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Please review my technology plan

I'm planning a 92-night trip to Europe in 2023. On the previous marathon trip I used my point and shoot camera and transferred photos every night from my camera to my tablet. By now the point-and-shoot photos aren't as sharp as before, so I'm making the hard decision to leave a separate camera behind and just use a phone. At home I use my cell phone as little as possible, with the cheapest possible service, but will need it lots on the upcoming trip. I will need to call home and receive calls from home too.

Given all that, my plan so far is to buy an unlocked iPhone 11 and put Google Fi Unlimited Plus on it as the provider, and then to use the phone for photos. From the reading I've done, it seems like iPhone 11 is about when the camera started being better. My understanding is that with iPhone, you now can set up an iCloud account to backup automatically and seamlessly--is that correct? Then I also understand that when there is good wifi, I can download photos from iCloud onto my tablet (which I will take again) and onto an empty Google Drive as backup. This plan also would let me use Apple Pay. I understand too that Google Fi includes VPN, which will be important for making reservations during such a long trip. I would resell the phone upon return.

Please point out the holes in this plan, as I'm none too certain about it.

Posted by
1259 posts

By now the point-and-shoot photos aren't as sharp as before, so I'm making the hard decision to leave a separate camera behind and just use a phone.

II've seen phones dropped, smashed, left on tables, run over, and at the bottom of swimming pools and marinas. stopped shooting with my phone for the simple reason that it contains way too much valuable information. I would not be waving my wallet around every time I wanted a picture. Replace the camera if you're not happy with the image quality. But, really, how much resolution do you need? If you need super high pixel count, you would obviously benefit from the additional exposure and focus controls, the zoom, and perhaps lens swap abilities of a dedicated camera.

Posted by
2299 posts

I would not be waving my wallet around every time I wanted a picture

Password protect your phone.

I bought an iPhone to do all things it says it can do - I'm not going to be leaving it in my pocket.

Posted by
2299 posts

Please point out the holes in this plan, as I'm none too certain about it.

I'm not following all the backing up. If you have an iPhone and an iPad you can Air Drop the photos to the iPad - I don't use iCloud for anything but that is an option, if you choose.

Posted by
11312 posts

I went camera free this fall on our trip for the first time and downloaded everything to my iPad via Google Photos. The iPad photo app will automatically pick them up from Google Photos if you have both apps on the tablet and settings to do so. I do not have an iPhone so since you plan to have an all-Apple environment the iPhone to iPad photo app should be seamless. And yes, you can have them backed up to the cloud.

I have never had a security problem when using a smartphone in public. I do tend to have it in a zippered place when not in use, a secure pocket or cross body bag. I am more fearful of losing it than of theft.

Posted by
212 posts

If you’re automatically syncing the photos from your phone to your iCloud, I’m not sure why you’re taking the time to download and upload them to a Google drive? Depending on how many photos you take and your current Apple account, you may need to purchase additional iCloud storage (incredibly affordable-I pay 99 cents/month for an additional 50 G of storage).

Posted by
1943 posts

Your photos can be backed up on the cloud and you can get them on your tablet as well.

I used to take a phone and computer but now since phones are getting bigger, I just take my iPhone which can do everything a computer can. I also usually buy the $10 a day plan from ATT my carrier but most of the time I do everything by WiFi to save money.

And I do hope you did your research on your 92 day vacation to Europe and how long you can stay.

Posted by
314 posts

I am also puzzled by the need for the second phone - unless the phone you have doesn't have a good camera? And all the downloading and uploading of photos. I have an iPhone XS. Back up photos when I have wifi (i.e. hotel) to Google Photos and/or iCloud. I can get them on my iPad, or back home on my laptop, anytime I want (I find Google Photos a little more user friendly, can add captions easily, create albums, share them, etc.) I don't know anything about Google Fi. I use Verizon TravelPass, which is $10/day to access the unlimited plan I already have. Only get charged if I turn on cellular, which I do when I need more detailed navigation or if someone sends a text needing a call or just to check in on messages. On a recent 21 day trip to Greece and Croatia, I think I used cellular service maybe 4-5 times. Obviously, YMMV depending on your needs, your phone and your provider.

Posted by
140 posts

Many thanks to all who took time to answer. It's helpful to see how different people are processing this. Here are just a few replies:

  1. Yes, there is plenty of potential for dropping or losing a phone, and that's exactly what is giving me pause. But on this and other forums, many are saying their phones now take photos that are as good as a camera, so now they only take one device.
  2. As of this minute the itinerary contains 65 Schengen days.
  3. I see I confused many of you about the backup. I suppose I could wait until I'm home to put all the photos on my Android tablet and on G Drive. I don't intend to stay with iCloud after the trip and certainly wasn't intending to buy an iPad. My thought was using iCloud to back up during the trip with minimal fuss in the evenings. On the last trip it was sometimes time-consuming to remove the memory card, put it in the reader, get all the photos transferred to the tablet, delete all the photos from the memory card, and then back the tablet up to the cloud. The goal is to have two copies at all times, and that doesn't seem excessive to me.
  4. Yes, the phone would be password-protected. I didn't think you could even set up your phone without that these days.

If I continue to make no sense, feel free to say so.

Posted by
13925 posts

"Yes, the phone would be password-protected. I didn't think you could even set up your phone without that these days."

You can set up an iPhone to not be password protected but if you have any cards stored in your Apple Wallet then password protection is required.

BTW, on my trip to Italy in the Fall I used ApplePay for everything including 3E gelato and 1.5E water. I have not been a big ApplePay user here at home in North Idaho but the folks at my local RS Travel meet up talked me in to it. I practiced at the few grocery stores and pharmacies that accept it here before I left. It was wonderful and I felt much safer with these transactions than pulling out my wallet for money or CCs. The only 2 times I actually needed cash were at 2 hotels I stayed at on the Rick Steves tour I was on....for wine/aperitif purchased on my own. They both requested cash.

Posted by
314 posts

My advice is just to download Google Photo app to your iPhone. Open the app, allow it to access your photos and you are all set. To back up each day, just open the app when you have wifi, click on your account icon in the upper right corner and it will do its thing.

Keep photos on your phone, back up each evening to Google Photos, and you have your stuff in 2 places (one physical, one cloud). The smallest capacity iPhone 11 is 64GB - plenty of space especially if you aren't loading it with tons of apps. To compare, I have an iPhone XS with 64 GB and I have 6500 photos and 95 videos on it right now (and I still have some space!). Photo quality is excellent at 12 megapixels (except for the user-error ones lol), at least for my purposes (I'm not a professional). Photos in Google Photo would then be easily accessible from any device, including your Android tablet. You can easily download to the tablet from Google Photos if you want the reassurance of having them in 3 places! Additional storage on Google is also cheap, if needed.

That said, the upload can be a little slow, so I definitely advise trying to back up each evening so you don't have hundreds to do.

If you don't plan to use iCloud going forward, no need to even use it - although you will automatically get some free iCloud space with your Apple ID.

Hope that helps!

Posted by
27081 posts

My smartphones have both been Samsung, so I know nothing about iPhones. I have loved having optical zoom on my new phone. So many interesting architectural elements are on upper floors of buildings, or across a canal in Venice. I have no idea whether the iPhone you're considering has optical zoom.

Google Fi is a nice, inexpensive option. I didn't always connect immediately, but I'm saving about $35/month for the months I'm not in Europe by having Fi rather than T-Mobile (which itself is cheaper in Europe than most other options). Be sure the phone you're considering will work with Fi. Some older ones will not.

Following a suggestion on this forum, I purchased a phone lanyard from Amazon so I could carry the phone around my neck if I wanted to. I was nervous about it, because it would be easy to lean forward and bash the phone against a bridge railing, bathroom wash basin, etc., but then again, I could easily drop the phone if I didn't have it on a lanyard. I ended up keeping the phone around my neck the entire trip (25,000 photos worth). Doing that might not work for people with neck or back issues. In addition to having instant access when I wanted to take a picture, I found it very handy not to have to dig for the phone when I needed to consult a map. You need to choose the type of lanyard that works with the style of phone case you're using, and if you're going to re-sell the phone, you may want to avoid anything with adhesive that sticks to the phone.

Posted by
140 posts

I think your second post, The Ordinary Rebecca, solves something for me. I didn't know you could do such a thing as downloading a Google Photo app to an iPhone. I think that will work. I've been slow to learn what Google Photos does. I was worried about taking more photos during the trip (currently at 92 nights) than I could keep on the phone, but your experience is reassuring. That way I'm dealing with a backup mechanism that I can keep permanently.

Acraven, thanks for sharing your experience, especially with Google Fi. I too would like to have an optical zoom on the phone I use, so I'm going to be investigating that further before buying anything. I also have been thinking about the real need for a lanyard as both a way to prevent my dropping the phone and a way to have it close at hand when I wanted to look at a map, take a photo, or answer the phone.

Thanks again. I think this one is mostly resolved.

Posted by
6288 posts

nancycantravel, you can download your photos to Google Photos in Drive automatically, keeping in mind that you have a 15GB limit, and photos can eat that up pretty fast. You can always open new Google accounts to get more storage, but then you don't have all your photos together. And of course, you can buy extra cloud storage from Google.

With iPhones, you will need to adjust your settings depending on what you want to do. For example, if you don't have a lot of storage on your phone (and I've already mentioned how photos take up lots of storage space), you can adjust your settings so that first, photos are automatically uploaded to iCloud, and second, the photos on your phone are replaced with lower-resolution photos, which saves a lot of storage space. You won't lose the high-res photos - once you open them on your other device (laptop, iPad or whatever), you will see the photo in all its glory. :)

I've been using my phone to take all my photos on trips and have never lost or damaged it. I think it takes wonderful photos - in fact, I'm planning to upgrade to iPhone 14 before my trip next year (I have the 12 mini now).

Posted by
140 posts

Mardee, thank you for that clear explanation of how this works. I do have more than one Google account, so with the ah-ha moment that I can use Google Photos even with an iPhone, I can use Photos even with a long trip. I was worried that I would take more photos than the phone could hold, given that I also will need public transportation apps, a mapping app or two, and maybe others. While my current phone takes so-so photos fine for documenting daily life, I wanted something a little sharper for Europe.

Posted by
199 posts

I have used Google for travel pics, and linked family to them so they can follow along. I do not like the way Google takes them all hostage though (the pictures!), and make it difficult to download them. If you try to delete any from Google, once downloaded, you run the risk of deleting from your computer too. So be careful, and back them up somewhere else before deleting from Google. Having said all that, I am taking less and less photos on trips, and don't miss them. No patience for a separate camera, though, that is for sure.

Posted by
2333 posts

I used Google Fi on my Europe trip this year - works great, though as you switch countries it does take five minutes or so for the network to update. Note that you must set it up BEFORE you leave and mind the instructions from Fi regarding iPhone e-SIM setup (you mentioned an iPhone 11, so you should be ok). Check to see if the flexible plan would work for your needs - you're only charged when you use data (with a cap), so if you're careful and use wifi at your hotels, you can save quite a bit. If you do use the unlimited plus plan, it comes with a 100 gb Google One storage. I snooze my account every three months to keep it active, saves me a ton on AT&T charges for international travel.

Posted by
281 posts

I would simply buy the best Iphone I could afford as I think you will fall in love with the Iphone and end up keeping it.

I just bought my daughter the 13 as it will be supported by future software upgrades for at least 4 years whereas the 11 might only be another 2-3. If you can afford the Pro model, go for it. It has an extra wide angle lens.

The camera on the 11 and later models is awesome. The actual camera lenses and functions differ little from the 13 to the 14. At this point, however, I would splurge for a 5g model.

As far as the backup workflow, the Iphone syncing to ICloud is all you need unless your tablet is not an Ipad, which was not clear from your post.

Posted by
8359 posts

One more thing to invest in. A lanyard that holds your iphone hands free and gives that extra "safety" factor to keep from dropping or accidently setting down some place. I use my phone as a camera as well and there were several times last fall where I was quite worried that I might end up dropping it in the water. A fellow traveler had a lanyard and I thought, "Oh, what a good idea!"

https://www.amazon.com/phone-lanyard/s?k=phone+lanyard

Posted by
1188 posts

Nancy

Your plan is sound. I went camera-free on our last trip. I used my smartphone for all my photos, averaging 200 shots per day. You are probably safer just dealing with only one device and not fumbling with an additional separate camera at the same time. My wife took hardly any photos, but she had her phone in her hand almost as much as me during the trip. Google maps, internet searches, translations, wifi audioguides at attractions, QR restaurant menus, tickets and payments require lots of phone usage these days. We are getting very close to going wallet-less.

The lanyard is a good idea. Phones are slippery. I use a phone cover with a wrist strap 100% of the time.

Posted by
140 posts

Thanks for the additional comments. I agree that a lanyard will be essential, since the phone is now such a multi-purpose device.

Posted by
1943 posts

I just got the new iPhone 14 Pro and it is amazing. The pictures are almost as good as a digital camera and it does everything but drive the car. Really this is all the electronics I need in Europe.

Posted by
92 posts

I just got a 128GB iPhone 14 Plus at AT&T for $5/mo for 36 months with my unlimited plan. I think they also had 64GB iPhone 12’s for $1/mo. Last year I saw similar deals for not-the-latest models (64GB iPhone XS for $1/mo). Something to look for if you’re with AT&T. (Maybe other carriers have similar deals, IDK).

Posted by
1478 posts

I am suggesting that you look at a Pixel phone. It will synch you to your Google account of choice. It doesn't store photos on the phone, but they are accessible on the phone via your google photos app. It takes great photos.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
199 posts

Just be careful with Google Photos. If you decide to get rid of pics on the web, it also gets rid of any on the phone. You have to be aware of this, because it doesn't clearly tell you. The answer is to manually download all the pics from Google Drive, once you are home, and THEN they will be in two places.

Posted by
145 posts

For those iPhone users who have limited cellular data plan; you might want to make sure you don't accidentally backup your photos to iCloud Photos using cellular data while you are out and about in area where wifi is not available. Photo library is backed up as part of iCloud Photos and a huge amount of data are used. So it's best to restrict it to WiFi.

There're 2 options to control iCloud Photos backup/sync photos using WiFi or Cellular:

Option 1: disable Cellular for iCloud Photos (use WiFi only for photos back up)

  • Open Settings on your iPhone (or iPad)
  • Tap Cellular option
  • Scroll to Photos
  • Toggle button to the left to disable Cellular, it will use WiFi only for photos back up

Option 2: set the Cellular Data options in Photos

  • Open Settings on your iPhone (or iPad)
  • Scroll down and tap Photos
  • Scroll down and tap Cellular Data
  • Two choices are available here:

    • ^ Cellular Data : disable this (toggle button to the left) to restrict backing up of photos to WiFi only
    • ^ Unlimited Updates : enable this one will allow unlimited use of cellular data to sync your photos when not connected to WiFi