You probably already use a service to back up your photos, and I’m sure it works great. But that service, whatever it is, probably isn’t as cool, or creepy, as Google Photos (available now for iOS, Android and on the Web). Google finally spun off the best part of Google+ into its own standalone app, and, after spending some time with it, it’s clear that this is by far and away the photo service to beat.
I’ve been using Dropbox’s automatic upload feature for a while now, giving me a place to put my photos just in case my phone craps out. But, outside of Dropbox’s Carousel, there’s been no real way to organize those photos. When you upload thousands and thousands of pictures, renaming, organizing, and adding them to folders becomes an enormous pain, and always winds up being more work than it’s worth.
Google Photos does all the grunt work for you. And it’s a gosh darn miracle.
The first thing you need to know about Photos is that you get a lifetime of unlimited storage—for free. Granted, you’ll have to put up with compressed photos—anything over 16-megapixels counts against your storage (you get 15GB, but you can buy more)—but Google actually showed off the difference between a compressed and non-compressed photo, and the differences were imperceptible. Really, the average consumer, and especially people who are just uploading photos from their phone, won’t even notice the difference. You also get unlimited storage of movies recorded in 1080p.
What consumers will care about is the software magic Photos performs. When you first launch the app and get your photos all backed up, you’ll find that the app is pretty easy to use. Your far left screen is known as Assistant, which is designed to stylize certain photos, create GIFs, movies and stories, and also neat collages of similar photos. This is all done automatically, which means you don’t have to lift a finger. And it works really well.
All of the suggestions Google make, at least for me, have actually been very helpful so far. The few GIFs Assistant has made have turned out great, and the little movies are so fun. Google made one of my dog, of us playing in the backyard, and it is such a delight. All I had to do was upload my photos and videos; Google took care of the rest.
With movies like that, the app lets you change the accompanying music, title, add a filter, and change the videos and pictures that show up in the movie that Photos made. It’s like a super easy and watered down video editing tool, and the suggestions it gave me were awesome. For someone like me, who can’t edit video worth a lick, Assistant is a terrific feature.
The next screen over is where all of your photos are displayed, from most recent to five years ago (or however far back your photos go). There are three different views: Comfortable, which is a larger grid layout, Day, which breaks things up into smaller thumbnails, and Month, which breaks your photos down by month. (I prefer Day.) When you do choose the option you like best, you can easily make new albums, movies, stories and more with the click of a button.
To select photos, simply press and hold, and then swipe through the photos you want to select. It’s a quick way to highlight a batch of photos, if a little clunky. Beyond that, there’s a little scroll bar that will get you through your photos super quick, along with a search button, which is probably the highlight of Google’s new service.
Click on search, and you’ll see your photos broken into places, people and things. Click on dog, and Photos will show you all the pictures you’ve taken with a dog in it. What’s crazy about the feature is that you don’t have to tell Photos just knows these things; no labeling or descriptions necessary. Same goes for other things like food, landscape images, cars, and more. Input any relevant keyboard, and you’ll be amazed how accurate the search results are. It’s a little creepy, but cool.
Finally, there’s a collections view, which just displays all the movies, albums and stories you’ve made. I only have a few so far, but it’s just another way to easily organize your thousands of photos; you can also search right from this screen, too, though you can’t change your view like you can in the general photos section.
It’s crazy how much sense Photos can make out of so many photos. Even some of the photo edits Assistant suggested have turned out great. It took me a long, long time to get all my photos backed up, but I really like the experience so far. For the longest time, photos were either just sitting on my phone, or gathering dust in a Dropbox folder. But Photos has given them life, a purpose. It’s exactly the thing that dopes like me with too many photos and nothing to do with them needed.
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