It's not really new news. It is, however, very now and very real that the Google Photos app on your Android device is not the same as it was a few days ago. If you've bothered to run an update, and opened Google Photos, you've had to walk through the new introductory "Welcome." That welcome doesn't really tell the tale of where Google Photos was and where it's going.
For that, we need to digress a bit.
To put it simply, Google Photos no longer belongs to Google+. Why did this happen? Is Google+ dying? No. The social service is, however, no longer going to be an "all things for all people" (ala Facebook) service. Google+ is going to evolve into a place where users can simply connect around a shared interest or passion.
Sounds good so far.
Google has no plans on stripping out the ability to share photos in Google+, but Google Photos itself will no longer be a part of the Google+ core.
But what does this mean for Google Photos? Now that the app is available on the Google Play Store, we get to find out.
What's interesting is that your Android device won't automatically update to the new app. You have to manually do this. Here's how:
- Open the Google Play Store on your device
- Search for Google Photos
- Locate and tap the entry by Google
- Tap UPDATE
That's it. Once the update is complete, the new app is ready for you to enjoy. But what do you need to know about the new Google Photos? Believe it or not... not much.
This is the big one. When Google Photos was a part of Google+, you had unlimited storage for unlimited photos of unlimited size. But now, thanks to Lollipop, people can start to shoot in RAW format, which means file sizes can significantly increase.
That, alone, should be a sound indicator of why this change is happening.
Now that you've upgraded Google Photos, your photos will live on your Google Drive—and take up your personal storage. So, that 15 GB of storage you pay for, Google Photos will start to eat into that. Fear not, intrepid mobile photogs, when you first run Google Photos, you get a choice—an important one at that. The choice is:
- High quality—This comes with unlimited free storage and is recommended for anyone using a camera of 16 MP or less. The photos resolution will be reduced, but the average person will not notice.
- Original—If you choose this lossless format, you will be using your own Google Drive storage. This option is the only way you can save to Google Photos in the RAW format.
Outside of that, there's little new to Google Photos. You'll still enjoy backup, Auto Awesome... but there are a few new features you might enjoy:
- Quicker multi-select with a press and hold and then swipe through the images you want to select
- Easier navigation through photos with a right or left swipe
- Better organization (thanks to improved facial recognition and the new Collections feature)
Watch the new Google Photos at work in Video A.
Google Photos in action.
Once you've upgraded to the new app, the reason for the split becomes quite clear. Google simply didn't want to cover the increased storage demands brought about by Lollipop's improved camera APIs. I don't blame them. When more and more people discover the RAW support, the size of photos will increase dramatically. Google wants to make sure that users who opt for RAW support don't wind up draining their Google Drive storage with photos.
Yes, this is the big reason for the split. Google can spin it any way they like, but the split makes perfect sense when you combine it with a number of other factors. Beside, Google Photos is a really great app; there's no reason to limit it by locking it in with an underappreciated social network.
When I first read about this, my initial thought was "Oh boy, Google+ is dead." Now, however, I understand that it doesn't herald the demise of Google's social network. In fact, this could mean Google is finally ready to "un Facebook" Google+. That, from every angle, should be considered a positive step forward. If Google+ can become primarily a means for people to connect within communities and like-minded people, Google might find themselves reinventing the social wheel.
Don't worry. You'll still be able to post your selfies to your Google+ stream. ;-)
Have you tried the new Google Photos? If so, what's your take? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
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- Why new features are making Google the king of mobility, and what it should add next
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.