Google Photos has an update on Android and iOS that would be relatively boring were it not supported by a shockingly fun-to-use map view.
The Google Photos app just received an update on both iOS and Android, adding new features, a more streamlined design, and better photo curation tools. It’s not perfect but the changes are a step in the right direction.
Google Photos is the default image gallery on most Android devices (but the app can also be installed on Apple iPhones and iPads). It’s about as straightforward as gallery apps come, on the surface. It allows people to view images and videos either captured with the device’s camera or installed through other means. However, as smartphones have improved, Photos has seen lots of updates that push it in the direction of becoming a photo curation tool for people to capture and string together stories. It tries to encourage taking lots of photos and organizing those to create a documentation of your life events.
Those goals are what the new Photos update tries to expand upon. The interface is further simplified now, offering only three tabs: Photos, Search, and Library. Photos has remained mostly the same, but its presentation is cleaner. Videos will autoplay, thumbnails are more prominent, and the Memories feature – which compiles similar images from a short period of time into a group – is easier to find. It’s been updated with the option to remove people or pets from memories automatically. Library is more of an overall file folder view. That’s where you’ll find images that were downloaded to the device rather than captured with it, custom albums, and the trash bin. Search is what it sounds like: it has always been a good way to just type in a month or a location and see images you’ve captured that fit. Typing “December 2019” will have last year’s Christmas photos, for example.
Google Photos Now Has a Map
This is a relatively minor update aside from the addition of the map view. This feature makes viewing photos much more enjoyable than a simple spread of images ever did. It’s a map of the world that you can zoom and swipe to see images you’ve taken in specific places. It requires having had your location data turned on when the images were captured, but if you did, your images will show up in a fashion resembling a heat map. This feature functions as a timeline of sorts as you’ll see larger clusters of images over areas where you did the most photography. It’s inexplicably fun to see a dot over a random area and wonder “Why did I take a picture there?”, only to zoom in and discover you accidentally photographed a stop sign while playing Pokemon Go in 2018.
The only issue with the map view currently is it’s hard to find. Google’s post about the update implies the map view is part of the search tab but it isn’t, at least on some devices. Currently, it can be accessed by opening an image, tapping the menu icon (the three dots in the upper-right corner), and then tapping on the map under “Location”. From there, everything works as you’d imagine, and you’re able to pull up images from your adventures. Alternatively, the map can also be accessed by swiping up while viewing an image. It’s still a small hassle to find, so it’s reasonable to expect Google to better surface the map view for Photos in future updates.
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