Smartphone cameras have been a blessing and a curse to consumers. As memory and megapixels increased on our handhelds, shutterbugs started shooting photos with no regard for developing costs. This led to dozens of pics a day, hundreds per month and thousands every year—more than the average person could ever sort through.
Now with Google Photos, a new app recently announced last month at the Google I/O keynote, finding the perfect photo of people, places or things shot on your cell phone three months or even three years ago is no longer like finding a needle in a haystack. The app is available for Android and iOS phones as well as desktop computers supporting Google Chrome.
The new app effortlessly organizes photos chronologically, geographically and, with the facial recognition feature, it even groups together all photos based on people who reappear throughout your image library. You can search photos by keyword based on what might be in the image, as well as crop and rotate photos, and create vignettes from your browser. The app also offers filters that subdue or enhance color, lighting and contrast. And when you’re finished editing and customizing, you can share multiple photos at once with anyone via email, text or social media—even with those who don’t use the Google Photos app. The app can also create animation–using sequenced photos and other art elements, and location data in case you want to create animation using your vacation photos.
There are exceptions, however. Photos cannot exceed 16 megapixels. This isn’t a problem since the iPhone 6 camera maxes out at eight megapixels and the newest Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge shoots up to 16 megapixels. But the service will not accept videos that surpass 1080p resolution. So the ultra-high definition 4K videos taken by camcorders, DSLRs or the S6 Edge will need to be compressed. Per your Google Photos settings, standard high quality uploads are stored for free but uploads exceeding 16 MP per photo will consume your free Google Drive storage of 15 gigabytes and eat into the memory used by a gmail or Google+ account. Additional storage can be purchased at $1.99 per 100 GB.
The new Google Photos app is a great deal compared to Apple’s iCloud Photo Library, which stores only 5GB of photos from your phone for free and charges $.99 for every 20 GB thereafter, or compared to unlimited storage through Amazon, which costs $11.99 annually or comes free with a $99/year Amazon Prime Membership.
The Google Photos app is a descendant of the photo archiving feature originally available for Google+ users, which automatically backed up photos to the cloud from a digital device. Serial Android users with the foresight to have downloaded Google+ on every device they’ve owned in the past five years can find comfort in knowing every photo they’ve ever shot is already available to search, but these added features make the search easier. Those uninitiated to Google+ can also upload for free from their desktops, in addition to their phones