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Photos and auto backup come to Google Drive for iOS

Learn how to auto backup your iPhone photos to Google Drive and how the updated app's photo features differ from those of the Google+ app.

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Matt Elliott/CNET

The Google Drive app for iOS received a photo-centric update earlier this week. A new Photos folder lets you view photos you may have stashed on Google+, and a new auto-backup feature lets you back up the photos and videos on your iOS device. If you don't see the new Photos folder and auto backup setting, hang on -- Google says the features are rolling out over the next few weeks. The new photo features are useful for non-Google+ people, but if you are already using the Google+ app for iOS, then you've already had an ability to perform auto backups via Google+.

To turn on auto backup in Google Drive, head to Settings, tap on Photos, and then tap the toggle switch to turn on Auto Backup. You can choose whether photo uploads and video uploads will occur over Wi-Fi or a cellular connection or over Wi-Fi only. And you can select to perform full-size backups of your photos and videos.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

If you go the full-size backup route, then you'll send full-resolution photos and videos and they'll count against your Google Drive storage plan. If you run out of storage, Google will switch to what it calls standard-size backups. With the Full size backup setting off, you'll be able to store an unlimited number of photos. Standard sized photos are resized so that the longest edge is less than 2,048 pixels, while standard videos are made to be less than 15 minutes long with a resolution of 1,080p or less.

When you swipe to the right on the Google Drive app to view the menu options, you'll see a new Google Photos item and not very many photo management features. It shows you a grid of thumbnails of the photos you've backed up, but you'll need to expand a photo and then tap the "i" button in the upper-right corner to delete it, move it, share it, and so on. There is no select feature that would let you quickly tap on multiple thumbnails to select them for removal, sharing or moving as you get with the Google+ app.

Google Drive's photos section lacks the Auto Enhance, Auto Awesome and face-tagging features of Google+. Google+ also gives you the option to start backing up all of the photos and videos on your phone or start backing up only those photos and videos taken after the feature was turned on. With Google Drive, it starts backing up your photos and videos as soon as you flip the switch to turn on Auto Backup.