Google Photos may have started as a part of Google+, but since splitting into a standalone product, it has to move quickly to introduce new features and improvements to keep users engaged. The latest update to v1.5 didn't bring any visible changes to the app, but it does include evidence of some interesting changes we can look forward to in upcoming releases.

Disclaimer: Teardowns are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete evidence. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. There is always a chance that details may change or plans may be cancelled prior to the launch of a new feature discovered in a teardown. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced.

Album Collaboration

As things stand today, the Photos app is basically good for managing your own photos, creating variations like animations and panoramas, and sharing these things with your friends and family. The general theme, however, is that everything is distinctly focused on the things you can do with your photos.

There's basically no automatic workflow for putting together shots taken by multiple people. It's obviously not that hard to share pictures and import your favorites, but that's still a bit too laborious for a lot of us.

A new feature called "Collaboration" is in the works. Users will be able to create an album and share it with other people just like they do today, but with an additional option to let everybody modify and add to the contents if they choose to. While enabled, other people can join a Collaboration and treat it just like their own albums, and every member will automatically get updates to the content. There are even notifications when a change is made.

Collaboration Strings

<string name="photos_share_link_copied">Link copied to clipboard</string>
<string name="photos_share_link_copied_collaboration_off">Link copied to clipboard. Collaboration is on.</string>
<string name="photos_share_link_copied_collaboration_on">Link copied to clipboard. Collaboration is off.</string>
<string name="photos_share_link_created_and_copied_collaboration_on">Link created &amp; copied to clipboard. Collaboration is on.</string>
<string name="photos_share_link_created_and_sent_collaboration_on">Link created &amp; sent to %s. Collaboration is on.</string>
<string name="photos_share_link_sent_collaboration_off">Link sent to %s. Collaboration is off.</string>
<string name="photos_share_link_sent_collaboration_on">Link sent to %s. Collaboration is on.</string>
<string name="photos_share_link_sharing_options">Sharing Options</string>

<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_add_photos_get_update_prompt_text">Add photos &amp; get updates</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_app_upgrade_recommended_dialog_skip_button">Cancel</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_app_upgrade_recommended_dialog_text">This album requires a newer version of Google Photos to display all the content</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_app_upgrade_recommended_dialog_title">Update Google Photos</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_app_upgrade_recommended_dialog_upgrade_button">Update</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_get_update_prompt_text">Get album updates</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_join_button">Join</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_join_failed_message">Join album failed</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_join_success_message">Joined album</string>
<string name="photos_remotemedia_ui_sharing_options">Sharing Options</string>

There doesn't appear to be any concept of roles or selectively restricting which people can edit an album. If Collaboration is enabled, anybody with the link can open up an album and do anything they like with the contents. It's also not clear if a Collaboration can be independently disabled, but since it's already possible to revoke a regular shared album, it's likely that this capability just hasn't been implemented yet.

Collaboration would obviously be new to the web interface, so we can expect to see it launch there and on mobile (Android and iOS) at about the same time. That means a launch will occur with either a server-side switch or the rollout of a new update, but since v1.5 only has a few possibly related layouts and no obvious images, I doubt it will happen with this version.

I doubt there will be any link to the Google+ Event feature that allowed participants at an event to automatically post all of their photos directly to the event stream for all invitees to see, but it seems like a great thing to integrate in the future.

Labeling People

One of the best features of Google Photos is the amazing power it has to clearly identify people and objects in our pictures. However, there are a few things missing, like actually attaching names to people. Five new layouts were added to this release that this won't be an issue for much longer. The words "people_labeling" appear at the beginning of layout names.

  • people_labeling_activity
  • people_labeling_auto_complete_item_view
  • people_labeling_autocomplete_fragment
  • people_labeling_fragment
  • people_labeling_search_box

These layouts also finally make use of some strings that were added in an earlier release:

<string name="photos_search_peoplelabeling_header">Who is this?</string>
<string name="photos_search_peoplelabeling_subheader">Add a private label to search by name</string>
<string name="photos_search_peoplelabeling_avatar_content_description">Avatar icon for people album</string>
<string name="photos_search_peoplelabeling_search">New name</string>

There's not much to interpret from what little is here, but it's pretty obvious we'll be able to name the subjects of our photos fairly soon. The code doesn't appear to actually make use of these layouts yet, so we'll have to wait at least one more version to see this feature go live.

Google Cast

Consider this an update, because there have been signs of Google Cast support since one of the first versions of Photos, but now we've got some more bits and pieces. There are five images and a new string, all of which are completely standard. The v1.4 update also contained another Cast-related addition, but not much else to speak of.

<string name="photos_pager_menu_cast">Cast</string>

icons

Considering everything related to Google Cast support has been showing up piecemeal, it's starting to feel like the developers are intentionally teasing it out. Considering the sheer number of people who have complained in app reviews (and our own comment section) about not being able to use Photos with their Chromecast, and the fact that it was possible when Photos was part of the Google+ app, it seems like this should be a pretty high priority by now.

Perhaps there are some legitimately big improvements coming to the Cast feature that go beyond the simple slideshow offered by the Google+ app. Since rumors are swirling about an updated Chromecast (or two) to be announced on September 29th alongside one or two new Nexus Phones, maybe we can expect some apps (e.g. Photos and Play Games) to launch their Cast support at the same time.

In the meantime, let the waiting recommence...

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

File Name: com.google.android.apps.photos-1.5.0.103330409-79821-minAPI14.apk

Version: 1.5.0.103330409 (79821)