How Apple redesigned its Photos app around customization

my relationship with my iPhones The Photos program is complex. It is both my memories and my secret pile of shame. I have thousands of photos from trips, outings, and gatherings with loved ones, but thousands more of me, food, and random internet stuff (tweets, Reddit posts, and crossword clues). Throw in personal photos of things like my tax documents or ID cards, and the Photos app holds probably the most important and sensitive things in my life. I spend hours on it every day. Without the 73,600 photos and 2,607 videos I have stored on it (and 600GB in my Google Photos, of course, I only switched to iOS two years ago), I’d be lost.

So Apple announced that a redesign is coming in iOS 18 (and iPadOS 18), I was skeptical and concerned. Change? I hate it. Now my fingers know exactly where the buttons are; it would be bad to have to learn everything again. How else can I quickly find the screenshots I need?

The good news is that iOS 18’s redesign for the Photos app can make things easier. Better yet, it can allow people to use their albums in a way that best meets their needs – perhaps even benefiting those who are more useful and less vain than you.

I got a closer look at the upcoming changes at WWDC last month. But last week, I dug deeper when I spoke with Della Huff, Billy Sorrentino, and Jon McCormack from Apple’s Photos, design, and software teams to learn more about why and how the app was redesigned.

At first glance, your Photos may not look much different. As shown WWDC 2024, all your photos will still be the first thing you see. Look a little beyond the surface, though, and the changes are obvious. Gone are the tabs under your photos that say “Library,” “For You,” “Albums,” and “Search.” And instead of your grid taking up basically the entire page, it’s now about two-thirds of the way up, with the album rows displayed at the bottom.

I have to say that at first I was annoyed by this change, but I was greatly relieved when I heard that my entire library had been moved down a bit. Well, mostly, anyway. Years, months, and all will now be displayed in the bottom section, allowing you to switch between yearly, monthly, daily, and all views. This is fine for me because I rarely use the daily option.

A new filter button at the bottom left lets you choose what to focus on or exclude from the grid, such as screenshots, favorites, portraits, videos and edited images. Swiping to the side will show different collections created by your phone or created by yourself.

A composite graphic showing two screenshots of the redesigned Photos app for iOS 18.  Below the library grid on the left are three rows of collections. A composite graphic showing two screenshots of the redesigned Photos app for iOS 18.  Below the library grid on the left are three rows of collections.


Huff said the idea is to reduce “spinning on the ground,” referencing an idea McCormack mentioned earlier. With more than three trillion photos and videos taken every year, Apple users probably don’t want to sit through blurry shots or screenshots. Helping them get what they want faster is one of the key areas of the redesign.

But as I said, too much change is bad. “From the beginning of this design process, it was very important that we not lose any of the key features that people love today,” Sorrentino said. The things I used the most so far are either still there or easier to come by. While I find it unnecessary to automatically play every collection as memory in the redesign, at least it will look nice and not take up extra space.

When you swipe to the right of the grid, you’ll see a new Photos Carousel that highlights what Apple thinks is your best content. It uses “in-device intelligence”, which the app has been developing for 15 years, and takes into account information such as the people in the footage and where they were taken to create mini-movies of your walks and activities.

Do not confuse with this Apple Intelligence, though. It’s just algorithms. In fact, McCormack called it “intuition.” For example, he said, “The iPhone knew who my partner was long before I told the iPhone who my partner was.” The team is building on the same system that detects faces and creates Memories here, and in iOS 18 it will begin offering photo sets featuring groups of people and pets, such as you and your parents, your partner and your pet, or you and your partner. There will also be new collections, such as “recently edited” and “a smart receipt album that you can place on top of linked collections,” Huff said.

He noted that the redesigned Photos app “includes a number of new dimensions and content types, such as receipts and documents, handwriting, QR codes, and more.” These can lead to more efficient and relevant search results, which can help you learn more about your library.

Apple Intelligence will be Bring to the Photos app a few new tools like Cleanup to remove background distractions and text suggestions to create narrative Memories with story lines. It will also enable “natural language search” which will allow you to find a picture by describing what’s in them so you don’t have to try to remember where and when it happened or worse, the doomsday book. It should be as easy as typing in “flaming mantis with a group of people in shock” instead of searching through the hundreds of photos you took in Las Vegas. However, these will require you to have at least an iPhone 15 Pro.

While working with Huff, Sorrentino, and McCormack, I learned that Cleanup Images works on all images in your app, so you can use it on screenshots or downloaded images as well. McCormack explained that when you use Cleanup on an image taken in Portrait mode, “we’ll clean up the original image and then reapply the depth of field effect.”

Apple uses “three different AI models” to remove background distractions, McCormack said. The first will “understand the clutter so that when you click on something, we know what to remove.” The other two are a “filling model” to replace the hole, as well as a model that will understand “subject segmentation boundaries”. The latter will prevent Cleanup from leaving gaps on your subject’s head or accidentally giving them an unsightly haircut.

With so many collections in the new Photos app, you can create and paste them wherever you want, making it easy to access your favorite photos. Basically, the entire area under the net is your playing field. “You can structure the program yourself,” Sorrentino said. You can “turn any section of the app on or off” or rearrange it.

My favorite person is myself, so I’ll probably put my best selfies in a collection and it’ll be the first picture I see after scrolling through the net. But as part of the collections below the grid, I’ll have the touch patterns I’ve screenshotted above, as well as important information I often refer to, like airline loyalty account numbers.

The beauty of customization in general is that each person can tailor the interface to their individual needs. Maybe you prefer to use Photos a little more like Pinterest, where you take a screenshot of the car models you want to buy and put them in an album. Or maybe you track your meals by taking pictures of your daily meals to help you plan your menu. Or you’re cataloging your clothing, your garden, your stamp collection, or your growing child. You will be able to create a collection of the photos you want and pin them.

I haven’t spent time with the new Photos app yet, so while I’m excited by the promise of what customization can bring, I’m holding off on judgment. I also enjoy scrolling through my gallery as I look at my weekend because it visually represents my train of thought throughout the days. Sometimes I use screenshots to remind myself to do something when I inevitably look back at pictures of my friend’s cute baby later in the evening. So the idea of ​​letting Apple filter out what it thinks might be irrelevant is not something that appeals to my management. Fortunately, I still seem to be able to view all the images in my library.

I’d also like to see how the Cleanup tool works, as well as whether the “natural language search” performs well compared to what Google recently announced. Query Images tool. While I don’t create or watch a lot of Memories, I’d be interested to see how a video from a prompt like “all my outfits from sports to uniforms” would look like.

iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 are currently in closed beta for developers, and the public beta is expected to be available this summer. The full release of the new software will arrive in the fall, when most people will get the redesigned Photos app when they upgrade their iPhones. It’s still a few months before your fingers relearn where everything is.

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