How-to: Use Google Drive to upload photos from Android, iOS

How-to: Use Google Drive to upload photos from Android, iOS

Summary: Phone cameras now take very good photos, so users use them more than ever. Getting those photos from the phone to any computer is a snap with Google Drive.


The smartphone cameras have gotten so good that many folks use them instead of dedicated point-and-shoots. Both hardware and software on phones now offer sophisticated features that let even lousy photographers take decent photos.

Phone camera

Taking photos is only half the battle for budding photographers, as it creates the need to get those masterpieces onto a computer for storage and other purposes. The more photos you take, the bigger the task of getting them transferred to a bigger screen.

I take a lot of photos, especially for product reviews for ZDNet. I have regularly used a couple of methods to get the photos off the phone and onto the computer. I've used the old faithful method of emailing them to myself and other times swapping the memory card from the phone to the computer. Neither method was efficient, especially for a lot of photos.

Recently it ocurred to me that maybe a good way to get a lot of photos off my phone and onto my computer could be Google Drive. The more I looked into it, the more I realized this would work no matter what phone or computer I was using.

Photo transfers involve two steps: getting the photos from the phone to my Google Drive storage in the cloud, and accessing them on the computer. Using Google Drive works well for me as I sometimes take photos with the iPhone 4S and other times with the Galaxy Note 2. There are Google Drive apps for both iOS and Android so it works on both phones.

I don't always use the same computer to work with photos either, not even a single platform. I need to work with photos on the iPad, Chromebook, MacBook, or Windows 8 PC. This is why Google Drive works so well for me, as I can access my cloud storage using all these platforms/devices.

Uploading the photos

The first step of uploading the photos to Google Drive is slightly different depending on whether the photos are on the iPhone or the Note 2. The free Google Drive app must be installed on the Android phone or the iPhone to get started.

Share and upload

On the Note 2 it's a simple matter of opening the Gallery app and tagging all the photos for uploading. Once that's done, hitting the Share icon brings up the share menu shown above. Google Drive is an option, so tapping it and then confirming (above right) starts the upload process in the background. Sliding down the notification shade on the home screen allows checking the upload status. I have transferred as many as 50 photos using this method and it is fast.

The iPhone method is similar to that of the Note 2 but iOS doesn't allow sharing to the Google Drive. Instead, you should run the Google Drive app, then hit the "+" icon in the upper right. The Add screen appears so select the "Upload Photo or Video" option. This takes you to the photo storage on the iPhone, so select the ones you want to transfer and hit Upload. The photos will upload quickly.

If you are transferring a lot of photos, you may want to do it using wi-fi. It will probably be quicker than using 4G and it won't make a hit on your data quota.

Your photos are now on your Google Drive in the cloud and waiting for you.

Accessing on the computer

Google Drive can work with any platform, so it's a good choice for me. There is an app for the Mac, so I can access my Google Drive files directly in the Finder. Google Drive is built into Chrome OS, so I have access from the file manager on the Chromebook. The same iOS app used on the iPhone to upload the photos is used to access the Google Drive on the iPad.

Google Drive Mac
Google Drive folder on Mac Finder

There is no app for Windows 8 but Google Drive is accessible through the web browser. It's just as easy to use as on the native apps on the other OS's.

No matter what system is used to access them, the photos can be selected and either copied or moved from Google Drive to local storage. I usually move them as I don't want to keep them permanently on the Google Drive, but those who want to leave them in the cloud can copy them to the local destination.

On the Mac and the Chromebook it's technically not necessary to copy the photos to local storage, depending on what you are going to do with them. For uploading to a blog editor or editing in a photo editor they can be accessed directly from Google Drive as if they were located on the local computer.

Using Google Drive has turned a task that was fomerly a pain into one that is quick and easy. It's certainly not the only way to get the photos onto a computer, but it works very well for my needs.

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Cloud, Google, iOS, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • Good idea but -

    Just a word of warning for the unwary - I tried this, clicked 'share' and left my smartphone to complete overnight (whihch it obviously didn't!). Not realising, the next morning I took my phone, got on the train, and received 2 texts from my mobile supplier, warning me of data usage - as I left home and wifi coverage, the upload continued on G3, using up my whole month's mobile data allocation in 30 minutes....
  • Seems old fashioned

    On my Nokia 920 and SkyDrive with 25 free GB storage

    I can simply tell it to auto upload photos and video and each whether to do it just when on wifi.
    Didn't have to install a thing.

    And of course SkyDrive on windows 8 automatically syncs to the local drive.

    Same as updates I set to just download over wifi.
    • iOS works pretty much the same way.

      Provided you want to work in the Apple environment. Photos you take with your iOS devices appear automatically on your other Apple devices. The cost is the same and you don't have to install a thing. In other words, nothing more than variations on a theme.
  • Google+

    Why not just use just Google+ auto upload feature?
  • Google Drive on Windows

    "There is no app for Windows 8 but Google Drive is accessible through the web browser."

    Google Drive sync application is available for Windows 7 and hence Windows 8 so you are not limited to your browser. Once you log in to Google Drive you just click 'Download Drive for PC' link to download the install file.
  • I just email them

    I just email them, only two touches more with Android 2.2 than in the example (first two letters of my email address) and they are automatically DLed to my main computer and available on any other.
  • use auto upload

    just use google+ and set to auto upload photos/videos to your web album. And if you don't mind your photos being auto-limited to I believe 4Mpixels size, then they don't count toward your free quota.
    I actually prefer to turn off auto upload and then occasionaly just tell it to 'upload now' but the feature is there.
  • Desktop to Google+ Photos

    Hi, what about the other way round? To automatically upload all available photos from my Windows 8 PC to Google+ Photos?
  • Put down the mouse and step away from the PC!

    It'stime we stopped this madness of "downloading" anything to our computers. I echo my other common sense brothers and sisters here who know better and use Google+ Auto Upload for their phones. Share from the web. Edit in the web. Walk away from the slow, buggy, and over-bloated computer. That era had its day. We are the mobile generation - even if we're over 50!