Exclusive: Android 12 may fix the most annoying part of using Google Photos on Samsung phones
This problem also affects Xiaomi, OPPO, and Realme devices
Samsung phones don’t function too differently than other Android devices at this point, but Samsung does still modify a few aspects of the Android operating system leading to some annoying issues. For years, the company has saved screenshots to the DCIM folder, where only camera photos and videos are intended to be stored. This results in Google Photos, Dropbox, and many other photo backup services copying your screenshots whether you want them to or not. Thankfully, a fix could finally be on the way as part of Android 12.
Android devices have two folders for storing photos and videos. The ‘Pictures’ folder is where apps store media they have downloaded (for example, images saved from Twitter go in Pictures > Twitter), and by default, Android stores screenshots in Pictures under the ‘Screenshots’ subfolder. There’s also a ‘DCIM’ folder in the root directory of Android’s internal storage, which stores any photos you’ve taken or videos you’ve recorded. The ‘DCIM’ name comes from design standards for digital cameras, and it stands for ‘Digital Camera IMages.’
Google Photos, Dropbox, OneDrive, and other media backup applications scan for changes to the DCIM folder and can back up any new files they find to cloud storage. This works well on most phones, but not devices made by Samsung. The company’s One UI software (and Samsung Experience UX before that) always stores screenshots inside the DCIM directory, causing applications to detect them as new camera photos. There’s no way to prevent Google Photos from backing up screenshots on Samsung devices, unless you turn off automatic backups entirely, or use a hacky third-party solution like PinSync. It wouldn’t be too much extra work for apps to detect screenshots and add a setting to ignore them, but Google Photos and others have not done this.
Thankfully, it looks like Google might fix this issue at the OS level. Thanks to a trusted source, we’ve obtained a preliminary revision of the Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) for Android 12, and it defines the criteria that a device must meet to pass Android certification and ship with Google applications. Google is proposing the following section be added to Section 7.6.2, “Application Shared Storage”, for Android 12’s CDD:
If device implementation have screenshot or screen recording functionality, including by way of hardware shortcut or software button, they:
MUST save the image or video file generated in a directory called “Screenshots” which is automatically generated under “Pictures” on onboard memory or a SD card in a reliable port. It is accessible by using DIRECTORY_SCREENSHOTS.
MUST NOT save screenshots and screen recordings in DCIM, Pictures, Videos, or a custom directory.
The Android 12 CDD has not been finalized yet, so there’s still a chance this new provision could be dropped, similar to what happened with the proposed requirement for Virtual A/B partitions in Android 11. The move would force Samsung to store screenshots where they are intended to go, fixing the broken behavior in Google Photos and other applications. Samsung also isn’t the only offender here — Xiaomi’s MIUI also stores screenshots in DCIM, as does OPPO and Realme.
It’s worth noting that this wouldn’t block Google Photos, OneDrive, Dropbox, and other services from backing up Screenshots. Instead, it would make screenshot storage more predictable across all Google-certified Android devices. Google Photos already has an option to add additional folders for backup, which works with the Screenshots directory on Pixel phones and other stock-like devices.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will update this article if we hear back.