An update to Google Photos began rolling out late last night. There appears to be nothing noteworthy on the surface, but a teardown has turned up a couple interesting details that point to upcoming changes. We will be getting some new informative boxes that can explain why backups aren't running, plus we may finally get back the much loved option to only perform backups while charging.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
Back up while charging
For reasons we can only guess about, the Photos team decided last year to remove a setting that specified backups should only occur while charging. Well, the setting wasn't actually removed entirely, but it was hidden from anybody that didn't already have it enabled. It was possible to do a bit of hacking to turn it back on.
Nevertheless, many people have been clamouring for the return of this option, largely because the app has been known to perform backups at inopportune times. While it's hard to say much with certainty, a newly added line might suggest Google could be planning to bring back the setting, or possibly offer it only when conditions are appropriate.
The line is a bit of an oddity. The title makes it clear that it's a setting and would appear in the "Back up & sync" settings, but it's not actually part of the layout for that page or any other. However, it is used in code and will be shown when the right conditions are met. My suspicion is that it could appear in the Photos app or as a notification, but only when Battery Saver mode is active or your power level is low. On the other hand, this could just be a status message.
Whatever the specifics may be, any activity related to backing up while charging is a good sign that users may be getting the option back at some point.
Information about power and background activities
Google Photos has to do quite a bit of work in the background. Depending on the circumstances, it might be backing up data, processing video, or syncing with a server. For the sake of letting users know a bit more about this, and give some guidance in the process, a couple more widgets similar to the Backup Complete box are going to be added. In fact, these are also part of the auto-backup feature.
There are two new additions. The first will inform users that they're running on a low battery and need to charge up before any more photos or videos can be backed up.
The second message will let users know that Photos intends to do some processing on videos. Part of the messaging includes an instruction to turn off the screen so the operation can begin. This might only include some operations, like stabilization or rendering a custom-made video, but could include any number of other tasks related to videos.
<string name="photos_autobackup_widget_turn_screen_off">Turn screen off to begin</string>
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