Google Photos on iPhone Not Taking a Backup? Try These Fixes

Google Photos is one of the most exciting products from Google, and not just due to the significantly larger baseline of free storage that you get compared to iCloud. A ton of image management features powered by machine learning, a built-in Google Lens module to scan photos intelligently, and the option to upload an unlimited number of items make it a must-have on your iPhone or iPad.

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However, Google Photos is not the perfect app when it comes to functionality, and you are bound to run into problems where your photos just won’t back up.

Thankfully, there are several known reasons why the app may hit a snag. So without any further ado, let’s go over them and see what you can do to get those photos backed up safely to the cloud.

Switch to Wi-Fi

The most common reason that prevents Google Photos from uploading your photos occurs due to cellular data. By default, the app is configured to upload your photos and videos using a Wi-Fi network. That's a wise move by the development team to save you from potential mobile data usage horrors.

To check if cellular data is the cause to the issue, perform a swipe down, and you should see a 'Waiting for Connection' notification show up on screen. If that's the case, turn on Wi-Fi, wait for your iOS device to connect to a hotspot, and Google Photos should begin backing up your photos automatically.

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If connecting to Wi-Fi isn't a feasible option (such as while traveling), you can choose to allow the app to use cellular data for backup purposes instead. To do that, get to the Settings panel of the app, and then tap Back up & sync.

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Use the toggles under 'When to back up' to configure the upload settings for photos and videos. However, do consider leaving video backups to Wi-Fi to avoid excessive usage of cellular data.

Turn on Back up & Sync

Another reason that prevents Google Photos from uploading images is when the app is not configured to take a backup of photos in the first place. If it’s been a while since you used the app, you may have turned it off (possibly to use an alternate cloud-storage) and forgotten all about it.

If that’s the case, you should see a cloud-shaped status icon with a slash across at the upper-right corner of the Google Photos app. Tap it, and then turn on the toggle next to Back up & sync is Off to start uploading your photos.

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Force-quit App

At times, Google Photos can stop uploading your images for apparently no reason at all. Usually, this happens due to random bugs or glitches and requires a force-quit to resolve the issue. That'll help the app to relaunch afresh and function normally.

To force-quit Google Photos, swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and then keep your finger pressed for a brief moment. On the app switcher that shows up, simply swipe the Google Photos card upwards to force-quit it from memory.

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Relaunch the app now, and it should most likely work without any issues.

Provide Read and Write Permissions

Google Photos requires you to provide access permissions to the Photos app so that it can read images from your iOS device for backup purposes. During initial setup, the app will ask for the required permissions. Most likely you did provide them at the time. But it’s advisable to double-check, especially if you share your device with someone else.

Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, and then tap Photos.

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Step 2: Tap Google Photos.

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Step 3: Make sure that Read and Write option is selected.

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If you found the option set to Never, then switching to Read and Write should prompt Google Photos to start taking a backup of your photos the next time you open the app.

Turn on Background App Refresh

Is Google Photos is taking a backup of your photos only when it's active? iOS is pretty strict when it comes to apps sapping away at battery life in the background. So it’s possible that the app is restricted from functioning in the background. To make sure that it isn’t the case, tap Google Photos in the Settings app, and then check if the toggle next to Background App Refresh is switched on.

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While you can now expect Google Photos to function in the background, iOS can still suspend the app from running after long periods. Hence, it's always a good practice to bring up the app for a brief moment whenever you shoot or save a new batch of photos and videos.

Out of Cloud Storage Space

Are you running out of space in your cloud storage account? That just might be the case if you were taking a backup of your phones in the original quality all along. To check up on that, tap the Back up & sync option in the Settings panel of the Google Photos app. You should see the amount of storage available listed underneath the Backup Account section.

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If you're running out of space, it’s up to you to either buy more storage or switch to High Quality mode instead. Opting for the latter is recommended if you really don't mind the compression that goes with it (16MP for photos and 1080p for videos) to upload all the images that you want completely free of charge.

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A third alternative is to compress whatever images that you've already uploaded to High Quality, and then keep on backing up your existing photos at Original quality. The option to do that would only show up when you are pretty close to running out of space.

Size Limits

Regardless of whether you are using High Quality or the Original mode to upload your photos, there are certain limits on the maximum file sizes of images and videos that you can upload.

For images, you are restricted from uploading anything over 75MB, or if it has a resolution that exceeds 100MP. When it comes to videos, you can forget uploading anything that exceeds 10 hours in playback time.

To check out the file size and resolution of an image, open it in Google Photos, tap the Ellipsis icon at the upper-right corner of the window, and then tap Info. For videos, the text on the thumbnails should denote playback length.

Try Backing Up Manually

No matter what you do, certain images and videos on Google Photos can repeatedly fail to upload automatically. In such instances, you can also check to see if the photos can be uploaded manually.

To do that, tap and hold an image to enable selection mode, and then tap on the items that you want to back up.

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Next, tap the Ellipsis icon at the upper-right corner of the app, and then tap Back up.

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Update the App

Have you updated Google Photos in a while? Various bugs and issues can crop up all time, and newer updates are mostly released to fix them. If automatic updates are disabled on your device, then it's time to check and update the app yourself.

To do that, fire up the App Store, and then tap Updates. On the Updates screen, swipe down to initiate a scan — if an update is available for Google Photos, apply it.

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Reinstall App

If none of the above tips worked, then a reinstallation is your last resort. You can delete Google Photos from the home screen itself and then re-download it via the App Store. However, you may lose any unsynced albums, collages, or animations during the procedure.

Instead, you can always opt to offload the app. That keeps all locally generated data intact while removing all app-related files from your device. On the Settings app, tap General, tap iPhone/iPad Storage and then tap Google Photos. Next, tap Offload App.

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To reinstall the app, tap the Google Photos icon on the Home screen. Doing usually resolves any persistent issues, and the app should start making a backup of photos and videos.

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Tip: Offloaded apps are denoted with a cloud-shaped symbol underneath the app icon.

No Trouble in Paradise

Hopefully, Google Photos resumes taking a backup your photos and videos. Yes, the app has its quirks. But going out of your way to make this awesome cloud storage work is well worth your time. Who doesn’t like free and unlimited backups?

Create a mental checklist with the troubleshooting tips above so that you know what to do the next time you run into issues with Google Photos getting stuck on your iPhone or iPad.

Next up: Is your Google Photos Backup looking messy after stuffing it with photos and videos repeatedly? Here's a useful guide to clean up the Google Photos mess and organize it.

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How to Clean Up Your Google Photos Backup
Also See
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Dilum Senevirathne is a contributing writer at Guiding Tech who loves sharing his passion for all things technology. He takes privacy and security seriously, so don’t be surprised to see him put sketchy-looking apps to task! When he isn’t writing, you can find him catching up on the latest tech stuff at Reddit.