As a former long-term iPhone user, I was always a bit perplexed why Apple didn’t configure the device to automatically upload every picture you take to iButt. As a recent user of Android, the reason seems embarrassingly obvious: it can devour the average person’s allotted data plan in a matter of hours.
This plain-as-day realization came to me when I configured my new Nexus 5 to save every photo I took to Google+. This is a feature of the Google+ Android app that’s incredibly easy to activate, and slightly more confusing to deactivate. Worse still, I was given no warning that my 2.5 GB 4G LTE data plan, something I pay a lot of money to have, was about to be gobbled up in no time flat.
When you launch the Google+ app on an Android device and tap on the Photos button, you’re brought a gallery that prominently displays the Auto Backup activation button. The control sits in prime real estate, situated in the top quarter of the screen:
As a new user, I saw this control immediately, and activated it on the spot, again, wondering why Apple never did this. Duh…
I was messing around with my Nexus 5 the next morning (I had only owned it for a few days at this point), and I happened upon the Data Usage stats screen in Settings. To my horror, I was already dangerously close to exceeding my 2.5 GB data limit. This forced me to carefully ration my remaining data for over three weeks, before my allotment would refresh. It wasn’t a fun way to spend the first month with my new phone, and the auto-upload feature on the Google+ app was to blame.
What had happened is I had turned on the feature right before I went to bed. As I slept, the app proceeded to upload every picture and video on on my phone to Google+, using my mobile data connection to do so. Even though the phone was only a few days old, I had shot a decent number of photos, and damningly, a decent number of videos. The result was this spike in my data usage:
The silver lining is the experience has made me acutely aware of my mobile data consumption. Now, if I monitor my usage closely, and somehow get it below 1 GB a month, I can downgrade my plan on T-Mobile and save ten bucks a month. Woot.
People often complain that Apple keeps its users in a walled garden, not allowing them to do certain things for various reasons. This was an instance where I was extremely homesick for that garden. It’s a nice garden. The fruit is delicious.
Making the auto-upload feature so prominently displayed and easy to turn on was 100% intentional on Google’s part. I can only surmise that not giving me a warning dialog about data consumption was a 100% conscious decision as well.
Google wants their free web service to become everyone’s primary image storage option. If they were to warn me about data consumption, I likely would have decided not to use the feature, and thusly, not use Google+ as my butt-based photo storage system.
In order to lure me in, Google decided not to warn me of the pitfalls. In other words, the best interests of the potential future of Google+ were prioritized over the best interests of the user. Lesson learned. In their eyes, I’m not a person who works hard and pays their bills and has to behave responsibly, not recklessly. To Google, I’m just a stat, and a single pair of eyeballs.