How to access iCloud photos from Android phones and download images

Share iCloud Photos albums with Android friends

Taking a photo of a sunset with an iPhone

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 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? Some people might argue that people never want to, but some do, and in increasing numbers according to recent reports. 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 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?

You might want to find and delete duplicate photos in iCloud before you start.

Can you 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. However, it does not work well and it is not designed to be accessed using a mobile browser. It is possible though.

Chrome browser on Android showing the menu

Open Chrome on an Android phone and go to the icloud.com website. Tap the three dots in the top right corner to show the menu and select Desktop site to access iCloud like a desktop computer.

The iCloud website in Chrome on an Android phone

The iCloud website can now be logged into in the usual way using your Apple ID. All the apps are displayed and it is possible to open the Photos app to view your snapshots.

iCloud Photos app in Chrome on an Android phone

It is not very good browsing your photo collection this way on most phones. It might just be acceptable if you have a new top-end phone with a big screen, but most people should avoid this.

Share iPhone photos with Android

A much better solution for accessing iCloud photos on Android is to create a shared album in the Photos app on the iPhone. This can be shared exclusively with your iPhone-owning friends or it can be made available to people with Android phones too.

1 Create a shared Photos album

Create a shared photo album on the iPhone

Open the Photos app on the iPhone and select Albums at the bottom of the screen. Tap the plus button in the top right corner and then tap New Shared Album at the bottom.

2 Name the album

Create a shared photo album on the iPhone

A name for the album is required. It is best to keep it short, but descriptive. You can create many albums, but to make it easier to manage them, you may want to have just one or two shared ones otherwise it becomes complicated tracking which photos are shared with which people. Keeping it simple, here we create an album called ‘Shared photos’. Tap Next.

3 Invite friends to access an album

Invite people to a shared photo album on the iPhone

Either here or later, you can invite people to view your shared album. They must have an Apple ID, so they need an iPhone, iPad or Mac. This is not for inviting Android phone users. Enter the name of someone to share it with or leave it blank and tap Create to continue.

4 View your new Photos album

An empty shared photo album on the iPhone

The new shared photos album is displayed, but there is nothing to see because it does not contain any photos, yet. Tap the big plus button to add some.

5 Add photos to the album

Add photos to a photo album on the iPhone

The screen displays your photos and you can browse and select the ones you want to share with your friends. Add as many as you want. This does not move any photos and it just makes them visible in the album.

6 Add a comment to photos

Add a comment to photos added to a photo album on the iPhone

You do not have to add all the photos in one go and they can be added in batches. As photos are added, there is an opportunity to add a comment. This is useful and you could add photos from a holiday, wedding or other event and add a comment explaining what they are about. Leaving it blank is also an option. Tap Post each time photos are selected.

7 View the shared Photos album

A shared photo album on the iPhone

Here we have added a few photos and the plus button can be tapped to add more. Notice at the bottom there are two tabs, Photos and People. At the moment, only Apple users can view the shared photos, so tap People to change this so Android phones can join in.

8 Make albums public, share links

Make a shared photo album public on the iPhone

At the top is Invite People. This is to invite iPhone, iPad and Mac users to view the album. Below is an option to let them post their own photos to the album and this is a great option for families or friends sharing photos of the same event, like a holiday, wedding, concert, trip and so on.

To allow Android phone users to view the shared Photos album, turn on the Public Website switch. This means that anyone with a link can view the photos. Tap Share Link below it.

9 Share album links

Share a link to a photo album on the iPhone

The usual iOS sharing options appear on the screen and any of the methods can be used to share a link to the album with your Android-owning friends or family. Create an email, send a message, post it on Facebook or whatever you prefer.

10 View a shared album on Android

An iCloud photo album on an Android phone

When the link is received on an Android phone by email, message, Facebook and so on, tapping it opens Chrome and displays the shared album photo thumbnails.

11 View and download photos

Download photos from a shared iCloud album on an Android phone

Tap a photo thumbnail to view a larger version and use two-finger pinch and spread to zoom in and out. Long press on a photo to download it and save it to the phone.

As we have seen, sharing photos with your Android friends is possible and it isn’t any harder than sharing photos with iPhone friends. There are a couple of points to bear in mind though.

  • Android friends cannot upload photos and add them to the library
  • An album and its photos must be made public

The URL to access your photos is complicated and impossible to guess. However, it is possible for an Android friend to share the link you sent them in the email or message invitation. They can simply pass it on to whoever they want, so only share albums with trusted friends and never share private photos.


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