Amazon Prime Gains Unlimited Photo Storage, With Caveats

Prime subscribers can now store an unlimited number of small photos in Amazon Cloud Drive.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

November 5, 2014

3 Min Read

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Amazon on Tuesday began offering subscribers to its Prime service a new benefit: Prime Photos, which offers free unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive to Prime members.

"With free unlimited photo storage, we're providing one more reason for members to use Prime every day," said Greg Greeley, VP of Amazon Prime, in a statement. "Prime has always allowed members to conveniently save time and save money, and now with Prime Photos they can save memories too."

Amazon charges $99 annually for a Prime subscription, which began as a membership service that offered free two-day shipping. It has since expanded to become a broad customer loyalty program with a variety of benefits, including Prime Instant Video, Prime Music, Prime Pantry, Prime Early Access, Kindle Owners' Lending Library, Kindle First, Membership Sharing, and now Prime Photos.

[Google turns up the heat on AWS and other cloud competitors. Read Google Cloud Cuts Prices Again, Adds Services.]

Macquarie Capital analyst Ben Schachter has reportedly confirmed with Amazon that the company has more than 20 million Prime members worldwide, but Amazon itself has not publicly acknowledged that figure. Amazon allows only that there are "tens of millions" of members, without addressing the obvious entailment of that statement: In order to use the plural "tens of millions" properly one must have at least two "tens of millions," better expressed as "more than 20 million" for a figure close to that.

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Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prime Photos allows members to upload images from Android and iOS devices, Fire tablets and Fire phones, as well as Mac and Windows computers. Customers can view their pictures through televisions connected to Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, Sony PlayStation 3 and 4, and some LG and Samsung TVs. Amazon says it stores photos at full resolution in their original format, including RAW files.

This would seem to make Prime Photos ideal for serious photographers, but Amazon imposes some restrictions that call that assumption into question. First, Amazon states that Prime Photos is only for personal, non-commercial use. Second, Amazon says only photos smaller than 2 MB may be uploaded to Cloud Drive, in one of eight allowed file formats. Photographers with high-end cameras often produce images that range from 5 GB to 30 GB, or possibly more. Also, while Amazon allows videos under 20 minutes to be uploaded to Cloud Drive, it mentions only photos as eligible for unlimited Prime Photo storage; other files count against Cloud Drive storage limits. Amazon provides 5 GB of storage to Cloud Drive users at no cost.

Some competing services offer roughly comparable value to paying customers. Subscribers to Google Apps Unlimited ($10 per month) have access to unlimited Google Drive storage; otherwise photos larger than 2048 x 2048 count toward the 15-GB free storage limit shared across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos. Outside of Google Apps Unlimited, Google charges $10 per month for 1 TB of Google Drive storage. Microsoft offers Office 365 subscribers unlimited One Drive storage for $10 per month. Flickr offers 1 TB of storage free.

Buying 1 TB of storage from Apple or Amazon costs a bit more. Apple offers iCloud customers 1 TB of storage for $20 per month. And for files not eligible for unlimited Prime Photos storage, Amazon charges more than twice Apple's price for Cloud Drive storage: $500 per year for 1 TB, or about $42 per month.

If you just look at vendor financials, the enterprise storage business seems stuck in neutral. However, flat revenue numbers mask a scorching pace of technical innovation, ongoing double-digit capacity growth in enterprises, and dramatic changes in how and where businesses store data. Get the 2014 State of Storage report today. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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