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I have a Nexus 5 with Android 4.4.2, but I am confused as to where photos get backed up. First of all, in the Photos app (which is actually part of Google+), there is an option to set up Auto Backup. Now, in the settings under your Google-account syncing there is also an option to sync Google+ Photos. What is the difference?

Also, where are the photos stored? If you delete a photo from inside Photos or inside Gallery on my phone, does it get deleted from both places, from the web (if backed up), ...?

Also, what is the difference between the Gallery-app and the Photos-app?

Edit: Doing some tests with the auto-backup feature inside Photos, I've concluded: If you take a photo on your device and force auto-backup, it's available online as well. Removing it on your device keeps the picture online, and it is not shown in the Trash. Removing it online however DOES make it show up in the Trash, both online and on your device.

Deleting an auto-backuped picture online puts it in the Trash as well, ths making the image available twice on your device (in the Camera and Trash). Deleting it from the Trash still keeps the image in the Camera. Backing up the library does not upload that image again online, and the Cloud-icon remains.

Of course once you think you know the system it gets more complicated. Using Hangouts also puts those images inside a separate folder online, and for some reason some pictures only show up there and NOT inside the Auto-Backup folder. Perhaps because I've been messing around trying to figure thing out, I'll keep better note and force auto-backup in the future.

I guess it could be me, but this system is VERY complicated for a user. The cloud-icon would suggest to me that it's available online, but it's still there even after deleting the image online. Of course deleting it online means you don't want it. Also it's not really syncing if the images on the device are not the same as online. There can be images on the device but not online and vice-versa. And now I still don't know the difference between the sync of Google Photos and Google+ Photos...

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The Photos app and Google+ app, while deeply connected, are different applications on your phone. The Photos app is designed to replace the old Gallery app by providing more editing and sharing options. Both Photos and Gallery show you pictures stored on your phone and stored on Google's servers under your G+ account. If you're using Photos you can ignore Gallery.

Both the Photos app and Google+ app have Auto-backup settings and both are talking about the same thing: backing up pictures you take to a private album associated with your G+ account on Google's servers. You can turn on Auto-backup in either Photos or Google+.

You can delete or recover pictures that were backed up to G+ easily within the Photos app. From Photos you can also delete pictures that were taken with your phone's camera but not backed up to G+. Pictures that were locally stored on your device or were not backed up to G+ cannot be restored once deleted. Pictures that have been backed up to G+ with have a small cloud icon in the bottom-right corner of the thumbnail.

You can remove pictures just from the device by going to the upper left and clicking on the "Photos". That should bring up a menu, where you scroll down almost to the bottom to get to "On Device". Bringing up that list is just the photos on the device (instead of all the photos that G+ knows about), and when you delete there it only affects the device storage, not the backed up version. See https://support.google.com/plus/answer/3453521?hl=en for a (very) little more detail.

  • So if an image is taken on the phone and auto-backuped to Google/Google+, deleting it on the phone will cause it to go to the Trash, giving you the option to restore it. I'm still confused though - in my account sync-settings I have both Google Photos and Google+ Photos sync option, as can be seen here: imgur.com/e95NJ7K What's the difference here? – jdepypere Dec 30 '13 at 12:36
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Doing my own tests with google+ auto backup, I have found that photos that have been backed up (in some cases for a very long time) will disappear from the phone (no trash), as well as from the online "backup" (again not found in the trash) when the photos are deleted from the phone using the default gallery app.

I'm not sure why this is the behavior since the backup should be just that... a backup. Syncing my phone's gallery is not an actual backup. Syncing is a different process, and I would not consider it a backup. What happens if I get a new phone and allow the backup to run before I've gotten a chance to restore all of my images? Do the missing images get removed from the online "backup" and disappear forever?

There are a lot of questions here, and I don't have any good answers just yet. I do know that I have lost pictures due to the backup automatically deleting them if they were removed from the phone and not storing them in the trash where they could be recovered.

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I'm in the exact same boat. Finally decided to understand the relationship between local storage, Google+'s "Auto Backup", and how the new Photos app navigates between them. Like you, I've got a ton of unanswered questions - way more of them than answers - popping up as I spend more time with it. Just as an FYI, I'm running Android 4.4 on the Samsung GS4 Google Play Edition. Auto Backup settings are to back up over network and WIFI and to exclude local folders.

At one point I took a test picture and, once it showed up in the "All" tab of the Photos app, I deleted it to see what would happen. The photo disappeared from local storage and the "All" tab and popped up in the trash. Not so on Google+ in Chrome. The photo remained, and the online trash stayed empty.

Upon restoring the photo from local trash and refreshing everything, I tried again. This time, the photo disappeared from the "All" tab AND Google+ in Chrome, but remained in local storage. It appeared in the trash on both systems.

Another strange thing to note is that the "All" tab includes both photos that have been backed up automatically to Google+ and photos that only exist locally in folders such as "Screenshots" and "WhatsApp". Because my Auto Backup settings specifically exclude non-camera or Hangouts photos, nothing but photos existing in Google+ should show here (hence the "Download" option available upon selecting a photo in this pane) according to Google's official description of this feature:

These are the photos & videos you've uploaded to or shared on Google+. If you have Auto Backup turned on, this section may include items taken with your device's camera, photos saved from the web, or photos saved by other apps.

It looks to me like Google rushed this app out the door, and has done a very poor job getting their code to match their description. What's worse, the functionality is so convoluted and confusing - to the point of seeming broken - that trying to organize photos stored locally (on the smartphone) and in the cloud (Google+ via Auto Backup) is nearly impossible.

Any help/thoughts on this?

EDIT: I can't say I've experienced anything like Ryan, fortunately. That sounds like the last straw for using Photos until it gets seriously overhauled.

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Google wants to integrate everything into G+. This started with SMS and Hangouts in Kitkat (where by default, there's no longer a separate short-message app). What you see here are preparations for the gallery: the Photos app is integrated with G+, but the Gallery app not yet removed.

  • So if you are content using Photos, Gallery won't really add any features and thus can be ignored? Any idea about the multiple backup-options? – jdepypere Dec 28 '13 at 15:09
  • No idea. I refuse using G+ (and all the other "big data collectors"). My backup is simple: Sync the image folders with their counterparts on my PC when logged into my home WiFi :) – Izzy Dec 28 '13 at 18:00
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Don't know much about Gallery but figured out about Photos. If auto backup is set up in Google+ on the phone, then photos get backed up in in the cloud in Google+. In the Photo app one can see Albums, Photos etc. If one deletes a photo in the phone it moves to trash both on the phone and on the web. This works the other way round. If a Photo is restored from Trash then it re-appears in the Photo App.

Why there is a Gallery App, I have not been able to figure out.

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