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Dropbox's Carousel app now frees up phone storage for you

Nicole Lee, @nicole
12.09.14
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Let's say you're about to shoot a video of your child's first steps. You launch the camera app on your phone and you're all set to hit record... but wait, what's this? A message pops up on your phone that says there's not enough available storage. Frantically, you head back to your camera roll, delete a bunch of photos you hope you won't need and rush back to the camera app, praying that you made enough room to capture Junior's momentous occasion. It's a situation that's all too familiar for those of us with limited space on our phones. Fortunately, however, there might be a solution to that, courtesy of a new feature arriving on Dropbox's Carousel app starting today: the ability to free up space on your phone with just a single tap.

Released in April this year, Carousel is an app for both iOS and Android that not only organizes your Dropbox photos by date, time and event, it also automatically backs up any new photos you take on your phone. That's good, but it didn't quite resolve scenarios like the one above, where you have to manually delete photos from your camera roll to make room for more. Now, it does. When your phone's storage approaches full capacity, Carousel will give you a notification. In the app, you'll be given the option to delete all the photos on your phone that have been backed up on Dropbox. Hit that button, and voilà, they're gone instantly.

And don't worry about accidentally removing a bunch of photos you haven't backed up yet. "We added a lot of safe checks," said Chris Lee, Dropbox's head of product development for Carousel. "A unique identifier is created for each photo," said Kat Busch, one of Carousel's software engineers. "Our algorithm compares those numbers to what we've stored on our server, so that only those that are already backed up on Dropbox will be deleted." Additionally, Lee tells us that if you're not critically low on space, Carousel will leave the last 30 days of photos on your phone to avoid disrupting your workflow. A lot of third-party apps like VSCO Cam and certain image editors only use photos from your local camera roll, so this way you can still use those apps with your recently snapped pics. You can, however, access Carousel via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp on both iOS and Android (Carousel on Android can access many other third-party apps too).

The feature to instantly delete backed up photos will be available in the Android update starting today and will be on iOS some time next week.

Another Carousel feature Dropbox is rolling out in the coming weeks is something called Flashback. When enabled, the app will surface interesting photos and videos that you took around the same time a year ago or several years ago. It's sort of like Timehop, but it focuses more on personal photos. It uses Carousel's internal algorithm that recognizes people's faces, so there's a high probability a photo of you and a friend or family member will pop up. Amusingly, Dropbox has set it so that Flashback will notify you of a photo on Thursdays -- which is very fitting for that popular Throwback Thursday meme.

"Carousel is meant for people to get more out of Dropbox," said Lee. "It's our dedicated experience for photos and videos, and now, for reliving personal memories." You can go ahead and get the Carousel app from both Android and iOS stores today, though you might not get the related feature updates until later.

Update: We've clarified which third-party apps can be used with Carousel above.

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