iOS 7 wants: Just put the damn filters in already

A while back I joked on Twitter that if Apple put filters and tilt shift into the built-in Photos app, I'd never use Instagram again. A lot of people maintain Instagram isn't about the filters or effects, but the community, but frankly there are already way too many communities for me to keep track of, and I'd just as soon make as many as possible as redundant as possible.

You can say adding filters to is skating to where the puck was back when the NHL was still skating, but any time basic functionality is baked into the OS, at a basic level, it reduces complexity. In iOS especially, where you can't alter the default apps, and the built-in iOS camera is available at the swipe of a lock screen icon, and the Camera Roll can post to Twitter directly, and Facebook, and more, that's where I want basic filters and effects to live.

It's Camera Zero. Everything else is an alternative, an extra step, and the more they're a value add and not a must-have, the better.

Look at only some of the current slate of filter (or filter-and-share) apps. From top left: iPhoto, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook Camera, and Flickr. iPhoto's interface is overly involved and complex for people who just want to futz with and share photos, and none of the third party filter-and-share apps do simple interface as well as Apple. And all of them require more steps then if the functionality was included in the core OS.

Apple had video effects, for good or for ill, in the 2009 iPod nano, and Apple included filters in Photo Booth for the iPad, so the core concept isn't without precedent. Android includes filters in the stock Camera app as well.

Basic editing was added to the Photos app with iOS 5, shifting filters and effects there in iOS 7 there makes the kind of sense that does. In fact, Apple could build in live filters and effects, since they have full access to every atom and bit of the machine, something not afforded third party apps.

Once a filter and/or effect is applied, Share sheets would make it a snap to send to not only Twitter and Facebook, but iMessage and Photo Stream, or to set as a wallpaper. It becomes OS-centric rather than app-centric, and anything that gets added to the Share Sheet would get to source photos with filters and effects "for free", in one step.

Online photo ownership is a huge battleground, with entrenched players like Facebook/Instagram, Google+/Picasa, Yahoo/Flickr, and Twitter all trying to make their platforms stickier, and hedge against social migration, by making the things we care about, especially photos, fun and enjoyable on their networks. But they're often dicks about it.

With basic filers and effects built into, if Instagram blocks Twitter, if Twitter blocks 3rd-party clients, or if Facebook or Google tries to assert copyright on my photos, I don't have to worry that I'll lose my ability to make some of the best mobile photos on the planet look like polaroids from the 1960s. I'll have iOS 7. I'll be fine.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • How about color coded email messages in the universal email box so I know which account the email was sent to.
  • personally dont see what the big deal is. I don't mind having a third party app do all the filtering for me. It takes a few more taps to get to the editing but I do see where you're coming from.
  • Thank you for the article Rene.
    They put someone on panoramic, now lets put some resources on baking in editing options...and yes, purchasing Nik Software would have been a good thing. I'll second Jason's suggestion, although it may get a little distracting, unless they just added a vertical color bar to the left of the "read" dot. Of course, some sort of pull down turn on/off bluetooth, airplane, and wifi, is still on my wish list (thank you Apple for making it one step shorter, in this iteration).
  • Select All in the Email App please
  • not that high on my personal list of wants. and yeah adding filters isn't gonna get me off of instagram. Filters are irrelevant. It's like saying if you add imessage chatting it will get me to stop using Facebook. It won't be cause Facebook isn't about chatting. Much higher on my list is a more advanced and robust camera app. And it would be nice if they actually made some decent apps. Most of what they've made recently hasn't been that impressive. And i'm not even talking about maps. I'm talking more about stuff like podcast & that greeting card app. How about make pages and that suite part of the os for free, stuff i might actually use.
  • Quick reply text messaging! Ie. Bitesms AND a better multitasking interface ie. Multiflow. God do I miss these jailbreak apps.
  • I don't know why they don't just merge iPhoto and the Photos app. Jumping back and forth is a pain in the tookus and is quite honestly redundant. Plus it would eliminate iPhoto having to load your camera roll every friggin' time you open it.
  • How about offline processing for Siri so tasks that don't need Internet can be accessed without a connection such as controlling music and setting alarms?
  • Am I the only one who is bugged by the way "Albums" work in the photo app? It seems backwards from decades of file systems on computers. If I create an album and put my pics in those albums...CLEAR THEM FROM MY CAMERA ROLL!! Maybe this just my OCD coming out, but I like to keep things neat and organized by event. All by sons 3rd birthday photos in one album. All my wallpapers in another. I know if I have 287 in my camera roll they belong somewhere. Put them where they belong, or delete them. Especially with photo stream automatically keeping my last 1000 photos. Btw I do like the idea of having filters built in.
  • sort of on your point i really hate how you can't move images from one folder easily if you've added them on itunes. Or how you have to either delete everything or sync everything. Like i added a bunch of wallpaper through itunes by syncing. I'd love to just move them into a wallpaper folder or delete individual images but i can't. i have to delete them from the folder on my desktop then sync. That's so cumbersome.
  • And a files app for documents so all apps can access them from the same place, it could be linked to icloud.
  • i was thinking, with instagram trying to force people to give up the rights to their images, it's becoming less appealing. Obviously it would depend on the expense being reasonable, i'd basically make my own version of instagram and not only that i'd make it for android too. i'd combine the filters not that they are important but most importantly the messaging and social aspect of instagram. The friending, commenting, sharing, twitter integration. I'd integrate the chat into using imessage maybe. i'd have an add supported version and a pay no add version on other platforms too. maybe it's not worth the expense, maybe as a business you don't gain enough but as a consumer i think there is room for competition. But i wouldn't do like they did with facetime where only apple people can use it and thus it barely get's used.
  • I'd like to see scrollable folders with a higher capacity. It's already a jail broken feature. Make every folder able to hold like 52-60 apps and be able to scroll down the folder. Also please Apple stop being so stubborn and take the cue from android, add toggle settings to the notification center.
  • Filters are about the last thing I care about in IOS7. How about they actually put something meaningful into it and not just something for the teens that think they are photographers.
  • I'm not a huge photo filters guy myself, but I know a lot of people love 'em so I wont knock you for wanting to see them built into main camera app. On a side note, love those lego mini figures!