On September 17, 2014, at 1:00pm (EST), Apple released iOS 8 to the public — the latest version of the popular operating system for its myriad of mobile devices in the US. After the initial warm, fuzzy feeling of installing the latest version of iOS and testing out the newest additions, panic and hysteria set in: Where did the Camera Roll go?
End users around the world took to various social media sites to sound off on the "missing" Camera Roll, lambasting Apple for "fixing something that was not broken." Some users have even taken to downgrading back to previous versions of iOS simply to regain their beloved Camera Roll. But what exactly is behind the change in removing the Camera Roll and replacing it with the Recently Added album?
Let's examine what Apple has up its sleeve by looking no further than the soon-to-be-released OS X Yosemite (10.10) and the revamped Photos.app that will be released early next year.
Update: Apple announced on Saturday, October 4, that they are going to bring the Camera Roll back to iOS update 8.1 when it's released to the public.
What does Camera Roll have to do with OS X Yosemite?
OS X Yosemite, the next iteration of Apple's operating system for its desktop and mobile computer line, shares a lot of convergence features with iOS 8. Among the various similarities, there are two that hold the most weight: Photos.app and iCloud.
The Photos.app was introduced in iOS 8 — and will soon be made available for OS X — and it has been retooled and rewritten as a replacement for the existing iPhoto and Aperture apps. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest mentions at the recent WWDC involved Apple's announcement of PhotoKit and CloudKit respectively, which serve as the development framework for Photos.app to ensure native connectivity to iCloud for storage and image manipulation for editing your precious memories.
Sadly, Photos.app is still in development and won't be released until early next year, which will be after Apple releases both iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite to users. The good news is that, in the meantime, users of iPhoto and Aperture may continue to use those apps without fear of losing connectivity or loss of data. However, the roadmap leads to Photos.app to be the de facto replacement for the obsolete iPhoto and Aperture apps.
What will happen to iPhoto and Aperture?
The short answer: They will both be replaced by Photos.app once it's released.
The long answer: Apple will remove them from the Mac App Store and iOS App Store. However, users who have already purchased these apps can continue to use them instead of migrating to Photos.app.
The longer, slightly more complicated answer: Since Apple will no longer actively support iPhoto or Aperture, there likely won't be any updates for either of these applications once Photos.app is released. Also, many of the popular sharing features will not be expanded — and that goes doubly for future iCloud support, which is one of the biggest reasons to migrate to Photos.app.
How does iCloud support differ in Photos.app?
Since Photos.app has been rewritten from the ground up, it integrates into iCloud natively at the system level. This provides for infinitely better support for additional features that are planned, such as completely storing all your photos on iCloud, thus making them accessible from all devices that are linked to that iCloud account.
The ability to have your photos residing in iCloud, like Contacts or Calendars, make for a centralized storage point from which to access photos and videos from your OS X and iOS devices alike. This is especially helpful for users who wish to focus more on getting work done than the day-to-day upkeep of important data. Furthermore, it provides users with a simple, elegant way to use their data at will and not have to worry about backups or data corruption that would otherwise lead to data loss.
Users got a taste of this when Apple unveiled Photo Stream, which limited access to the 1,000 most recent photos. However, Photos.app will actually support storing your entire Photo Library in iCloud, with all your photos only a touch away. Users will still retain the ability to store their files locally of course, in the event that a data connection is not available. Given that iOS device storage space has now grown up to 128 GB, this works well for those with larger storage needs. At the same time, those with a smaller storage space will still benefit by this change, since they can now cherry pick what photos to store locally and still view their entire library without the need to sync their devices with a computer.
Is iCloud secure?
Honestly, iCloud is no more or less secure than any another web-based service. For the most part, the username/password authentication scheme paired with HTTPS encryption is the accepted standard for processing authentication requests and exchanging private/personal information between clients and servers.
Apple, much like Google and most banking sites, has adopted 2-Step Authentication, which allows for a secondary method of authenticating the user. This can be a verification code that is sent as a text message to a specific telephone number for pre-authorizing a device prior to being able to view data.
With that said, 2-Step authentication is still — as of this writing — an opt-in service for most services and something that some users do not enable because it's an annoyance when they're trying to quickly check their email. To add to the hassle, many users do not practice safe internet, as I like to call it. Randomly clicking links on websites and arbitrarily replying to unsolicited emails with PII (Personally Identifiable Information) — including Social Security and banking details — are the most common ways users accounts are hacked by using phishing attempts that prey on people's trust and, often times, their fears. Even the recent, highly publicized celebrity photo leak stemmed from a series of calculated spear phishing attempts, not a broken authentication system or brute force attack that compromised iCloud.
I still want my Camera Roll. What are my options?
If the enhanced convergence features between OS X and iOS aren't enough to convince you to make the leap to Photos.app because the Camera Roll is no longer present, you've got a few options.
1. Downgrade to iOS 7.x
There's no requirement to upgrade to iOS 8. If you wish to retain the Camera Roll in all its glory, this is likely your best bet. However, this comes at the expense of security. The leading cause of exploits leading to data being compromised comes from unpatched systems. This rings true for mobile platforms like iOS and Android, as unmatched apps typically have issues with applications not working as they should, including crashes, etc.
The devices stability will likely decrease over time as well, but you will have your Camera Roll.
2. Continue with iOS 8, but create a custom album titled Camera Roll
This option provides all the benefits of iOS 8, yet it allows you the flexibility of creating a custom album called Camera Roll that you can use to hold all of your pictures. Furthermore, when your pictures are all in one folder, they'll be easier to manage. However, remember that it won't happen automatically, so you'll need to move them over manually each time you want to add pictures to your custom folder.
3. Continue with iOS 8, embracing the changes, and give it a shot once OS X Yosemite and Photos for OS X are released
This is the easiest solution and likely the one most users will try. While a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist, and it's unlikely that Apple will reinstate the Camera Roll album in a future update, I believe that the ultimate goal behind Photos.app working seamlessly between iOS/OS X and iCloud will eventually be a wonderful solution that will solve more issues than it creates.
Apple has gone forward in creating something that will address the need to have data synchronize across devices and provide data storage that is centralized and managed for the user in a powerful and elegant, yet easy-to-use package. It has both usability and data protection for all — free of charge.
iOS 8 provides the first glimpse into Apple's plan for photo editing, storage, and backup across its entire lineup. Sadly, without the OS X and iCloud components in place, Photos.app appears to be largely incomplete.
It's understandable how this scares users, since a feature that was much loved has been removed and replaced with one that doesn't really make sense at the moment. However, given time, I believe the bigger picture will reveal itself to be a huge boon for enthusiastic fans and skeptics alike.
Updated 9:00 p.m. Oct. 5 with an Apple announcement about the Camera Roll in iOS 8.1.
Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from several vendors, including Apple and CompTIA.