iOS 7 preview: Photo Streams finally get truly social sharing

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.

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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 iCloud.com 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?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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iOS 7 preview: Photo Streams finally get truly social sharing

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The improvements are nice but useless without cross platform support. I mean, so useless as to actually irritate me. Photo Stream means nothing without being able to translate to something view-able on Android and PCs.

App. web app (blech), web site; something needs to make this accessible to people's friends who use Android. The people who I want to share with are a mix between feature phones, iPhones, and Android devices (and I expect that I am far, far from alone there). Using Photo Stream would mean I'd need to share twice and have responses in two different spots.

At least iMessage is baked in to SMS. But already there I've switched to Google Hangouts for a lot of conversing because so many of my friends have different ways of communicating that Apple won't address.

Photo Streams are available online in browsers if you allow it so I guess it technically has cross-platform support. It's just not app-based.

Have you ever tried it in a Mobile browser? They don't even support mobile browsers for iCloud Mail, Calendar, etc. It's not usable unless you're viewing as desktop. This would work for tablet users with bigger screens (especially 9"+ tablets with a Chrome or IE browser, or maybe Firefox), but it simply does not work well at all on phones.

If you and your friends want to share Photos in a Photo Stream sort of way, and use dispirate platforms, Flickr is by far the superior solution for this.

One of the biggest detractors of iCloud is how utterly useless it becomes if you switch off the iPhone. All your stuff is there, but you can barely do anything with it, if anything at all because mobile support outside of iOS is so ridiculously bad to the point that it mind as well not even exist.

It's one of the reasons why I could never use even their PIM services when I had an iOS device.

To be honest, I'm not sure I'd actually want a bi-directional shared stream--at least not as the only option. If I'm sharing to a wide variety of family members and friends, it's unlikely I'll want them all to be able to see each other's added photos as well--and I can guarantee that most of my family wouldn't understand the service well enough to know who was able to see their photos.

It's by album, so you can share different albums with different people. There might be more granular controls to, that allow or disallow sharing. We'll have to wait and see.

That would be ideal--say, an album that many can view, but only my wife and I can actually add to--but having an On/Off toggle to enable sharing album-by-album would probably work for 90% of situations.

I'm not sure this is that mainstream judging from how my mother uses her ipad and iphone, which is pretty basic. He hasn't even taken a single picture with her phone.

But as for me i've always found apple's photostream a bit cumbersome and needlessly tedious. I don't use it. I typically either leave a pic on my phone, back it up on skydrive and/or upload it to Instagram. And for me when it comes to sharing, though i hate square pictures, the way instagram, flickr, etc apps work makes the most sense. It's a single app, its pretty straightforward. I found photostream's implementation and much of icloud's services a bit confusing. I was always scared to share the wrong things or that things would get stored in icloud and without a filesystem never deleted. We'll see how photostream works though. I won't pass judgment without seeing it in real life.

My only question is why this wasnt there in the first place.

A group of friends and I went to London. All taking different photos and we wanted to try out photo stream because it looks pretty nice and it would have been ideal to share with our little group. We were amazed that THIS functionality wasn't already implemented. When this was announced we just said "finally", no real excitement. :(

That's becoming my general response whenever Apple releases or updates their apps and software. Things should have been there from the start because it seems like common sense but of course, Apple prides themselves in the iterative process.

The fact that it is such a huge PITA to share to people who don't use iOS devices kills it for me. I'm hoping Flickr makes their sharing a bit more streamlined and adds Microsoft account log-in. I'd use that instead, since it has 1TB Storage, a social component, can share to FB/Twitter, and supports full resolution images and video.

Will people you share a photostream with be able to delete a photo you added or hide it from their view?
I created one, added three photos, the other person lost interest because they had no control over it.

The article says that shared streams are bound to Apple devices. Maybe that was the case in the beta version of iOS 7. In the released version, when you create a shared stream and add the e-mail addresses of people to share with, the stream will become available to any of those people who are logged into iCloud on their Windows PCs or Windows mobile devices. The new stream will be in the Pictures\Photo Stream\Shared folder.