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Compare iCloud Photo Library and My Photo Stream

Apple has recently introduced a new way of sharing your photos and videos across your devices called iCloud Photo Library. However, at a first glance, its features seem very similar to the ones offered by the already existing My Photo Stream, so many people are confused about which one to use or why to choose one over the other. So, let's unravel the mystery and find out the differences between iCloud Photo Library and My Photo Stream.

My Photo Stream is a feature that allows you to easily see the photos that you recently took with one device on all your other ones. In simple terms, if you take a photo with your iPhone's camera and My Photo Stream is activated, you will be able to see it on your other mobile or desktop devices without having to copy it first. This service works on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, but requires you to set up iCloud on them first. So far everything is pretty straightforward, but here's where things get confusing: Apple now has a second feature called iCloud Photo Library that also lets you share photos across all your device. Why is that?

In truth, even though at a first glance the two services look similar, there is some pretty important difference; the first one is in the way they operate:

  • My Photo Stream shares every picture that you take while the service is enabled.
  • iCloud Photo Library lets you select the images that you want to share and just as important, choose who you share them with.

The second one is related to the way they work with iCloud:

  • My Photo Stream uses an optimized (read reduced) resolution for the images, is limited to a maximum of 1,000 photos and will only keep the files on the cloud for up to 30 days, but the data won't count towards your cloud storage space cap.
  • iCloud Photo Library isn't limited to a specific number of photos, the images get stored in their original resolution and the media files won't be deleted from the cloud, but they count towards your cloud storage limit.

There are also several other smaller differences between the two:

  • My Photo Stream can't work with video, isn't available on Apple Watch, it only supports JPEG, TIFF and PNG formats and the images stored cannot be accessed from the iCloud website.
  • iCloud Photo Library works with photos as well as videos, supports a wide array of formats including JPEG, TIFF, PNG, RAW, GIF and MP4, the files shared with it can be accessed from the iCloud website and the edits that you make on one device will carry through, being synchronized on the cloud.

If you want to know which one you should use, it all depends on your needs and requirements. Now that you've found out the difference between the two, you can make an informed decision, but if you don't want to choose, that's also fine as Apple allows you to use both services at the same time. Additionally, if your photos and videos start occupying too much space you can always learn to free up additional storage room on your Mac.