iOS 7 preview: Photos automagically filters your life into collections, moments, and more

iOS 7: Photos automagically filters your life into collections, moments, and more

iOS 7's Photos app not only gets a makeover, but gets automated organization by year, collection, and moment, as well as filters for your post-processing pleasure

Just like its partner, the Camera app, the iOS 7 Photos app is newly objectified, gamified, and... filter-fied?

Here's how Apple describes the new Photos app:

Now there are faster, easier, and more delightful ways to scroll down memory lane. Introducing Collections, Moments, and Years — smart groupings of your photos and videos based on time and place. Tap Years and all your shots fill the screen. Each year holds Collections, like your trip to San Francisco. And in that Collection are distinct Moments — photos from Union Square, videos from AT&T Park. So you can find a shot from whenever, wherever, in no time.


And here's what they've shown off so far:

  • After 6 years and 6 versions of iOS, the trust sunflower icon has been retired and a new, more abstract, multi-color "flower" has taken its place. (See above.)
  • Likewise, after 6 years and 6 versions, Apple is also breaking up the single, monolithic camera roll by automatically organizing it based on time and location metadata. Instead of relegating Places or Events to a secondary tabs, however, Apple's combining them here, moving them to the primary tab, and making them the default view (if Camera Roll remains, it's been shunted all the way down to Albums or elsewhere).
  • Moments looks like it divides up your photos more completely, introducing breaks for every major change in time or place. Photo thumbnails appear to be roughly the same size as they were in Camera Roll, fitting four across in portrait mode.


  • Collections are intelligent groupings of moments. They appear to coalesce a few places and dates that are close together. So a day that has a few places, or a place that covers a few days. The goal seems to be to break up the view into more easily glance-able chunks while still providing some general time and location data for context. The photo thumbnails are slightly smaller here, fitting ten across in portrait mode.


  • Years simply divides photos up by year. So, 2013, 2012, 2011. Location highlights are also shown. It's very literally a bird's eye view of your year in photos. And the photo thumbnails are tiny, fitting what looks like 32 across in portrait mode.


  • To help make up for the tiny size of thumbnails, Photos lets you touch your finger down on a photo to pop up a larger sized thumbnail for that photo. Moving your finger around switches between photos. This lets you more easily select a specific photo out of the much higher density of photos presented in some views. Apple has only shown this off in the Years view so far, but hopefully it's in at least the Collections view as well (Moments are sufficiently sized already).


  • Tapping on a photo in Years, Collections, or Moments brings you to a single photo view. From this view, you can still Edit, Share, or Delete.

  • Edit mode switches the background from white to black and enables previous functions like rotate, auto-enhance, red-eye removal, and crop.

  • Photos also now includes the same filters the new Camera app enjoys: mono, tonal, noir, fade, chrome, process, transfer, and instant.

  • Share sheets have been completely re-imagined. You can now swipe through and add more photos right from the share sheet. You can also share via the new iOS version of AirDrop, with integrated services like Messages, Mail, iCloud (Photo Stream), Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr now as well, and you can still perform basic functions like copy, slideshow, AirPlay, assign to contact, use as wallpaper, and print.

The iPhone Photos interface in 2007, and the iPad Photos interface that followed in 2010, both designed by Mike Matas, were delightful. The ability to pinch-to-zoom photos was one of the major multitouch selling points of the original iPhone, and likewise the ability to peak into stacks of photos on the iPad. But again, that was 6 years and 3 years ago respectively, and what was once done by genius animation is now done by iOS 7's new physics engine. You can still swipe. You can still pinch. (I don't know if you can still peak?). Yet you can also now benefit from a lot of app-side smarts.

Camera Roll really was monolithic. A never-ending chronological matrix of photos, as an interface, goes only so far. Moments, Collections, and Years are better, smarter ways of organizing pictures.

The idea of using automatically generated metadata isn't anything new for Apple, as they've exposed Events and Places in iPhoto before, and Places in Photos. But merging them and making them the primary point of entry is new, and it's a change very much for the better.

Rather than absolutely breaking sets up by time and place, letting them group together into right-sized groupings is also clever. Too few, or too little, and even the new Collections and Moments lose utility.

I'm not as sure about the use of white as the primary background color here. Sure, traditional, real-world photo album pages were and are often white or off-white, but black has always seemed better for digital. Not having to compete for brightness, colors pop against black. That's probably why Apple still switches to it in edit mode, but it might work better to stick to it in general. I'll have to give it some time to really see and feel the difference.

Filters, as mentioned, are the same as the dynamic ones in the Camera app. Apple hasn't posted specific screens showing them in Photos, so here they are again from Camera.

The new Share Sheets look great. The ability to add extra photos right from the Share Sheet is fantastic, and saves having to cancel, add more, and share again. Much more efficient. AirDrop, likewise, is a perfect fit here. My only quibble is with the function icons. Copy, Slideshow, AirPlay, etc. look horribly fragile, and the thinness of the lines make them far less glance-able than the services icons above them.

The horizontal scrolling in the additional photo selector, AirDrop, services, and functions selectors looks like it's both space efficient, and usable.

Unfortunately, Apple didn't show any way for third-party apps to hook into the Share Sheet - no Instagram, for example, in the services options. Those still appear to require a partnership agreement, rather than API access.

The updated Photos app will ship as part of iOS 7 this fall. Check out the resources below for more, and let me know - how do you like the new, automagic organization, the new filters, and the new sharing sheets?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iOS 7 preview: Photos automagically filters your life into collections, moments, and more


I'm loving this, but one question... One thing always bothered me about the photos app. I love the places feature, but I noticed that the data would never transfer if it was taken with another iphone and sent to my iphone. Example: me and the wife went to Italy. We both took pictures with our iphones. We shared those photos (via imessage) with one another, and saved them in our camera rolls. When I go to places, the only photos in Italy that showed up were the ones I took with my phone. My question is, with Airdrop will this resolve this problem? I want to be able to share photos with family/friends, and have them come in with their data. Does anyone know how this can be done? If not, how will those be organized in the new photos app? I didn't try to share via photostream...maybe those would come in with data. anyone know?

In my experience, pictures that have location metadata on them that are sent via a Shared Photostream preserve their location metadata. I think you're right that photos that are iMessaged around don't preserve that data, which is pretty dumb, come to think of it.

Notably, if someone saves a photo from the shared stream to their phone, they may need to force-close and reopen Photos to get it to show up on the Places map. Just a little hiccup in that particular app.

I don't like the white background at all. Hopefully there is an option to change that to either black or grey. Some of the other bits look interesting. I have never really tried to organize my photos on the iPhone simply because it was a painfully tedious task. I generally dump everything to my Mac to organize/share from there.

I move all my photos out of the camera roll and sync them back from folders on my iMac via iTunes... what if anything happens with those photos? Is all this organization for the camera roll only?

Seriously, Rene, I love TiPb, err, iMore. I read it on the daily, and have been treated to $20 in iTunes credit during the iPad mini launch, which I'm grateful for. But does EVERY single iOS 7 post that you do HAVE to have the words "objectified" and "gamified" in it with links to your original articles? I mean, it's really starting to get old. We get it; Apple's using OpenCL to spruce up the place a bit.

So can we agree that we all like the pretty paint that Apple's chosen for iOS 7, and that we understand what type of paint that is, and move on?

While I'm all for their decision to divide up the Camera Roll into a more sensible format, the actual formula they've been using to organize the photos into moments and collections in the betas thus far has proven to be pretty nonsensical in ways that I sincerely doubt will be substantially changed before the GM comes out this fall.

Take this example: I live in DC. If I traveled up to Boston on July 1st, took 5 pictures there, took 3 more pictures during pit stops on my return trip on July 5th and took 1 picture when I got home (also on the 5th), Photos will sort all of this into one "Moment" with 9 photos, put them all in a clump, and irrevocably call it "July 1-July 5 Boston, Ashton & Was..." (Ashton being the town the pitstop photos were apparently taken in and 'Was' being a truncated "Washington, D.C."). This is pretty unhelpful, because I don't know Ashton--it's just a town I happened to be passing through, and I wouldn't be looking for it, and the pictures I took at home on July 5th had nothing to do with the trip I was on. Sometimes categorizing via the name of the town a picture was taken in is unhelpful; sometimes the date a photo was taken on is misleading or irrelevant.

Just as often, photos which were taken at the exact same spot are improperly geotagged. This is a limitation of the way the camera geotagger works -- just like when you hit the "Current Location" button in Maps, it takes a moment for your phone to pinpoint your exact location. When you first open the Camera, it's ability to find you is pretty vague, but it makes a guess that falls somewhere in the originally-huge circle you'd get on your map, but later pictures will get progressively more accurate geotags. The problem is that iPhone never goes back and corrects the pictures you took seconds earlier with the superior data--and now that your phone is sorting photos by the towns you were in, photos which were taken within seconds of each other may be tagged as being from different towns. (I live on the border of Silver Spring and DC, and on the border of two small towns when I visit my parents in NJ--this town-straddling geotagging problem happens to me a LOT.)

Point being: the software is just smart enough to make itself presumptuous and unhelpful.

Collections in the iOS 7 Photos app is great. Rene, would like to know what you thought about the fact that they display 100s of thumbnails with speed and clarity? Seems they are confident it will be buttery on older devices too.

Couldn't help but see it as a coincidence that around the same time we released something similar: a 'photo recollection' app. Check it out: Home - House Of Memories

Sent from the iMore App

Hi, I wonder if the problem of the iPad not synching home videos from iPhoto was resolved. It turned my iPad useless to show pictures, because the videos won't synch, and for me to show them, would have to go in a different app. In the MAC, I would open an Event, show all the photos and play the videos there. Please, see more at . A video taken at the iPad, transferred to the MAC won't transfer back to the iPad, and this is not a compatibility issue, since it was shot using the iPad. Thanks a lot.