How can I sync my iOS (in my current case, an iPhone8) photos+videos to both iCloud and Google Photos but delete all the photos+videos from my iOS device, primarily to free storage space (on my iPhone)?

Details and (known?) problems

This answer suggests that I can not do this, because deletion of photo/video files from the iOS device also deletes it from iCloud (example scenario below), which violates my goal. However, I'm hoping there's some workaround.

Specifically, I want to "free up space on my device" like I've done several times previously with Google Photos (GP). However, the GP photo/video file deletion may effectively delete the same photo/video file(s) from iCloud--which is what I'm trying to avoid.

2 Answers 2


The following worked for me. For my current purposes, 'iOS device' = iPhone8 running iOS 11.4.1.


  1. Confirm iOS device has uploaded all photos+videos to iCloud Photo Library. (How does one explicitly confirm this?)
  2. Deactivate iCloud Photo Library
  3. Execute Google Photo's "free up space on my device" to remove photos+videos from iOS device.
  4. Permanently delete photos from Photos.app on iOS device; excerpt:

    Delete photos permanently

    If you want to permanently delete your photos or videos within 30 days, you can remove them from the Recently Deleted album. When you delete a photo from this album, you can't get it back. (An aside: this procedure can be quite cumbersome for thousands or more of photos+videos.)

    • Open the Photos app and go to the Albums tab.
    • Open the Recently Deleted album and tap Select.
    • Tap each photo or video that you want to permanently delete.
    • Tap Delete.
  5. Reactivate iCloud Photo Library.

  6. Future-captured photos and videos are now both synced to iCloud and Google Photos, while perviously-captured-but-now-deleted-from-iOS-device photos (prior to #2) are all retained in iCloud and Google Photos (?).
  • You can select all photos in trash with one button and delete them all at once. Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 14:46

When you turn off an iCloud feature on a device, information stored only in iCloud for that feature is no longer available on the device. If you turn off Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Notes, Reminders, or iCloud Photo Library on just one device, you can still view and change your information on iCloud.com and on another device you set up for that feature.

Sometimes when you turn off an iCloud feature on a device, you can choose to keep a copy of the feature’s information on that device. The copied information isn’t kept in sync with iCloud. If you turn off Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Tasks in iCloud for Windows on a Windows computer, information stored in iCloud remains available in Microsoft Outlook, but it isn’t kept up to date with your other devices.

  • Helpful comment, thanks. I'm looking for a procedure. Does my newly-added (to my question), proposed procedure suffice? Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 14:16
  • @JohnnyUtahh that should work
    – Ruskes
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 16:28
  • thanks, helpful. I'm still waiting for Photos to upload to iCloud. Suggestions welcome on how to fix that, as it's been "stuck" for last several hours per: apple.stackexchange.com/q/336415/13179 Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 20:31
  • 1
    @fsb - Why can iCloud not do what Google Photos can do? I'd be totally happy if iCloud Photos could do what Google Photos (GP) does and has been doing for me for several years (across many phones, computers, for several GP accounts, shared folders, and teams). But from what I can see, after significant testing, is that iCloud can not. To me, the "iCloud is not designed to be a backup solution" argument rings hollow. However, pls share: what am I missing? I want to learn so I can better take advantage of these systems. Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 23:45
  • 1
    @JohnnyUtahh You ask me why icloud can't do what Google photos can do? I don't know, I don't work for either company and don't use Google products. ICloud is built to sync data seemlessly and automatically across devices and Google, from your description, is more of a backup that allows you to access backed-up data. I don't know why you say that it "rings hollow" because it works exactly as its advertised. I'm glad you found something that worked for you so we can leave it at that.
    – fsb
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 0:50

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