Dear Lifehacker, I love taking pictures with my smartphone, but — call me lazy — I never take the time to sync them to my desktop or the web. How can I back up and synchronise my Android phone's pictures without plugging it in? Signed, Too Slothful for Sync
We hear where you're coming from. As our devices become more connected to the cloud, it feels more and more tedious to have to manually plug in and sync your pictures.
Pictures aren't backed up automatically on Android in the same way contacts and calendars are, so we've picked out the best apps that will do it for you automatically, without wires. If you're using an iPhone, we've already got you covered.
Two Options: Sync to the Web or to Your Desktop
There are two ways you might want to back up your pictures: to your PC or to the cloud. Each option has pros and cons:
|PC||* You get a local copy of pictures on your PC
* You don't use your data allowance to sync
|* Your photos aren't backed up right away when you're not at home
* Your photos aren't integrated with online services
|Cloud||* Your photos are integrated with online services like Flickr and Picasa
* Your photos are backed up right away, even when you're not at home
|* You don't automatically have a copy of your photos on your PC
* If you take a lot of photos, it can eat up a lot of your data allowance
Some of those cons can be worked around and I'll talk about that at the end.
Sync to PC
Here are two options for automatically syncing between your desktop and your phone. Neither of them perfect, but they're both pretty good depending on your needs. We'd recommend setting up either:
- DoubleTwist with AirSync
- Scheduled upload to an FTP server running on your computer
Again, you've got some pros and cons to consider:
|DoubleTwist||* Regular sync
* Syncs music, too
|* Not free (costs $4.99)
* Doesn't run in the background or minimise to system tray
|Scheduled upload to FTP server||* Free
* Can work both at home and away from home with the right setup
* Works with any folder—not just limited to pictures
|* Not easy to set up
* Sync scheduling isn't very flexible
We've covered how to set up DoubleTwist with AirSync before, including a guide to scheduling sync, so I won't go over it again here. If you think you'd prefer scheduling uploads via FTP, here's how that works.
Scheduled upload to a Local FTP Server
Since you're syncing from your phone to an FTP server you're going to run on your desktop, there's a PC part to this setup and an Android part.
The PC setup: If you've already got a home server or FTP client installed, the PC part is taken care of. If you haven't, our guide to building a home FTP server with FileZilla will get you set up on that front.
The Android setup: Setting up your Android is easy. First download FSync from the App Market.
When you first run it you'll be presented with the contents of your SD card. Scroll down and click into DCIM.
In there, long press the Camera folder and select All Bookmark (you'll need to scroll down to the bottom of the options).
You do this because you'll be setting up syncing between bookmarked folders in a later step. Now we'll set up the connection to your computer by clicking on the network icon.
On the next screen click the Plus icon. You can then enter your FTP details. If you've followed our guide to setting up FileZilla as an FTP server, you'll hopefully know what details to put in here. Passive mode didn't work for me, but Active was fine. When you click save, you'll now see your FTP server in the list. Click into it:
You'll now see any folders that exist on your FTP server. I've created (from my PC) a folder called media. Long press the folder you want to sync to and select Add Bookmark.
Click back twice on your Android until you're at the SD browser. Click android menu, click More and select Sync Events.
Give this sync event a name. The sync folders will already be filled in because of the bookmarks we made. Change the Sync option to Server with Device. Select Auto Sync. Scroll down. Select if you only want to sync over Wi-Fi and when charging. Set the time you'd like to sync and how frequently. Click Save.
From there you can perform a manual sync.
Sync to the cloud
I'm going to cover two options here: PicPush and Flickr Uploader Pro. Again, each has pros and cons:
|PicPush||* Syncs to multiple services
* Doesn't store login details if you use Flickr
|* Can't configure to only sync over wifi so will eat into your data allowance
* A bit more expensive than Flickr Uploader Pro
|Flickr Uploader Pro||* A bit cheaper than PicPush
* Backs up via Gmail so is also stored in your sent items
* Can limit syncing to Wi-Fi only
|* Only uploads to Flickr
* Wants your Gmail login details
Flickr Uploader Pro
There's really not much to this application. Just the configuration screen. Once it's all set up new pictures will automatically be pushed to Flickr:
You do have to provide your email login details because it performs the upload via email to your Flickr upload address (which you can find in your Flickr account). That's not great and not really necessary as it could use the built-in authentication to your Google account or the Gmail app already on your phone.
You can grab PicPush from the App Market with this QR code.
The first thing to do is add an account to sync too (I've already added Flickr in the image below).
If you choose Picasa it'll store your Google account info but if you choose Flickr it takes you to your account for authorisation so that's a much more secure option.
That's it! The default settings will check for new photos and upload them automatically. You might want to check the Keep Private option under Preferences > Uploads.
Have a look in the Power options, too. If you know you'll usually be connected to Wi-Fi when you're charging, enabling upload when charging only might save you data allowance!
I mentioned some of the cons to syncing to the cloud and to your PC. But there are ways around them...
1. When backing up to PC, you're not syncing with any online services and vice versa.
You can fix that by syncing photos from your PC to Flickr with FlickrSync or keeping folders on you PC synced with Picasa:
2. Syncing to the cloud uses up your data allowance
If you use Flickr Uploader Pro, you have the option of only syncing when you're connected to Wi-Fi.
And that's that. A fairly exhaustive answer to a simple question, but hopefully you found a method in there that will fit your needs.
P.S. Have another method you prefer for wirelessly syncing your phone pictures? Tell us about it in the comments.
Steve blogs regularly about science, maths and technology over at blog.stevemould.com.