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?

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