Access iCloud photos on Android phone and download images

If you have an iPhone and want to share photos with Android friends, if you switch from iPhone to Android, if you want to access iCloud photos from an Android phone, here’s how to do it.

Apple has built a wall around its apps and services and few are available to outsiders. This does not worry Mac and iPhone users that have mostly iPhone-owning friends, but it can be frustrating for people that have friends or family with a mix of iPhone and Android phones. How do you share your iCloud photos with your Android-owning friends?

If you switch to the iPhone, can you ever switch back to Android? You might argue that people never want to, but some do. Circumstances can change, making a less expensive Android phone seem attractive. However, your content could be locked away on Apple servers and devices.

You may even have two phones and you could have your own personal iPhone, but also an Android phone provided by your employer.

There are many reasons why you might want to access iPhone and iCloud photos from an Android phone, but is it even possible? Yes.

Access iCloud from Android

The iCloud website contains all your photos, contacts, email, calendar, and other information and it can be accessed on an Android phone. You must have an Apple ID though. If you have an Apple Mac and an Android phone or you previously had an iPhone, but now have an Android phone, it is straightforward.

Access the iCloud website on an Android phone.
Sign in to on an Android phone

Open Chrome on an Android phone and go to the website. Click the Sign In button and you are asked to enter a code for two-factor authentication. The code only appears on Apple devices and if you have a Mac or iPad with you, get the code and enter it.

If you only have an Android phone, press Didn’t get a verification code? You are asked if you want to receive it by SMS text message. If your phone is registered with your Apple account, select the option, get the code and sign in to the iCloud website.

View your photos at the iCloud website .
iCloud Photos works well in Chrome on Android

Mail, Photos, Drive, Notes, Reminders and Find My apps are all available and it is possible to open the Photos app to view your photographs. iCloud works reasonably well in a browser on a phone.

View and download photos at the iCloud website.
View your photos and download them

Swipe up and down to browse your photos and tap one to view it. Press the three dots in the bottom right corner of the screen to show a menu and press Download to save a photo to the Downloads folder on your Android phone.

Share photos with Android users

Looking at your own iCloud photos on an Android phone is easy because you have an Apple ID and you can log in to the website. Your Android phone owning friends might not have an Apple ID. What if you want to show your photos to them? Here’s how to do it.

Get a sharing link for a photo at the iCloud website.
Create a link to a photo in the Photos app

At the iCloud website in Chrome on an Android phone, open a photo and then press the Share button in the bottom left corner. The options displayed are Email Link or Copy Link. You can email the link to friends and relatives, or share the link on social media. Anyone with the link can view the photo and download it, including people with Android phones and Windows PCs. No login is required.

The shared link is impossible to guess, so only the people you share the link with can access it. However, if you share the link in a public place that anyone can access, then anyone can view and download your photo. Be careful where you share the link and don’t share private photos this way.

Share photo albums with Android users

Sharing one photo is in your Photos library with Android phone users is straightforward, but what if you want to show many photos? It would be tedious to do it one photo at a time and a better solution is to create a shared album in the Apple Photos app. This can be shared exclusively with your iPhone-owning friends or it can be made available to people with Android phones too.

I will be using the Photos app on an iPhone to set up the shared album, but the same method is used on a Mac or iPad. At the moment, you must use an Apple device to create shared albums.

1 Create a shared Photos album

Crete a shared album in Photos on the iPhone.
Create a shared Photos album

Open the Photos app on the iPhone (you can do this on an iPad or Mac too) and press the plus button in the top left corner. Press New Shared Album in the menu that is displayed. Name the album and then open it.

2 Add photos to the shared album

Add photos to a shared album on the iPhone.
Add photos to the new album

Press the plus button and then browse your photos. Tap photos to select them and then press the Add button in the top right corner to add them to the shared album.

3 Add a caption and view the album

A shares album in the Photos app on the iPhone.
A shared Photos album

You now have a shared photo album containing a collection of photographs and you can invite people to view it. However, only people with an Apple ID (iPhone, iPad and Mac users), can view a Photos shared album. This is not for inviting Android phone users, but we can change that.

4 Make a Photos album public

Make a shared Photos album public.
Make a shared Photos album public

Press the three dots button in the top right corner of the screen and then select Shared Album Details on the menu that is displayed. At the top you can invite people with Apple IDs, in other words, anyone with a Mac, iPhone or iPad.

A little way down the screen is Public Website. Turn on this switch and press Share a Link. Anyone you give this link to can view the shared album and it works everywhere, on Android phones, Windows PCs, Macs, Linux and so on. Create an email, send a message, post it on Facebook or whatever you prefer.

The URL to access your photos is complicated and impossible to guess. However, it is possible for a friend to share the link you send them. There is nothing to prevent them from passing it on to whoever they want, so only share albums with trusted people and never share private photos.

5 View a Photos album on Android

Viewing a shared Apple Photos album on an Android phone.
View a shared Photos album an Android phone

When an Android phone user gets the link to the shared album and opens it in Chrome, they get a nice collage of photo thumbnails. Press a photo to view it on its own and then long press a photo to access a menu with options like Copy image and Download image.

This is an album, so whenever you add photos to it, people with the shared link will see the new photos automatically. It is a great way to share photos with family and friends with Android phones.