Google Photos first impressions

I like it a lot. There are some first-day hiccups, of course: searches don’t work consistently, and the 1.0.0 iOS app had a bug where it wouldn’t ever start importing my 6,000+-photo camera roll. But this is the first mass photo archiving service I’ve liked (and, more importantly, trusted) enough to use.

There’s a lot about Photos’s first-day shiny-new 1.0 MVP release that’s impressive. What I’m most taken with is the robust support for browsers and devices not made by Google. It took months for browsers other than Chrome to get support for Inbox, and certain Google properties still don’t work quite right with contentEditable in Safari. But the Photos web app works great in Safari, and its iOS app is not only solid, it’s really nicely integrated with the system photo library, in much the same way that the new Google Calendar app works beautifully with the system’s built-in calendars. I like this trend of Google building excellent apps and services that work with the devices and data I already have in Apple’s ecosystem (and, for that matter, of Apple opening up iOS to make it possible).

Also, the Google Photos team seems to have embraced doing a few things really well, rather than a bunch of stuff that’s merely okay. For example: you can’t edit metadata, and none of the apps display very much of it to begin with. You can assign a description, and it’ll use the capture time, geolocation, and other stuff if it’s there.

Editing is also really basic and simple: there are filters, and a few adjustment options, and that’s it. (This is one area where I hope there’ll eventually be some good third-party APIs. The built-in cropping and filters are good for simple adjustments, but it’s exciting to think about a future world where I could, say, use a cloud version of Lightroom to work with photos stored in my Google Photos account.

Google Photos really won me over when it auto-magically produced this GIF from some photos of my baby daughter:

Technically, Google Photos and Apple Photos do the same job, and with auto-importing the two services don’t even have to clash—new photos added to my iCloud Photo Library get pulled into Google automatically. I haven’t yet found a way to make it work in the other direction, and that bothers me a little bit.

As much as I like Google Photos, I’m not quite comfortable enough with it to automatically import stuff from my nice camera. My plan at the moment is to have my phone back up all of its photos to Google, but to keep working with RAW photos in Lightroom, exporting the good ones to Google for long term storage and search magic.