating shared memories with care. Amazon perhaps makes it easier to fan out storage privileges across a family. But iCloud keeps shared content simpler with two-way sharing into designated albums.

Privacy, Security and Compliance

With such intimate life memories stored in the cloud, what assurances do these platforms offer around privacy, security protections and compliance standards?

Apple prides itself on leading the industry in user privacy through extensive on-device processing, data minimization efforts, transparency, and advanced encryption. iCloud data and backups benefit from end-to-end AES 256-bit encryption. Data center hardware security modules provide stringent protection and separation preventing unauthorized access.

Amazon Web Services exceeds industry security compliance requirements including ISO 27001, FedRAMP, and others according to audit reports [1]. Data at rest and in transit is encrypted by default. While not as vocal on privacy as Apple, Amazon does enable customers to control location of data storage.

Both technology giants live up to their reputations around security and compliance for cloud infrastructure and solutions. Apple goes farther on user privacy while Amazon offers more security configuration controls. Either should more than meet the bar.

Roadmap and Future Outlook

As prominent parts of Apple and Amazon‘s cloud offerings, we can expect continued investment and future enhancements in both iCloud Photos and Amazon Photos. What might that innovation look like?

Apple plans regular iCloud upgrades in sync with major iOS releases to bolster security, privacy, and experience. iOS 16 delivered Handoff support and better Family Sharing in Photos. Future plans call for ongoing enhancements to Shared Photo Libraries for easier collaboration and Events integration.

Amazon Photos shares roadmap details less frequently but watches competitive offerings closely. Going forward we can expect more advanced AI to augment search, scene analysis and automated editing guidance. Mobile apps may integrate Features Snapshots for quicker daily catch-ups on recent library changes. More third-party app ecosystem integrations could also emerge.

Both show commitments to strengthening cloud solutions around personal photo storage and access well into the future.

Pros and Cons Compared

iCloud Pros Cons
Seamlessly integrated with Apple devices Walled garden limits broader platform access
End-to-end encrypted backups Storage expensive for large libraries
Easy collaboration via Family/Photo Sharing
Amazon Photos
Accessible across almost any device Some features require Prime membership
Unlimited full-resolution photo storage with Prime No Linux or web support
Powerful search via AI/ML tech

Recommendations: Which Should You Use?

With all factors weighed, which service makes the most sense for securely storing your photo memories in the cloud?

For those fully bought into the Apple ecosystem and willing to pay premium rates for best-in-class privacy protections, iCloud Photos delivers a seamless, integrated experience that feels like the future.

Value-focused customers wanting cross-platform access with storage to handle growing family archives over years should choose Amazon Photos for unlimited uploads. Prime membership sweetens the deal with numerous membership perks.

Enthusiasts with enormous photo libraries spanning terabytes should stick with Amazon thanks to its unrivaled 30TB maximum capacity tier. Plus AI-assisted search helps manage huge collections.

Casual smartphone shooters just wanting seamless camera roll backup may find iCloud‘s free 5GB meets their needs. But most should spring for a paid plan quickly with a modern camera phone shooting 4K video and 48MP photos.

In the end, closely weigh your budget, existing devices, and anticipated storage needs as you decide between these two very capable cloud offerings purpose-built for protecting a lifetime of memories.

In late 2022, Apple announced upcoming end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups along with other privacy-focused iCloud features. This brings their security and privacy closer to offerings like Google One.

Around the same time, Amazon announced it will shut down the Amazon Drive file hosting service by the end of 2023. They will focus efforts instead on Amazon Photos for anyone needing cloud storage.

As both tech giants invest in their photo backup solutions, we can expect more improvements aimed at consumers needing safe and accessible homes for their precious memories.