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Apple to Shut Down My Photo Stream on 26 July 2023

In a just-published support article, Apple writes:

My Photo Stream is scheduled to be shut down on July 26, 2023. As part of this transition, new photo uploads to My Photo Stream from your devices will stop one month before, on June 26, 2023. Any photos uploaded to the service before that date will remain in iCloud for 30 days from the date of upload and will be available to any of your devices where My Photo Stream is currently enabled. By July 26, 2023, there will be no photos remaining in iCloud, and the service will be shut down.

My Photo Stream (originally called Photo Stream) was Apple’s first iCloud-based solution for syncing photos between devices. It didn’t support videos, stored only your 1000 most recent photos on each device, kept photos online for only 30 days, didn’t work over cellular connections, downloaded smaller photo versions on iOS devices, and wasn’t accessible from the iCloud website. iCloud Photos (initially known as iCloud Photo Library) is better in nearly every way, except that My Photo Stream didn’t count against your iCloud storage quota, making it free. See “iCloud Photo Library: The Missing FAQ” (15 April 2015).

I haven’t used or recommended My Photo Stream for years, but if you still find it useful, I suggest paying for enough iCloud+ storage to turn on iCloud Photos for better syncing and additional protection against losing images. Per month, 50 GB of storage costs $0.99, 200 GB is $2.99, and 2 TB is $9.99. Check the size of your Photos Library, stored by default in ~/Pictures, to see how much you need beyond the 5 GB Apple gives everyone for free. Apple could stave off some of the hard feelings caused by canceling My Photo Stream by increasing that free amount to 10 GB.

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Comments About Apple to Shut Down My Photo Stream on 26 July 2023

Notable Replies

  1. What I found most useful was the “automatic deletion after 30 days.” Is there a way to accomplish this automatically?

  2. Ray

    You could set up to sync only with a Smart Album that contains the last X number of days. Not sure if you can set it up to download to the phone and have the rest in the cloud.

  3. I’m very bummed about the loss of this service. Yes, iCloud Photos offers a lot more capability, but quick and easy syncing was all I really needed. It was just nice to know that any photo I took on my iPhone would eventually get backed up (albeit in JPEG and not HEIC format) to my computer at home. I didn’t need to do anything or pay anything; it mostly just worked (with some notable periods of time when various macOS/iOS upgrades broke things).

    I’m probably a corner case because I don’t pay Apple for any extra iCloud storage. I don’t want or need to back up my iPhone/iPad to iCloud (I back up to my computer), and I don’t need/want to have my entire photo library synced with edits and face tags and such across all of my devices. I just use a bit of my base 5GB iCloud storage for email, contacts, and a couple of files.

    But I guess the services revenue growth monster must get fed. I’ll just start doing periodic dumps of photos via AirDrop I guess.

  4. Apple should provide $10 or 20 GB to all Apple customers to enable mobile device online backup. However, $12 a year for 50GB allows you to store a moderately-sized photo collection and also allows you to use online backup. This does free you from the computer tether for a very modest cost.

    Having photos in an online library does free you to see your photos on ALL your devices. I think that you should look at finding a substitute for Photostream. If you you’d rather not use Apple services, I believe that Google Photos provides a reasonable amount of free storage at no cost.

  5. Oh definitely I know there are a number of alternatives. I just want to minimize the amount of private information that’s out there in “the cloud,” and I don’t want to pay money that I don’t need to. I realize I’m totally an outlier in this respect. :)

  6. I love that as an euphemistic description for “greed”! :rofl:

  7. Heh. I realize it has to cost something to keep services running, and again I would bet I’m in a pretty small minority of people who aren’t using iCloud Photos, so while it is funny to cast it as primarily greed-based, I know that’s not all the motivation. But honestly I would consider paying a tiny amount of subscription money to just add some capabilities and maintain them to My Photo Stream versus having to store hundreds of GB of data in iCloud Photos.

  8. I used this to sync to my Mac. And images so synced would move to my full Library. I have been leery of iCloud Photos due to the problems I had when turning this on for my sister, and occasionally seeing nightmare problems on apple help subreddits. I will though change over, I have already done this for my wife and it went okay but not flawlessly. It stalled on her iPhone and I had to turn off her VPN service to get it started again (and have it plugged in even with 80% battery). If they made the setup of iCloud photos stress free, easier to find information about the progress, and work with VPN - that would be nice.

  9. Hmmm.

    • Photos on my iPhone: ~8.5GB
    • Photos on my old iPad Pro: ~1GB
    • Photos Library.photoslibrary on my Mac: 8.2MB

    Guess I finally need to bite the bullet and try to import my old Aperture library (~16GB) into Photos first… Then upgrade to iCloud+ (I think I’ve got that right? the basic level at 50GB should do…). Then enable this new-fangled photo-sharing iCloud streaming thingie… #sigh There’s a project for the end of the week.

  10. I really liked Photostream for my purposes. I usually download photos from my iPhone to my computer once a week and then modify, crop, keyword tag etc them with Graphic Converter. Once on my Mac in a regular folder they are backed up by Time Machine etc. I then delete them from the phone to free up space.

    I liked being able to see the last 1000 photos on my larger iPad screen. I also appreciated the emergency backup that Photostream provide while being on vacation, in case my phone gets lost.

    Now, it looks like I have to buy the 50GB plan and my photos will be permanently in the Cloud. Of course I can still download them from the phone to the computer and then optionally delete them from iCloud. But that would also delete them from all my other devices. I think after a while I will get confused which photos I downloaded from the Cloud.

  11. With iCloud Photos / iCloud Photo Library, you don’t delete photos from your library from any device unless you want them deleted forever from everywhere. If storage space is the limitation on the iPhone (or iPad), you can turn on optimized storage in settings to keep only a small number of full-res photos on the device - the rest are stored as thumbnails that are downloaded in the background as needed if you ever try to access them (view them, edit them, even accessing from other apps to share, such as messages, email, social networking apps, etc.)

  12. So if I have this right …… on my iPad Air 5th generation and IPhone 12 mini: Settings>Name.> iCloud> Photos>Sync this iPad/iPhone . Then am I OK and don’t have to do anything else?

    On iPad Air 2nd generation: Settings>Name> iCloud> Photos>iCloud Photos is ON. Doesn’t show Photo Stream at all. Optimize is also enabled. Am I Ok and don’t have to do anything else?

    MacBook Pro mid 2009 running High Sierra: Settings> iCloud> Photos> ICloud Photo Library and iCloud Photo Sharing are on/enabled. Photo Stream is NOT checked. Am I ok and don’t have to do anything else?

    Then there is the iMac mid 2010 running High Sierra. It has Photo Stream enabled and iCloud can’t find my Photos App. So I don’t think I need to do anything since I am keeping up with the MacBook Pro, which seems to be a better computer even though it is older.

  13. If I had a guess why Apple is dropping support, it’s likely that Apple found that very few people were using photo stream so decided it wasn’t worth continuing support - not that they weren’t able. Now the people who supported this service and feature can concentrate on other services and features that people actually use and depend on.

  14. I agree with @ddmiller: this doesn’t look like a revenue generating move to me. I can’t imagine Apple will increase revenue by any noticeable amount by turning off My Photo Stream. This looks entirely like a, ‘why are we spending engineering resources and increased complexity for a feature from a different era that ~nobody uses?’ decision.

    I’m sorry you had that problem, but maybe it was because you hadn’t disabled iTunes syncing first? All I can say is that I’ve used iCloud calendar sync for many years, with several calendars, and sharing different calendars with different people, and it has been 100% solid. Maybe backup your calendar and try again (so you can easily clear it out and re-import the backup if you have trouble again), but first turn off any other sync mechanism?

  15. If you search for my name here you might find my thread a few years back about Switching to a new phone and losing specific settings (i.e. I prefer shooting square images) when the photo hit My Photo Stream and wound up on my desktop computer.
    This was an extended period of Apple escalated support that was not resolved by them. At that time they told me My Photo Stream was doomed anyway. Ultimately the solution -which they NEVER related to me - was to use Photo Cloud and my camera photo settings would stay intact. The process of photostream and not paying APPLE TAX (as my customers refer to it) was something I turned a lot of people onto and it worked great until , they changed it to a month of photos (not 1000) and newer phone photos wouldn’t keep the aspect ratio. If Apple support had clarified that Photostream could not handle all the photo data when uploaded to them - I would have understood. Though Apple Support is usually courteous and respectful, even the escalated support was puzzled by my problem.

  16. This feels like a dangerous backup method, given that you’re getting a downsampled version, videos and non-favorite images from bursts aren’t included, there’s a 1000-image limit, and everything goes away after 30 days. In other words, you’ll get a version of most things for a short time, so your backup won’t contain originals and could easily not contain all the images.

  17. It’s not a primary backup method, since the whole phone also gets backed up. It’s a quick piece of free insurance for some set of things.

    People talk about downsampling and such too, but I don’t think that applies for my use case. My iPhone 11 takes 12MP 4032x3024 HEIC images. Those get converted to JPEG and sent up to My Photo Stream, and my home computer ends up with a 12MP 4032x3024 JPEG version of that image with all the EXIF/metadata intact. Obviously it’s not a direct/exact copy, but it’s good enough for a quick and dirty backup. I think the downsampling happens in the other direction - like if I offload a 16MP 4608x3456 JPEG off of my Nikon camera and put it in Photos on my Mac, the version of the image I end up with showing in My Photo Stream on my phone is small, like 3MP 2048x1536. But I don’t care about that direction of syncing/backup in that case.

  18. I think all that’s really required would be for Apple to provide a simple syncing service that gives people the option of having any photo taken on their iPhone or iPad to sync immediately to the libraries of their other devices (on same Apple ID). Obviously, make this opt-in on an individual device basis. None of these photos needs to be stored for eternity on iCloud such that people are required to purchase extra storage. Just use it to do the bookkeeping for the initial sync/distribute. Make it a simple one-click option to streamline a commonly performed user workflow. Consider it another free ‘ecosystem’ feature to those buying into the expensive Apple hardware world.

    Seems to me PhotoStream kind of was that. But not entirely. And also, it’s now officially dead. So time for a new photo sync that’s not related to iCloud storage and the issues that entails. Of course, if your primary endeavor is selling people “services” rather than user value and user experience, you probably wouldn’t bother.

  19. This is literally what iCloud Photo Library is. I don’t know why Apple should be paying for lots of cloud storage for people. There are real costs to running data centres, and why should other parts of the operation be subsidising some potentially high users?

    Which would lead to a more confused product offering and a sort of second-class service that never gets the development attention it needs. I would much rather Apple concentrate its engineering resources on improving iCloud Photo Library which already seems to be pretty solid.

    Clearly some people value aspects of the old Photo Stream, but honestly I think this is a minuscule minority – I can’t see that there’s any meaningful demand for it anymore. Even if Apple didn’t care about iCloud+ subscriptions, I can’t see the justification for developing another photo syncing service.

  20. I’m an old-time, knowledgable, user of Apple (hardware and service) products … eWorld, mobile.me, mac.com, iCloud. I suspect I’m also not “typical” … with a few decades worth of images in Photos. I have consistently steered clear of putting any of my photos on those Apple services. I sync everything else that I can via iCloud to another Mac, my iPhone, iPad, etc, so I’m a big fan of iCloud, just not for photos.

    That being said, Apple’s various “photos in the cloud” offerings have presented a real challenge. At one point they offered three different photo services, all at the same time if my memory serves me, differing in allowed quantity or lifetime of storage, changing image format and/or resolution on up/down loading, and other features so I dodged the whole service.

    I am sympathetic with all the comments in this thread; I feel Apple has fallen down badly in its support of photographers (don’t get me started on the Photos app!). Final Cut wins Oscars, so we know Apple can offer superlative products … every iPhone announcement headlines the amazing camera improvements and I know people who have upgraded their phones only to get a better camera.

    Apple could dominate this market for beginners to professionals … they have, arguably, the best pocket camera, but inadequate software and confusing cloud support. It’s a shame.


    Before I posted this, I read Set up and use iCloud Photos - Apple Support
    (revised a several weeks ago, and a quite good description of the iCloud Photos service)

  21. Nah, it’s not. Go back and read what I actually proposed. What I’m talking about is syncing from one iDevice to another (or to a Mac). No cloud storage. Just brokering a transfer.

  22. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should check out Mylio which has an option to do exactly that. It’s worked very well in my testing with small numbers of photos.

  23. An interesting side note. Today I received an email with the sender Cloud and the subject something like “All your photos and videos will be removed”. Nothing in the body but obvious spam in the address/return data. Always looking for new phish bait.

  24. Gavin, the first Apple “service” I used was “AL-PE” or “AppleLink - Personal Edition” on my Apple IIc and a high speed modem of a blazing 300 baud! Of course Apple bailed on it as they did eWorld, Mac.com, and MobileMe; I’m surprised they have bailed on iCloud yet.

  25. iCloud is a profit center, none of the others were. Thanks for the AppleLink reminder! … A67

  26. My experience here is that I had to move to My Photo Stream this year due to the large size of iPhone 14 photos. We have a modest set of 3 users in the family and each had bumped up to about 50 GB of data in the 200 GB family plan. But when I went with the iPhone 14 last year I put us over the limit during our January vacation and had to exit iCloud Photos. So with this service disappearing, I need to decide on upgrading to the 2 TB plan at an extra $7.00 monthly. Apple knows their numbers well and I suspect that they expect many storage upgrades with the new high pixel count phones. I looked at the Apple One bundles and the pricing makes the low quality services like Fitness and Arcade free but storage, Music and TV remain less expensive a la carte. I’m the main photographer in our group and I use Adobe Lightroom - but the automatic backup of the iPhone is indispensable, especially while ‘on the road’. And for the less dedicated photographers, the Photos system is solid.

  27. I will eventually upgrade my iCloud+ from 200 GB to 2 TB. $7 extra per month is less than my annual spending on external drives. :open_mouth:

    I’m not sure when I will make the upgrade purchase. I will still need external drives.
    Maybe I won’t be as obsessive about making copies. Rather than haul around portable drives, I can let iCloud sync via WiFi from a hotel room.

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