Essential Functionality in OS X Photos: Data Throttling

I’ll state this one plainly: the single most essential feature of the new Photos app in Apple’s Mac OS X is data throttling. That is, Apple absolutely must give us the ability to control how heavily our internet connections are used – and abused – by the app as it transfers photos and videos between our devices and the cloud.

Apple’s current standard photo app, iPhoto, is a data brute. Immediately after photos are imported into its library, it consumes all available internet bandwidth in a gross, clumsy effort to upload those photos into the iCloud Photo Stream. It’s ugly. More importantly, though, it can be very expensive.

The other day I was consolidating a couple of old iPhoto libraries into my main library. Within a few hours iPhoto had rammed a full 20 GB of data into the cloud with as much force as possible, regardless of the consequences.

The really terrible thing, though, is that there’s no way to stop it. Once iPhoto starts consuming bandwidth, the gluttony continues with wanton abandon until it’s done. Even if you quit the app, the bandwidth keeps on burning.

Most other cloud storage apps that require heavy data use are much more accommodating. They enable us to control the rate at which files are moved from our computers to their servers, so that we can avoid bandwidth overuse and its associated costs.

Dropbox lets us do this.

Picturelife

Backblaze lets us do this.

Backblaze

Even Picturelife lets us do this.

Dropbox

Bandwidth use management will be vitally important in Photos because the new app embraces and even promotes the storage of our entire personal media libraries in Apple’s cloud. So one of the first things it’s going to try and do is move all the photos and videos from our devices up into our iCloud Photo Libraries. Once all those pictures are safely stowed in the cloud, it will then intelligently reduce the amount of storage being used locally on our devices to free up space for other things.

This is a great model, and I look forward to it, but it’s the transition period that freaks me out. If Photos works like iPhoto, the internet will bend, if not break, under the strain of brazillions of photos suddenly being transferred from devices up into the cloud. And I, for one, will suffer extreme financial penalties.

My entire iPhoto photo library measures almost 500GB. That’s a full 200 GB more than the monthly quota allowed by my service provider. When I go over, they hammer me with a $2 per GB penalty fee. So I’d be looking at a minimum extra charge of $400 just to transfer my iPhoto library into the cloud, never mind the other additional penalties for the stuff I already do online.

If Apple provided data throttling capabilities in Photos, I could adjust the data burn rate downward and could then upload my entire iPhoto library over a period of several months, avoiding those extra fees.

While the Photos app is “designed in California” on Apple’s campus, where the bandwidth flows as freely as Napa Valley Chardonnay, the company needs to remember that the internet is a much more precious commodity in other parts of the world.

So let’s raise a glass in the hope that Apple enables us to manage our data responsibly.

Epilogue

Really, though, data use and consumption functionality in OS X should be provided at a much deeper level, possibly within the iCloud System Preferences pane, or even the Network System Preferences pane. Were we able to control data use on a system-wide level, we wouldn’t have to manage it on an app-by-app basis.