Google Photos is discontinuing its free storage option, but after years of conditioning users to unlimited free space for their images, people are understandably starting to look for alternatives that don’t charge as much as Google Photos could in the future. One of the more interesting competitors might be Amazon Photos, which is incredibly similar to Google Photos. There’s a big catch, though — Amazon Photos doesn’t have a 100% free tier. You need to pay for Amazon Prime to enjoy the benefits.
Amazon’s image service is part of Prime, which costs you either $12 a month or $119 a year. If you already pay for it to get access to Prime’s other benefits, like free shipping and Prime Video, moving all of your images over might be a no-brainer. But if the primary reason to get Prime is access to unlimited media storage, it might not be a better investment than sticking with Google Photos. With Google’s service, you’ll be able to store up to 15GB of newly uploaded images for free on the service going forward, with a 100GB option available at just $2/month ($20/year). Even the 2TB option is still cheaper than Amazon Prime at $10/month ($100/year), which should last most people many years, if not forever, if you’re selective about what you save to the cloud.
With Amazon Photos, you’re also looking at only 5GB of free video storage — you’ll need to budget at least $2 more per month if you want to save loads of videos. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can still save up to 5GB of full-resolution photos and videos, but after that, you need to pay. There’s no direct pendant to Google Photos’ old free tier with unlimited compressed images.
However, when thinking about the pricing, you need to keep in mind that Amazon allows you to share your unlimited photo storage with up to five friends or family members thanks to the so-called Family Vault. Members can share images with each other in an extra section of the app, but each person gets their own private Photos account, too, and unless you explicitly decide to share images with your Family Vault, things will stay private for everyone. If you get enough trustworthy friends signed up (or have a big family) and everyone is willing to share part of the cost, Prime could end up being significantly cheaper than Google Photos in the long run.
On the surface, Amazon Photos should look and feel familiar when you switch from Google Photos. The app is divided into four bottom tabs, giving you instant access to a timeline of all of your photos and videos, an extra section for sharing your images with your Family Vault, a shortcut to your albums, and a More tab with access to settings, backup status, and hidden files. That’s basically it — much cleaner than Google Photos with its store shortcut, its stories, and all of the red banners asking you to visit other sections of the app. Amazon’s search bar is also instantly accessible in your timeline and not hidden in an extra tab, which is the case for Google Photos.
Above: Amazon Photos. Below: Google Photos.
In contrast to Google, Amazon also lets you filter and sort images in your gallery by type (photo or video), people, places, things (like plants, trees, roads, etc.), and date taken. You can recreate some of these filters using search on Google Photos, but having them instantly accessible is a win. Amazon Photos will also ask you to confirm where you’d like images to be deleted from every time you hit the trash icon — from the cloud storage, from your phone, or both?
When it comes to album and image sharing, Amazon mostly offers just what Google gives you. You can use the share button to generate a link and share a full-resolution image without sending it as a file (like so), or multiple images in an album (like so). Just note that anyone with the link will be able to see whatever you’ve shared, so others could redistribute your collection of Rick Astley images without your permission (this is a problem on Google Photos, too, if you share images as a link).
I couldn’t find a way to share albums with specific other Amazon Photos users, which is a big bummer — I usually share photos from trips or events with my fiancee or friends using a private Google Photos album we all contribute to. Amazon Prime doesn’t have this collaborative option, save for the Family Vault — which only lets you add individual photos, not albums.
From the testing I’ve done, Amazon’s image recognition doesn’t seem to be on par with Google’s. You can search for generic terms describing your images to find what you’re looking for, and Amazon will do its best to give you relevant results. But while Google is able to tell that my hamster obviously isn’t a cat, Amazon thinks he’s a cat in virtually all of the images I’ve uploaded of him. Amazon even claims he’s a dog in one picture.
Amazon Photos also only managed to recognize three images when searching for “woman,” even though I’ve uploaded dozens of photos of my fiancee, my mom, and my grandma. It doesn’t seem to have problems recognizing men, though. If you name the faces Amazon Photos recognizes, you can also easily find the people you’ve photographed by name. Google is still coming out as the better service here, with more correctly identified faces. Still, Amazon’s search is mostly functional for more broad terms, though the false positives do sometimes make it hard to navigate the results.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to stop Amazon Photos from showing my screenshots in the timeline, even though I deactivated uploads in Settings -> Auto-Save -> Manage Folders -> Screenshots. That’s a bummer, as I like to keep my screenshots separate from my images.
Like Google Photos, Amazon Photos lets you view your images in your web browser — just head to amazon.com/photos. The web view mostly gives you access to the same images and editing tools as the phone app. Filters, albums, people, and the Family Vault are easily accessible in a sidebar. You can also switch between different gallery yview options.
An iOS app and an automatic upload tool complete with a gallery view for your desktop are also available — it’s just a bummer that the latter forwards you to the Amazon website whenever you want to edit or view an image in full screen.
Amazon Photo’s editing tools are comparable to what you get on Google Photos. It nails the basics like cropping and horizon correction as well as image adjustments like brightness, contrast, and saturation. You can also change the focus, use a brush, and comment on the image with text and stickers. The filter selection is a little smaller than what you get on Google Photos, though, and, most significantly, there is no auto correction option — you need to do everything manually if you’re not happy with how a photo turned out.
Amazon Photos also doesn’t let you override an original file with edits — you have to save the changes to a new file, and it will co-exist with the unedited one if you don’t delete it. Google Photos lets you save your adjustments to the same file, but it preserves the original version of the image and lets you revert to it if you want to — a more elegant solution, if you ask me.
Since Amazon is directly competing with Google when it comes to voice assistants, TV sticks, and casting protocols, you won’t see native support for Chromecast in the Amazon Photos app. Instead, you’ll have to cast your full screen to your Chromecast to show off images on the big screen or on a smart display. That’s a workable solution, though it’s not as comfortable as using Photos’ built-in capabilities.
If you stop uploading files to Google Photos, you also won’t see your latest images on your Nest Hub and other Google devices with screens, naturally.
On the other hand, you’ll win support for Fire TV and Echo devices when you switch to Amazon Photos. Depending on how your smart home is set up, this might be a win.
Overall, Amazon Photos is a competitive alternative to Google Photos. And if you share it with enough friends who are willing to contribute to your Prime membership, you could even end up saving some money compared to what Google Photos might cost you in the future. Still, committing to sign up to the service with others could end friendships, especially if you need or want to kick someone out of the group. You also need to pay extra money if you need more than 5GB of video storage.
You should additionally keep in mind that you’ll lose out on a few features from Google Photos, like private shared albums, automatic editing tools and creations, and the tight integration with Google Cast and Nest devices. The latter might not be a problem at all if you’re an Amazon Alexa household, though.
Overall, your decision might boil down to whether or not you already have Amazon Prime. If you’re subscribed, you might as well benefit from another service the company is bundling in.