Hands-on with Flickr 3.0, with new features that make Flickr cool again
Legacy photo sharing tool Flickr got a dramatic app overhaul on Thursday, bringing the biggest changes we’ve seen to the app since its initial launch on Android and iOS. With added video, a faster search capability, and a more socially equipped photostream, Flickr 3.0 is attempting to distinguish itself from other wildly popular photo sharing services like Instagram, and trying to once again propel itself back into the photo spotlight.
The launch of Flickr 2.0 for mobile devices garnered some excitement when it rolled out in late 2012, but that was the last time Flickr saw any real design change. That was strictly a catch-up move; it kind of dropped off the radar since then. But now is precisely the time for a Flickr update if Yahoo wants to be serious about photos: Google, Apple, Facebook, and Dropbox are all fighting to be your go-to photo manager.
How does Flickr stack up? Let’s find out.
Hands-on with Flickr 3.0
Disclaimer: I’m not much of a Flickr user, but Greenbot’s Florence Ion is, and she never really used the mobile version of Flickr until now because the previous version felt like “an afterthought.” But Flickr 3.0 is no longer a secondary photo experience: She found much to praise in Flickr 3.0 for Android, and I’m finding the same in its iOS counterpart.
When you launch Flickr, you’re prompted to log in with your Yahoo ID; you can easily create one here if you don’t have one already, or you could log in via Facebook or Google. New users should find Flickr friends to follow: The app can search through your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and phone contacts to see which of your friends are already using the service.
Following friends is one of the best experiences of Flickr, as the first thing you see when you launch the app is your friend feed with recently posted photos. You can interact with each photo in three ways: Mark it as a “fave,” leave a comment, or share a photo through Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, email, messages, or just by sending the URL. Much like Instagram, you’ll see a sampling of comments left by other users beneath each photo. Unlike Instagram, Flickr’s design follows a more modern, minimalist approach instead of a retro feel.
To learn more about a photo, just tap on it. This launches a full-screen version of the photo, which can be zoomed in and moved around. Here, you can also read all comments. Tapping on the small info button reveals more details, including the date the photo was taken, whether it’s public or private, and any specific tags.
That info button reveals much more, however, if photos were taken with a digital camera and uploaded to Flickr, rather than taken on your smartphone and shared through the app. It displays what kind of camera and lens were used, along with any particular settings, like focal length, aperture, exposure, and shutter speed. This is a clever way for photographers to share tips and tricks with each other, or to take note if they’d like to use similar settings again for future photo projects.
A search bar lines the tippy top of your friends feed, where you can search for photos, people, or groups to follow. Yahoo claims that photo search is now smarter and faster with the 3.0 update, and it certainly feels that way. Photos are displayed in a gorgeous tile layout, and you can tap on any of them to see who took the photo and learn more.
Shoot and share
Of course, besides just viewing photos, you can snap your own shots to share as well. As is standard with all photo apps these days, Flickr has 15 built-in filters, which work for both photos and videos. You can apply the filter before you take the shot, or after. You can also toggle between the iPhone’s front- and rear-facing cameras and use the flash at will. And Flickr even makes a satisfying shutter-click sound when you finally take your shot. Touch up your photo with Flickr’s in-app editing tools: Pick the perfect crop, adjust the angle, rotate or mirror the image, or flip it upside down.
Flickr now supports videos up to 30 seconds long. When in video mode, you can hold down the red button to capture, and lift up to stop. Like Instagram video, this method allows you to stitch together a few clips taken in quick succession.
When you’re satisfied with your photo or video, add a caption and share it with the Flickr community. You can also tag its location, sort it into one of your Flickr albums, and upload it to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. To keep the photo to yourself, change it from public to private by tapping the padlock.
All of your photos and activity are logged on your profile page. Sort through your photos, albums, and groups, check your notifications, and update your settings all through this page.
To really make the most of Flickr for iOS, be sure to sync your photos to Flickr itself. This will automatically back up your entire Camera Roll to Flickr's cloud, and all photos will default to private until you mark them public.
Strictly looking at functionality, Flickr 3.0 doesn’t offer much that other photo management apps can’t do. Yes, it backs up your photos, but so does Dropbox’s Carousel. Yes, it has a social element, but Instagram is still the ruler of that roost. Yes, you can edit your photos before you share them, but iOS’s native Camera app offers some editing tools as well.
No, it’s not functionality that sets Flickr apart: It’s the photos themselves, and the Flickr community. Flickr puts the photos first, displaying them beautifully on the screen and giving details about how the photographer captured that shot. Because of its web counterpart, users can curate photos into albums that tell a story before sharing them via mobile. Photos captured with high-end DSLRs shine through Flickr, since users can zoom in and study a photo’s detail. This is clearly an app for the art of photography.