Google Photos: What’s New

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on September 4, 2016, App Guides

Google have just announced their newest big thing: Google Photos. Given that Google are pretty much everywhere these days, it should come as no big surprise that they want a piece of the huge digital photography market. The interesting thing is that Google Photos has very obviously been designed with mobile photographers in mind. If you’re an avid picture taker, then this is going to be an app that you want to download immediately. What can it do for you? We’re taking a look at everything Google Photos has to offer.

What Is It?

Let’s start with the basics. Google Photos in simple terms allows you to store your pictures. In the past you could save your pics in your regular old Google account (using Google Drive), but given that your Google account has a storage limit this wasn’t always the best option. Fill up your storage space with pics and suddenly you’re not receiving emails anymore… Google Photos is going to change this.

You can download the Google Photos app for your mobile (and your computer) from the Google Play store. You’ll also be able to access your pictures online (in the same way that you can access your music online once you’ve transferred it to Google Play Music). That means that you’ll have instant access to your pics wherever you are, whenever you want, and, not incidentally, you won’t need to take up valuable storage space on your phone.

The Limitations

First up, the service is free, and the app is free, so it’s not going to be costing you anything. Right now you’re also getting absolutely unlimited storage, meaning that you can store as many pictures as you like. Is this likely to change? Debatable. Google Play Music does have a storage limit for the amount of music you can keep though, so there is a chance that Google might change their minds and cap the number of pics you can keep.

There are a couple of limitations though. Firstly, picture resolution is capped at 16 MP. That means that if your mobile has a higher resolution camera your pictures will be degraded slightly in order to keep them. Most of us, however, don’t have higher resolution cameras than that, and as mobiles get better and cameras get better there’s every chance that Google will change that limit.

You can upload video too, but Google Photos limits that to 1080p or lower, and will not store anything filmed in better quality than that. 1080p is high definition though, so this limit probably won’t prove to be a problem for most people.

The Cool Stuff

Google Photos probably already sounds pretty good if you’ve got plenty of pics floating around, but there are three main features that really make it a great little service.

The first of these is to do with organisation. Google Photos automatically categorises pictures in three groups: people, places and things. Once that’s done, it then goes on to narrow the categories down. This is all automatic, you don’t need to tag people or title photos, the app does it itself. Not only that though, but Google have then applied their awesome search functionality to the app. Need to find a picture of a birthday party that you took? The search for “birthday” and you’ll get all pictures that apply. Given how new the app is we’re not sure how accurate these categorisations are just yet, but Google are the king of search engines, so it’s tough to believe that this feature is going to be anything but fantastic. No more scrolling through thousands of pics sounds pretty sweet, right?

Second, you’re also getting a feature called “Assistant.” Using this will allow you to do all kinds of cool stuff with your pics and videos. You’ll be able to make your own albums, make animations, make collages and stories from pictures. Plus, you’ll be able to make movies by stringing together different videos. Assistant seems to be a kind of editing software, but you’ll have the convenience of doing all this inside the app rather than needing to open another programme.

Last, but not least, there are the sharing options. Google have made it easier than ever to share pictures with whoever you like however you like. You can share pics directly from the app itself if you choose to (and presumably post direct to Facebook etc, though we’ll be honest and say we haven’t tried that yet). But you can also share privately. Open up the sharing menu and you’ll find a “get link” option, which will copy a link to a picture, album or video onto your clipboard. You can then send that link to whoever you want using any means you like, and they’ll be able to access what you sent online (though they won’t be able to see anything else you have stored).

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that Google Photos is going to prove very, very valuable to most of us. We take plenty of pics on our mobiles, and the ability to store those pictures easily elsewhere is going to free up tons of phone space. Throw in all those cool features and you’re going to be able to do more or less what you want with your pics. All of this and free too? Yep. Even if you haven’t jumped onto the Google bandwagon with Google Now or Google Play Music or anything else, Google Photos might be an app that you want to get your hands on.

Google Photos is available right now from the Play Store, and is also available in an iOS version from the Apple App Store. Want to make mobile photography easy, better organised, and more fun? Then head over and download Google Photos right now.