In the first part of this two installment piece, we reported on the following findings from our latest survey among 458 North American smartphone photographers:

  • The median number of photos that consumers believe they take per month is remarkably similar to what it was 1.5 years ago – it is neither plummeting nor ballooning. Smartphone photography has matured.
  • Even with ephemeral visual communication rapidly gaining popularity, most respondents still believe that most of their photos are long life photos (“keepers”)
  • Most consumers hoard their photos on their smartphone: they keep most of their photos on their phone for an extended period of time

Today, I’d like to share the findings that relate to how and why consumers store their smartphone photos on cloud services or home storage devices, as well as what features they most value in photo organizing apps or services.

Why store photos in the cloud?

On a 5-step scale from totally unimportant to extremely important, the ability to back up photos in the cloud is most frequently considered important or extremely important, followed by the ability to aggregate one’s photos in an easy or automatic way and the option to access all one’s photos from any device. Not having enough space on the phone or the need to share photos in an easy way was less often cited as (extremely) important reasons to use the cloud.


Backing up at home vs. in the cloud

But how important is the cloud as a backup vehicle versus a device at home (such as a computer, external hard drive, or NAS drive)? Respondents who use the cloud as a backup for half or more of their photos outnumber those who use in-home devices for the same purpose (based on a 5-step scale of 0% – less than half – about half – more than half – 100%):

40% of the respondents say that half or more of their photos are backed up to both the cloud and in-home devices:

Archiving at home vs. in the cloud

Archiving – taking the photos off the smartphone and storing them somewhere else – is almost as frequently done on cloud services as on in-home devices:

34% of the respondents say that half or more of the photos they’ve taken off the phone are archived onto both cloud services and in-home devices:


In sum: home vs. cloud? A majority of our respondents use the cloud as backup for their photos, while cloud and in-home are mentioned equally often as vehicles they use for archiving their photos. That intuitively makes sense: many of us are still a bit weary of trusting a cloud service as the sole storage location for our precious photos. This concern is also why 40% back up and 34% archive their photos both in the cloud and on devices in their home.

Desired photo organizing features

Finally, what is most important for consumers to have in a photo organizing app or service?

A weighted index, based on ranking 4 features, shows that deduplication is the most desired feature, followed by face recognition:

40% of the respondents find deduplication (weeding out duplicates so you store each photo only once) the most important feature. For 26% of the respondents that most important feature is face recognition:

Final thoughts

It’s easy to mistake consumers for either earlier or later adopters than they in fact are

When you engage frequently with cutting edge photo app, device, or storage developers, it is easy to be swayed toward thinking that the behavior of early technology adopters has already become mainstream. On the other end, digging our heels in and assuming that mainstream consumers still do things the old way, is a dangerous assumption as well. (How often did we hear just a few years ago that smartphone photos weren’t good enough for anyone but young millennials?)

That’s exactly why we wanted to do a reality check to see how and why today’s consumers take, store, back up or archive their smartphone photos.

It’s time to fix deduplication

While deduplication is the most important feature that consumers desire in photo organizing apps or services, it is not a feature like face or object recognition that draws media attention, nor is it one that could easily be monetized. Consequently, deduplication has only made baby steps forward compared to where we were 5+ years ago.

Most solutions identify duplicate images by comparing fingerprint-like “image hashes.” But what if the user takes a burst of photos that are each slightly different? Shouldn’t they still be qualified as “duplicates?” If so, which one is then “the best one” to display so that the user doesn’t need to see all 10 versions in their gallery? Defining “similar” rather than identical photos and subsequently needing to determine the best ones gets a lot more complicated, requiring AI-based and context-aware algorithms.

And what if several versions of the same image have landed in the user’s gallery coming from different sources (e.g. sent to them from two different apps or services)? Wouldn’t the consumer want to view all photos that are shared with them in one photo organizing gallery, without duplicates or lesser quality similar photos cluttering the view?

With phone storage space limited (plus, as we reported earlier, most consumers apparently not going through the effort to take photos off their phone, presumably, until they run out of space), wouldn’t it be nice if duplicates or lesser quality similar photos were by default archived to the cloud and available on demand if the user ever wished to see them?

In short, deduplication can be improved in many ways – the suggestions above are just a starting point for creative developers to consider. If you are working on a game-changing deduplication solution, let me know – I’m all ears!

A few more things…

VSCO. Hot from the press: VSCO launches its first video editing tool, available to its “VSCO X” members only (VSCO X is its annual subscription program to their app, introduced late last year).

EBay. Auction site Ebay is the newest kid on the block announcing it will offer visual search tools as an entry into their product catalog. Vendors with a similar approach include AmazonPinterest, Google, and Mayfair.

GoPro. It took a while, but GoPro figured it out: to expand beyond their early adopters it’s the software that matters. GoPro announces QuickStories, an automatic trailer creation app for the 99% of us who don’t have time to go through a 2-hour bike ride movie to create the 30-second highlights that are worth watching.

Facebook. This juggernaut keeps growing on all fronts. Mobile now accounts for 87% of ad revenues, or $8 billion. Instagram continues its explosive growth, reaching 700 million users.

Albelli/Albumprinter. After 6 years under Cimpress (Vistaprint) ownership, Dutch photobook provider Albelli is on its own feet again.  PE firm Gilde acquired Albelli for an as of yet unannounced amount.

EyeEm. Photo community site and marketplace EyeEm is gearing up for its fourth and largest photography competition yet, with more than 590,000 submissions from 88,000 photographers in over 150 countries. Hear about EyeEm’s AI solutions at Mobile Photo Connect.

FujifilmShutterfly and Snapfish, pay attention: Seeing, i.e. hands-on, is believing. Fujifilm is celebrating the one year anniversary of its first US Wonder Photo Shop store in New York’s Flatiron District, which has attracted 83K visitors so far. The shop encourages hands-on interaction with digital and instant cameras, as well as mobile printing.

ShutterflyMobile is a fast-growing category for Shutterfly: Mobile sales, including both mobile web and mobile app, accounted for 25% of second quarter Shutterfly brand revenue versus 19% in the second quarter of 2016. Also: most of the company’s overall growth comes from its business printing unit.

Mobile Photo Connect attendee quote of the weekFred Lerner, Founder & CEO of Mailpix, “Mobile Photo Connect is coming up October 24th…thankfully! Ever since the PMA stopped their trade shows, there is no better place for the photo industry to meet, exchange ideas and network. It’s a great event…hope to see you in October!”

Author: Hans Hartman

Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Visual 1st, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.

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