Trial by Cloud: Photos

I was hoping to write a follow up of our podcast discussion on last week’s Technecast concerning iCloud Photo Library. I wanted to wait until all my devices were finally synced. But I can wait no longer for my iPad to get in the game.

If you didn’t listen to the podcast, basically I had a horrible time getting photo library turned on. The original upload was painfully slow, error prone, and required me to completely quit, wipe out what was already loaded, and restart, something that the software does not make easy. The web app was, and remains, horrible. The un-deletable phantom albums remain. All and all it was not a good on-boarding.

Photos improperly spaced on the website.
Unintentional collage art in the iCloud Photos web app. The dates and locations are wrong too.

But then, finally, the Mac uploaded. So I enabled it on my iPhone. The phone had no photos so it was just a matter of downloading the cloud library. This took two days. That seems like a really long time, especially for what are supposed to be space optimized versions of the photos. But when it finally worked, it was magical. Take a photo on the phone and it was on the computer before I even had to open the Photos app. Albums, edits, everything synced beautifully. This is what I had been waiting for. The promise of photos fully realized. So time to get the iPad to the party.

First of all, it is an iPad 3, AKA the worst iPad. Seriously even Apple killed this model in 6 months. But it has been okay enough that I didn’t feel like upgrading. Maybe that has to happen now. Maybe the old iPad can’t handle this software. I wish I could accurately explain what is happening. But I can’t. Because I really don’t know what the f#ck my iPad is doing right now.

First of all the initial attempt at turning on iCloud Photo Library caused my iPad to kernel panic about once per hour. This is not the first time I have had crashing issues so I finally decided to ditch this installation, which goes all the way back to day one of the iPad, and start fresh. I completely wiped the device and started from a bare, clean install of iOS.

So far so good. No crashing. Photos turned on and literally nothing else. No other apps. No email accounts. Nothing. This was over the weekend. It’s still not done.

It has reported it was done. More than once. But then all of a sudden it starts syncing again. Here is the really weird part. The number of photos reported in “All Photos” remains consistent, but the number of photos in the “moments” section rises and falls like a ship in a hurricane. I have now at least three times seen the photos gradually disappear, then reappear, then disappear again. The status at the bottom will go back and forth between preparing and uploading. It shouldn’t be uploading anything. And it doesn’t seem to be.

I have no idea what is going on. I feel like the whole thing is out of control but I don’t want to stop it. The iPhone took a while but eventually settled. But it didn’t take this long. So the iPad is sitting, screen on, for a week. It doesn’t seem to sync when the screen is locked so I am leaving it on all the time in the photos app, hoping every day I will come home and see it completed. I have stopped taking photos completely, not wanting to add any complexity until this process is done.

So what I can say about iCloud Photo Library is that it is amazing when it works, but there are way to many issues to feel comfortable recommending this to anyone. You can’t troubleshoot. You just have to hope it works. It may take hours, days, weeks even. I want to love this feature because I have been asking for it for years. Now I just want it to freaking work already.

Apple has a bad reputation when it comes to web services. This is not helping. It is starting to remind me of the launch of MobileMe. That’s the most damning this I can say.

It should be noted that many users are having a fine time. So my experience is not shared by everyone. I am merely stating my own case. I am hopefully still that the bugs get worked out. That he web app begins working normally. That the initial sync will eventually finally finish and I can get on with using my camera again. But for more than the cost of Dropbox for half the space, I shouldn’t have to hope this hard.

Trial by Cloud: Photos was last updated April 23rd, 2015 by Michael Truskowski