On the surface, Google Photos and Google Drive seem identical. Do you want to store photos and videos? Both can handle that. Want to be linked to a cloud or sync your photos and videos? That’s second nature to both. And both perform this task with a lot of free storage a user can take care of, as much as 15 GB of free storage to use. So, why both using both? Well, it’s in the name and a number of key differences and uses each one accomplishes, some of which one can do better than the other.

But first, let’s look at the limitations enacted by Google. Whenever you create a Google account, you get 15 GB of free storage. Awesome, right? It sure is, but there should be a teeny tiny little asterisk there because that storage applies to all Google applications. What does that mean for you? Well, let’s say you have 5 GB of storage used in Google Drive, another 5 GB is used in Google Photos and another 5 GB used by your Gmail. You just reached your limit because Google counts files and data used by all of its little apps and platforms. Keep that in mind because it’ll come into play soon.

Now, what major features puts a wedge between the two? Are they the same service? Is one better than the other? Let’s break it down with Google Drive first.

What is Google Drive?

By definition, Google Drive is a cloud-based service. You can upload a number of files to Google Drive, saving them and having the option to pull those files from any and all devices that have access to said files. If you upload a file with your phone to Google Drive, you can then later download the file with your computer and vice versa. By those standards, Google Drive is a paint-by-numbers cloud service.

What makes Google Drive one of the best, however, is that it offers a lot of storage, 15 GB to be specific and compared to other free* cloud based services, that’s a really good deal. But of course, the catch is that it’s shared among all Google apps. You can buy more, but unless you’re saving thousands of extremely high quality photos, you will probably never reach your limit.

Speaking of sharing with apps, that’s another of Google Drive’s strength, the fact that it’s so connected with the other applications Google has. For example, if you use Google Docs, your documents are saved on Google Drive automatically and autosave as you continuously write. In fact, this article was written with Google Docs and if the web browser shuts down, very little work, if any, will be lost because of how frequently it saves. It’s like that when using Google Sheets and other Google applications.

But here’s the rub: Google Drive is different from Google Photos. The major differences is the files that are saved. Google Drive handles just about any file you throw at it. Are you looking to upload a few text documents? You would use Google Drive. The major problem with Google Drive, at least for avid uses of Drive, is its limited storage. If you’re using it frequently, you’ll eventually creep towards your 15 GB limit.

Another strength Google Drive has is its interface; it is so user friendly. You aren’t being troubled by convoluted settings or being harassed by weird hiccups. Everything you need to know about GOogle Drive is right there in a very straightforward interface.

What is Google Photos?

Google Photos is nearly identical to Google Drive, however, the major difference is one that distinguishes it from Drive and that’s the fact that it only works with image file formats. You can’t upload documents or file formats other than image formats it supports, videos and GIF files.

But of course, that isn’t the only difference. In Google Drive, you create folders, but in Google Photos, you create albums. Folders serve a purpose of keeping files together other than pictures. With albums, they work just like any other album option with a picture viewer. You can create as many as you need to keep your photos organized.

As far as features go, Google Photos doesn’t have a lot and quite frankly, it doesn’t need a lot. Google Drive is a jack of all trades, but master of none. Google Photos focuses entirely on photos and it does it really well. Not only can you decongest your Google Drive by using Google Photos to house your media, but you have a small collection of editing tools to do some light editing on your pictures. You can, of course, crop but also a few filters, colors and alter the rotation.

Now, you may be scratching your head and saying out loud, “But they share storage. How does that help your 15 GB limit?” And you’re right. They do share storage–if you keep the pictures in their original resolution.

It’s true that your pictures count against your 15 GB limit. However, Google gives you an option to reduce the pictures quality. You have two options: Original and High Quality. If you keep your pictures in their original resolution, it will count against your limit. But if you choose to reduce them to high quality, you have unlimited storage space. And honestly, you’ll have a hard time noticing the changes unless you zoom in something like 500%.

Google Photos takes the photos you have and compresses them, thereby, saving on space and providing space for unlimited storage. For example, a 17 MB photo could be reduced to 1 or 2 MB with Google’s special compression algorithm. It’s quite an impressive feat, one that provides an image nearly identical and the only time you’ll see a difference is by zooming in. Are you going to be zooming in at 500%? Probably not.

Google Drive vs Google Photos

Honestly? Both. Google Drive and Google Photos both over a cloud based, but offer that service in different ways. So, really, you should use both. Google Drive is an excellent tool for keeping business files in the cloud as well as other important files with formats other than media formats.

While Google Drive is handling the brunt of important work and files, you should use Google Photos to house your personal pictures and by using its “High Quality” compression, you can save yourself an insane amount of space, all the way never tapping into your 15 GB limit.

Google Photos is just better at housing photos, but not so good with files other than its intended purpose. Google Drive, on the other hand, can be there to handle the files Google Photos can’t. Let’s also not forget that Drive doesn’t have editing tools for photos.

Bottom Line

To be more clear, trying to put each other to the test isn’t exactly fair. Both platforms are playing by different rules. Would you judge a hockey player with the rules of golf and vice versa? No. They have their own set of rules and play by those rules well.

In other words, they should be used together to serve specific purposes. Google Drive should handle the brunt of your work while Photos takes care of your happy memories.