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What do we want from a photos app? This is the question that hundreds of startups across the globe seem to be all too eager to answer. Dropbox, too, has officially jumped into the fray with Carousel, an app dedicated to presenting any and all images from your account in the form of a timeline.
The Carousel website focuses heavily on the nostalgia factor, with cartoon images depicting a trip down I-80, camping, and a birthday or two. In practice, the app does capture a fair amount of that emotion, but it brings with it screenshots, scribbles, and other image-type data synced to your Dropbox.
That, to me, is Carousel’s big weakness right out of the gate: You can’t tell it what not to sync. My Dropbox contains a copy of my iPhoto library, but it also has backups of ten years of artwork, app icons, Macworld videos, and the like. There are certainly flashes of nostalgia in my timeline—thanks to one set of images, I spent half an hour telling my boyfriend about a trip I took to his hometown years before we even knew each other—but they’re often adrift in a sea of random icons and rejected drawings.
You can hide images that you don’t want to view in Carousel—much as I love my artwork from 2000, I don’t necessarily want it showing up amidst vacation photos—but you can only delete images that have already been hidden, making the process a little protracted. You have to visit your Carousel settings, go into Hidden Photos & Videos, then tap the checkmark in the upper right corner before you get the options to restore or delete images. And even then, you can only select all hidden images or one at a time—there’s no gesture built in to select a row by swiping on it, as some other image apps such as Loom offer.
Apple’s Photo Stream had similar problems when it premiered, too. And while I understand that the average Dropbox user probably doesn’t have a folder full of screenshots, occasionally we take images we later want to remove. Who among us hasn’t taken five pictures in quick succession, planning on deleting four of them? With Carousel’s auto-upload feature, deleting those four images just became a sight more difficult.
You also can’t edit an image’s date metadata. This shouldn’t be a problem for most users, but I have a rather ridiculous amount of undated images that Carousel files away at the beginning of my timeline, and there’s no way to correct the app (or, for that matter, find the file in Dropbox).
If it sounds like I’m being overly harsh on Dropbox’s 1.0 app, it’s only because I see promise in Carousel and want it to improve. Scrolling through your carousel timeline is a fascinating look at your life through the years, even when the occasional strange image sneaks in, and viewing high-quality images takes a mere second or two—better than many other cloud-based image services. Sharing, too, is delightful, and I love the idea of Instagram Direct-like conversations between you and your Carousel-using friends.
But the app’s not quite there yet. It may well get there in the months to come—and I certainly hope it does—but right now, Carousel is an unorganized front-end gallery for your Dropbox photos, which makes it largely useless to me day-to-day. If it gets a delete option along with metadata editing and album support, perhaps I’ll be persuaded to take another trip down memory lane.
Dropbox's Carousel takes the "nostalgia" approach in its photo app with limited success, but there's room for improvement.