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Samsung won’t be able to spam your Google Photos backup on Android 12

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Last updated: May 21st, 2021 at 12:54 UTC+02:00

If you’re one of the many Samsung smartphone owners who use Google Photos to backup your images and videos, you’ll have experienced this issue. The automatic backup is meant only for the photos and videos you take using the camera.

However, because of the way Samsung modifies the Android OS, it would cause Google Photos to backup screenshots and screen recordings as well. This meant that your backups would be cluttered with stuff that you probably didn’t even need anymore. Fortunately, Android 12 will put a stop to this.

Say goodbye to ruined Google Photos backups

To understand what causes this issue you first need to understand how media is stored on Android devices. There are two folders on an Android device where photos and videos are stored. The DCIM or ‘Digital Camera IMages’ folder is meant for all photos and videos captured with the device’s camera. The ‘Pictures’ folder is where app media is stored, like images you get in WhatsApp for example.

Google Photos and even other cloud storage services like Dropbox and OneDrive that support automatic backups simply scan the DCIM folder. If they find any new files in the folder, they’re automatically backed up. This is to ensure that any and all photos that you take are securely saved in the cloud instantly.

The problem arises because like some other manufacturers, Samsung also stores screenshots and screen recordings in the DCIM folder. So every single screenshot and recording is automatically backed up even if you no longer require it. There’s no way to stop Google Photos and similar services from backing up these unwanted files. The only way is to disable automatic backup which defeats the purpose of this useful feature.

It looks like Google is finally addressing this issue at the OS level with Android 12. XDA Developers have obtained a preliminary revision of the Android 12 Compatibility Definition Document. It’s what OEMs like Samsung need to sign before they can ship devices that use Android 12.

A section in the document now states that all screenshots and recordings must be saved in a ‘Screenshots’ directory within the ‘Pictures’ folders. Devices “MUST NOT” (emphasis by Google) save these files in DCIM.

Once the document is approved with the new rule, Samsung and all Android manufacturers will have to stick with it. This will finally put an end to this irritating problem. Users would be free to add the new Screenshot folder to their Photos backup if they do require cloud backup of these files.

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