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iOS 8 changes we’d like to see: Photos and Camera

Apple has focused heavily on iOS camera features since the iPhone 3GS brought tap-to-focus and video modes to the masses. But in some respects, iOS 7 still leaves us wanting when it comes to the Camera and Photos apps, as well as Photo Stream.

With WWDC and a likely iOS 8 announcement on the way, the Macworld staff, with the help of our Twitter followers, have been putting together lists of changes and new features we’d like to see in the next major version of iOS 8. Today, we cover photo features.

It’s worth noting that Apple often ties its coolest new camera features to the latest and greatest iPhone hardware (120 FPS slow-motion mode in the iPhone 5s, for example), so WWDC may not reveal everything image-related that the company has up its sleeve. That said, there’s still plenty for Apple to improve on in software for current hardware.

Combine the Camera and Photos apps

ios8 photos two apps

Do we really need two apps for this in iOS 8?

Now that the Camera app has an easy shortcut on the lock screen and in Control Center, having a separate app icon for browsing your photos seems superfluous. Plenty of third-party apps have shooting modes amidst their photo libraries—why not Apple’s? It would be easy enough to add a tab to Photos called “Camera,” and doubly easy to change the Camera Roll shortcut in the Camera app so that it brings up your Camera Roll album within the rest of the current Photos interface.

Such a change would bring other aspects of the Photos app—like Shared Photo Streams—back to the forefront. Apple’s photo-sharing feature is a great little tool, but I don’t use it as often as I should, in part because its album creation is buried within the Photos app, and most of the image interaction I do is in the Camera app.

Given Apple’s fascination with keeping separate apps for things like Messages, FaceTime, Contacts, and Phone, I’m skeptical this will come to pass, but I’m putting it on my list regardless.

Let us organize screenshots, please and thank you

Yes, this may be primarily a tech journalist’s plea—it’s on MacStories’s wishlist, and we’ve all been talking about it for what seems like years—but it’s not an unreasonable request. Apple has already begun creating smart folders in the Photos app for things like panoramas, videos, and third-party apps; why not make one for screenshots? The company doesn’t even need to add identifiable metadata, as it already has image differentiation: iOS screenshots are saved as PNGs, while images from your camera are saved as JPGs.

Improve Photo Stream backup

Apple’s Photo Stream brought effortless image backup to the masses, but it came with a major limitation: Only the most-recent 1000 photos are stored on the company’s servers. To sync more photos, you need to hook Photo Stream up to your Mac. In addition, deleting Photo Stream images is an arduous process, and one that deletes only the version of the photo stored in Photo Stream—not the copy in your Camera Roll.

ios8 photos photo stream

Wouldn't it be nice if this message came up when deleting images from your Camera Roll?

So let’s, again, simplify. Your Camera Roll should be your Photo Stream—any image you take on your iPhone should be backed up to the cloud. If you want to sync other albums, pay for more storage. Both Loom—recently acquired by Dropbox—and Picturelife offer large paid storage lockers for images, and I’m hoping Apple might take a page from these startups. iPhoto for the Mac is all well and good, but it seems silly that we’re manually syncing our photo libraries via USB to get our images. Let’s move this to Apple’s servers—even if it comes at a monetary cost.

Auto-backup for the Camera app could also solve the “duplicate photos” problem between Photo Stream, iPhoto sync, and Camera Roll. Currently, even if you delete a screenshot from your Camera Roll, you have to delete that image again in Photo Stream to remove it from the servers and your Mac. If your Photo Stream backup were your Camera Roll, deleting once would delete everywhere.

Split emailed videos up or provide size warnings

While Shared Photo Streams lets you share videos with friends and family, many people still prefer to send their video the (sort of) old-fashioned way: via email. But email has size limits, and HD video isn’t known for its tiny sizes. Currently, if you try to send an too-large video, iOS forces you to trim it down.

ios8 photos email

Instead of trimming video, maybe Apple can let us splice it into multiple parts—or funnel email sharers into using iCloud's Shared Photo Streams.

We received several Twitter comments about this limit, and while Apple likely won’t (and, in many cases, can’t) change email limitations anytime soon, there might other ways. Offering to split larger videos into multiple parts might be one option; better yet might be an automatic prompt to share large videos with your contacts via Shared Photo Streams.

Enhance search and tagging

iOS currently sports a distinct lack of search and metadata controls for images. Sure, things like geotags and faces are tagged automatically and stuck into folders, but there aren’t fine controls: You can’t search by date other than scrolling through Moments and collections, or quickly find all images taken in a specific place. Search is a huge function of iPhoto and Aperture on OS X—it seems like a no-brainer to offer it in the Photos app on the iPhone.

An easier way to share slo-mo videos

The slow-motion-video feature on the iPhone 5s is fantastic—even though slow-mo videos are space hogs, I love taking them. But sharing them is a huge pain: Your slo-motion settings are exported only when sharing via certain apps, and you can’t save a copy of your video with those settings to send over to programs such as Instagram. I get that Apple wants to preserve the editing capabilities for slowing, but it seems like it would be simple enough to offer an Export option in the Share sheet that applied the slowing effects to video for use in third-party apps.

ios8 photos slomo

Currently, you can add slow motion to your video clips in the Camera app, but that slow motion doesn't carry over to a program like Instagram.

I also wouldn’t mind the option to add multiple slow-motion sections to a single video, as you can in iMovie. While the fast motion-slow motion-fast motion effect is a neat gimmick, Apple could make it even better by adding slightly more functionality.

Let third-party camera apps take the stage

We can file this hope under the “rather unlikely” category, but I’ll mention it all the same: As with email clients, Web browsers, and other app categories where third-party developers offer standout alternatives to iOS’s built-in apps, we’d like to be able to set a default camera app that, for example, maps to the Camera shortcut on the lock screen and in Control Center. The company hasn’t been known to cede control from iOS’s default apps, but there’s only so long that Apple can rely on Open In and specific Siri partnerships. Here’s hoping we’ll eventually see a willingness to let users set their own custom third-party shortcuts.

Then again, we might also see pigs fly.

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