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Google Photos is the best gift you can give for the holidays

People & Pets gallery in Google Photos
People & Pets gallery in Google Photos (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

If you're spending the holidays with your family — and you should be! — there's a good chance you'll be taking photos together and making new memories. But there's also the chance that someone gets too excited and accidentally drops and breaks their phone, and poof. There go your fun new memories. That's why this holiday season might finally be the time to get your family on board with Google Photos.

Backing up your photos has never been easier. Once you set up Google Photos, it works in the background to automatically upload your shots to the cloud as you take them. The best part is that it's not just limited to Android users; Google Photos is also available on iOS, and its unlimited storage options gives it a big advantage over iCloud.

Setting up Google Photos

Google Photos albums on the Pixel 4

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Setting up Google Photos is as easy as opening the app and tapping Done during the initial setup prompt. By default, the app will only upload your images over Wi-Fi at a slightly reduced resolution with free unlimited storage, but if you prefer to preserve your memories in their original quality, just jump into the Back Up and Sync settings and adjust the Upload Size. Keep in mind that full-res uploads count against your Google Drive storage.

From the Back Up and Sync settings, you can also allow uploads over cellular data — of course, this can drive your data usage way up, so exercise caution with this setting. The upside is that cellular backups ensure that your photos are stored safely in the cloud almost immediately after you take them. If you're blessed with unlimited data, flip that switch on and shoot away!

Google Photos: Everything you need to know!

Finding your photos later

One of the best parts of Google Photos is its ability to automatically sort your photos by people, places, and even objects in the shot. This is a great way to quickly find that cute picture you took of your dog that you've been dying to show your mom.

At the top of the Albums tab is a horizontally scrolling list of features Google's AI service was able to identify in your photos. Tap People & Pets to find thumbnails of all of your friends and photo subjects, linking to every photo and video you've taken of them. From within an individual person's collection, you can add a name, change the featured photo used in the thumbnail, or remove erroneous results. And if there are any missing results, it's easy to tag them yourself from your gallery.

Similarly, the Places folder utilizes geotagging to sort your photos by cities, counties, or even specific points of interest like universities or malls. The Things category uses the same machine learning as People & Pets to detect objects and scenarios like dogs and cats, skyscrapers, selfies, concerts, etc. Just like with People & Pets, you can remove results, but you might be surprised by the accuracy of the software.

Best of all, it's just as easy to pull up for photos on the Google Photos website as it is on the Google Photos app (opens in new tab).

Turning your photos into gifts

Google Photo Book

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

On top of cataloging your memories, Google Photos also lets you immortalize them by creating personalized Photo Books. You can choose up to 100 images from your Google Photos library, organize them any way you wish, and customize the cover and spine. The Photo Books are made using high-quality prints, and make for excellent gifts.

Do the holidays right

Google Photos makes it so easy to back up your pictures that anyone can do it, regardless of their level of experience with a smartphone. This holiday season, take the time to help your mom and other family members set up Google Photos and protect them from losing important shots — after all, lasting memories are the gifts that keep on giving.

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

5 Comments
  • As a former android user, the other selling point to your iOS friends who refuse to download a different messaging platform so you can have a better messaging experience with each other, the google photos app is a perfect way to share videos you took so they don't come across grainy AF on the other end. I may have converted to iOS, but the feeling on this side of the fence that somehow iPhoners are better than android users still annoys the crap out of me.
  • I've done something similar. May I ask why you switched over to iOS?
  • I keep all my photos in various folders sorted exactly the way that I want them. I do not like "camera roll" by date type galleries nor do I need Google to pick out my photos how they think they should be (I will decide where People and Pets photos belong). For this reason, I keep my photos on my SD card, back them up to my laptop, and One Drive....sorted exactly how I want them sorted. Unless Google Photos will recognize my existing folders, it is still a no go for me.
  • Google Photos is just like Gmail, Photos can exist in multiple albums. And yes Google Photos would recognize your existing folders.
  • Google does allow album names. And if you do a select all of the pics in each folder you have specially made and named, just take the photos and then I am sure Google will find those tags.
    There are a ton of other ways to do, name each pic the same ad your folder name, then Google will find it too. Keep an open mind.