Review: Google Photos for iOS

Ever since the iPhone 4 appeared, Apple is heavily investing into photography hardware and software. Every new generation brings clearly improved camera, along with a couple of new software tricks. The newest iPhone generation is currently offering an 8-megapixel camera, able of producing images in resolutions up to 3264 x 2448. In addition, you can record video up to 1080p at 60 frames per second and 720p up to 240 frames per second. When it comes to popular selfies, you can use the front-facing camera that brings 1.2 megapixels and video recording of up to 720p (30fps). Even though other flagship smartphones are bringing even better specifications, their image quality is on par or lower than iPhone’s.

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Since the latest generation smartphones bring such powerful cameras, this makes it easy to have large image and video libraries that we all keep on our phones and computers. Photography has become something that we all have in common and I am sure this trend is here to stay. What this means for hardware and software designers and manufacturers is a constant effort in coming up with ways to attract new users and keep them by offering a set of photography-related features. For example, Apple has recently published their own Photos app for OSX, which once again united Apple’s mobile and desktop platform. On the other hand, Google is trying to do the same thing, not only for Android, but for all platforms. We are about to take a closer look at Google Photos, so continue reading to see what kind of benefits await and if you should considering switching over.

The Cost

 

One of the biggest features that Google Photos brings is the ability to store unlimited photos and videos, even though there are some limitations. For photos, you can upload up to 16MP images, while you can also upload 1080p HD videos. However, you can also upload higher quality images and videos, but they’ll be automatically shrunk down. What’s interesting to know is that you’ll be getting 15GB of Google Drive storage once you sign up for Google Account, so you can use that storage for higher quality files. In case you need more storage, you’ll need to purchase a subscription.

Synchronization Requirements

 

Setting up Google Photos couldn’t be any simpler. You need to download the iOS app on your device, and allow the app to sync your photo library. Once synced, you can access the library and make changes on iOS devices, Android phones and tablets, and you can use Google’s web interface as well. In case you know this service from your Google+ account, you should know that newly published Google Photos isn’t attached to your Google+ account (or any other account) and you can freely share and post images on any social network. In addition, these photos are private, unless you decide to make them public.

Photo Library Organization

 

When it comes to photo organization, Google takes a couple of different approaches. You can see view your photos chronologically, as well as zoom in and out to see more of less of your library. In this part of the app, the most impressive feature is the ability to search for specific things. Once you tap on the Search bar, you’ll see three categories: People, Places, and Things.

The People section shows photos that are organized according to a person that is on the photo. This happens automatically. For example, you’ll see a bunch of photos of your family, and then you’ll see photos of your friends, and so on. The Places section organizes your photos according to geo-tagging data. For older photos, Google will try to recognize a landmark in order to place you photos somewhere in the world. And there is the Things section, perhaps the most impressive one. If you search for cats, or flowers, or cars, the app will use Google’s cloud computing power to scan your images and show all your photos with cats, flowers and cars (and automatically create a new folder, just in case). Even though I was impressed by how advanced these features are, there are some small issues. Sometimes you’ll see a misplaced photo, but I am still very happy with these features since this is just the beginning.

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Navigation

 

Since I’ve got very large library, consisting of more than 15,000 photos and videos, I am always interested in how applications and services handle this amount of data. With Google Photos, the initial upload took almost three days. I’ve learned that you should expect somewhat slower uploads due to Apple’s iCloud Photo Library structure. Once uploaded, there are numerous ways to interact with your photos. For example, you can pinch to zoom in and out, which will switch the view from years to months, and then to days. You can also select a photo by tapping and then slide your finger across the screen to adds others to the selection. This is incredibly convenient, and I hope we’ll get to see this kind of selection in other apps as well. You can easily create your own albums or allow Google Photos to create collages, photo groups, animations, panoramas, and stories. The app will detect photos from the same place and time, and after creating a collage you can accept or reject it. This is a very easy way to create nice looking digital photo books, complete with text and maps. All of these digital image collections can be created using Google’s Assistant panel, where you can get help, of you can create them manually.

Editing

 

And finally, Google Photos offers a way to edit your photos. There are various editing tools that you can use, but most of them can be found in any basic photo editor. For example, you can adjust colors, tweak the light, sharpness, and vignette. There is also a set of predefined filters that you can apply. In case you need a quick fix, you can use the standard “auto enhance” to let the app suggest a set of changes. In case you need complex editing, I suggest downloading and using another free Google’s app, called Snapseed.

The Bottom Line

 

Google Photos is the app that shows this company’s expertise in mobile technology, file synchronization, artificial intelligence, and data mining. I am sure Apple will respond in time with upgrading their Photos app, which tells you that when it comes to photo library synchronization – Google is currently in the lead. In case you’ve been looking for a way to backup your photos and perhaps free up some space on your phone (Google Photos doesn’t store anything locally) then my strong suggestion is to take a look at this service.