High Variance

Photos + iPhoto + iOS + iCloud = I'm Underwhelmed

You may have heard that Apple announced a new iPad this week and that they released a version of iPhoto that runs on iPads and iPhones. Most folks seem to like it quite a bit, while a few people have complained that it’s unintuitive with all its mysterious icons and gestures. The problems with Apple’s “system” for managing and editing photos go much deeper and I find it incredibly frustrating because Apple has all the pieces for something truly fantastic.

What’s Crappy About the Current System:

  1. The new iPhoto doesn’t run on the original iPad. I get it that I’m in the minority of people who like to buy a product and run into into the ground before upgrading. And I get it that it that some of the filters might be a little slow. But Adobe Photoshop Express runs well. I think their public reasoning is that the experience on my iPad would be sub-par. And it conveniently gives me another reason to upgrade. Fine. I’ll give Apple a pass on this one.

  2. Why are Photos and iPhoto separate apps? I would understand if iPhoto had a superset of Photos’ features, but it doesn’t. Photos allows me to move photos between albums, create new albums, and do some minor editing. iPhoto has more powerful editing tools and lets me share photos with friends in different ways, but it doesn’t manage albums.

  3. Any album management you do with Photos doesn’t get sync’ed back to the desktop version of iPhoto. So why would I possibly go to the trouble of organizing my photos on the phone itself? I would say this was a bug, but it’s been there since iOS 5 was released in October.

  4. Photo Stream is a feature that doesn’t fit into my work flow. I can easily access all the photos I’ve taken over the last 30 days on any of my devices. If I want a photo that I took earlier than that, I must have moved it someplace more permanent during that 30 day window or I have to go back to the device where I took the picture.

  5. I can’t easily share photos between my Mac and my wife’s PC. While Apple might think this increases the chance that she will upgrade to a Mac one of the days, this sort of thing just makes her dig her feet in and resent the “Apple’s walled garden” even more than she already does.

What Would Be a Lot Better:

It doesn’t have to be this way. My perfect world looks more like this:

  1. iPhoto stores all my photos (and albums and events) in iCloud and replicates them on my Mac. Besides giving me a central repository that I can access from anywhere, it’s also my off-site backup.

  2. iPhoto gets merged with the Photos app and it also accesses my photos in iCloud. This means any organization I do (e.g., moving photos between albums) happens in one place: iCloud. It also means that I don’t have to actually store all the photos (and home video clips) on the device itself—it can stream them as needed and manage a cache of them so it seems fast.

  3. Apple provides a web app for browsing and organizing photos that could be used from a PC. Even better, they would open up the iCloud API so someone could write a version of iPhoto for the PC that used the same iCloud photo store, but that seems unlikely to happen.

  4. Photostream gets replaced by something simpler that just dumps all photos taken by my devices into my iCloud photo store. If they get grouped as events (ala desktop iPhoto import) they’ll be easy to find when I want to organize them.

This dream system isn’t easy to build, but it’s not impossible either. I just hope that Apple isn’t sitting there thinking their current system is good enough or that it just needs a few minor tweeks. And I really hope that some improvements are in the pipeline. If iOS 6 isn’t a lot better, I might just have to switch my photo management to Google Picasa. And this Apple fan-boi certainly doesn’t want to do that.