How to delete photos from iPhone but not Google Photos

How to delete photos from iPhone but not Google Photos

If you use Google Photos on your iOS device, you may be wondering if you can delete photos from iPhone once they are uploaded to Google Photos. You have tried to do this from the app and have noticed that the photo is also deleted from Google Photos. So how do you delete photos from iPhone without deleting them from Google Photos? Let's find the answer. The main purpose of a photo storage service like Google Photos is to back up your photos to the cloud.

When finished, the photos are safe in the cloud. So, once done now you would like to delete photos from your iPhone to free up memory space for other apps and things like music. The question I've been asked by users lately has been: if I delete the photos from my phone, do they stay on Google Photos? Let's take a look at various methods to delete photos from iPhone but not Google Photos.

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When you install the Google Photos app, it works like a traditional gallery app on your iPhone. That is, it shows the photos and videos stored on your iPhone. However, you can also use it to save your photos to the cloud. When the backup option is enabled, two copies of the photos are created. The first is on the cloud and the second is the copy that is on the device.

In case there is no image backup on Google Photos and you are just using it as a gallery app, deleting the photos will only remove them from your phone. Such photos will not be displayed in any gallery app. But if you have backed up the photos, you can delete them from iPhone and keep them in Google Photos.

This is possible because the device copy is deleted without affecting the cloud copy. Although, the process isn't as simple as hitting the Delete button.

  • What happens when you delete photos from iPhone


There are three methods of doing this. Before examining them, let's see what its side effects are. Read our guide on what happens when you delete photos directly from Google Photos.

What happens if I delete photos from iPhone but not Google Photos

When you do, only the copy of the device will be removed. The cloud copy will remain accessible at They will also be visible on your phone, but only via the Google Photos app.

1. Delete from a different Gallery app

The easiest method to remove multiple photos from iPhone but keep them on Google Photos is to delete them using a different app. You can use Apple Photos app or any other gallery app on iPhone. Again, you need to backup your photos to Google Photos first.

To put things in perspective, if you use the Google Photos app directly to delete photos, both copies (cloud and device) will be deleted as they are in sync with each other. But deleting photos using other gallery apps will only delete the copy present on the device. Hence, your cloud copy will remain safe and intact.

Once you delete the photos using other gallery apps, you can still see them in the Google Photos app. But now you see the cloud copy. To check, open any image in the Google Photos app that you deleted and swipe up. If you see the "Save to Device" button, it means you are viewing the cloud copy.

If you see Delete from device, it means the photo is still on your phone. Enabling or disabling the Backup and Sync setting has no impact on this method.

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2. Use free space

Google Photos has a native feature to delete copying of photos from your device to free up internal space on both Android and iPhone. It is known as Free Up Space.

Once the feature is activated, it will remove the copy on your device of all the photos you have backed up. You will see the cloud copy on your phone. This method is safe as only photos that have been successfully backed up to the cloud will be removed. 

Pictures that have not yet been backed up will remain on your iPhone. Check out our detailed guide on what happens when you free up space in Google Photos. To use Free Up Space and delete photos from iPhone but not Google Photos.

  1. Open the Google Photos app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap the three-bar icon at the top and select Free up space.
  3. A pop-up will appear showing the number of photos that will be deleted. Tap Delete.
  4. If you are looking to free up the internal storage, you need to delete them from the Recently Deleted folder of the Apple Photos app. If not, they will continue to take up storage space on your phone until they are automatically deleted after 30 days.

Then, open the Apple Photos app. It is the app pre-installed on your phone. Tap Albums. Scroll down and tap Recently Deleted. Select the photos and delete them. If you accidentally delete a photo, you can recover it using the recently deleted folder.

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3. Use the Delete Device Copy function

The above method removes the device copy for all photos from the backup. If you want to remove the selected photos, you can use the native Delete Device Copy feature.

For the uninitiated, Google Photos offers two types of buttons to delete photos. One is your usual delete icon which will remove photos from both your iPhone and Google Photos account. The second Delete button (Delete from a device) is available by swiping up on the photo or by tapping the three-dot icon at the top of the photo.

When using this function, only the copy on the device will be removed. Since the photo is saved to Google Photos, you will still see it (as a cloud copy) on your iPhone in the Google Photos app.

To use this feature to delete a single photo, open the photo and swipe up. Tap Delete from Device. For more photos, select them on the Google Photos app home screen. Then, tap the three-dot icon at the top and select Copy Device Originals.

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If you have accidentally deleted any photos, you can restore them from the Photo Trash folder. To access it, open the Google Photos app and tap the three-bar icon. Select Bin. Choose the photos you want to recover and hit Restore.


Since we're dealing with related photos and cloud services, we always suggest trying the above methods first with a handful of photos. Once you are sure they are safe on Google Photos, you can go ahead and delete the rest.

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