iOS 7 preview: Photo Streams finally get truly social sharing

With iOS 7, shared Photo Streams are finally, really shared with anyone and everyone able to add not only comments, but photos and, now videos as well, all their own

While technically part of the new, upcoming Photos app, the iOS 7 update to iCloud's Photo Stream is significant enough that it deserves special mention.

Here's how Apple describes the new Photo Stream functionality:

With iCloud, you can share your favorite moments with your favorite people by creating a shared photo stream. They can post photos, videos, and comments to your stream, and it all appears on everyone's iOS devices — automatically. The new Activity view lets you see the latest updates from all your shared streams in one place.


And here's what Apple's shown off so far:

  • From the Photos app, tap the Share button and the iCloud icon.

  • In addition to photos, Photo Stream now also supports video sharing.

  • An iCloud sheet pops up with a thumbnail of the photo or video attached. (The old paperclip adornment is, of course, gone.)

  • You can change the individual Stream album the photo or video will be shared to, or create a new album, by tapping on the current Stream name.

  • To add a note to the photo or video as you share it, simply fill in the Comment field.

  • Once you've shared an album, (some/all?) of those you've shared it with can add photos or videos to it as well.
  • To view photos or videos in the Photo Stream, tap the iCloud tab at the bottom.

  • To quickly browse photos or videos without having to navigate through comments and other potential distractions, switch to landscape mode

Apple is often criticized for not "getting" social and rightly so. Ping was a non-starter, Game Center has had growing pains, and the original Photo Stream was unidirectional sharing at best. On paper - or, rather, in demo - Apple has brought much needed bi-directionality to it with iOS 7.

Adding videos to Photo Stream is fantastic. Arguably it should have been there to begin with, but at least it's here now. Likewise letting others contribute photos and videos to a shared Photo Stream.

The landscape mode browsing is also a great addition. Anyone who wants to simply find a photo or video will likely appreciate the ability to skip the comments while doing so, especially if their friends and family tend to add tons of comments to every shared photos and video.

The only limitation now, the only anti-social aspect of Apple's social photo sharing, is that - like iMessage - it's somewhat bound to Apple devices. There might be some ability to see and interact with shared Photo Streams via on the web and in browsers, but it won't be as good as a native experience on other platforms.

So, as long as you and everyone you want to share with is using a Mac or iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, it'll work great. If you're using multiple platforms, or anyone you want to share with is using multiple or alternate platforms, Photo Streams it could be onerous or even a non-starter. Given the popularity of Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, 500px, Path, and other services with great iOS support, however, no one will be hurting for options.

Like iTunes Radio, iCloud Keychain, Reading List, and other iOS-exclusive features, Photo Streams aren't aimed at everyone, and especially not at geeks. It's aimed at the mainstream who just want a simple, easy solution that gives base level functionality. And for them, all of the aforementioned services including Photo Stream, are just fine.

The updated Photo Stream will ship this fall as part of the iOS 7 Photos app. Check out the resources below for more, and let me know - are the improvements enough to make Photo Stream your go-to media sharing service?