Google Photos is progressively building out its feature set. Version 2.4 began rolling out last week and it can now show which albums certain people appear in. This follows the addition of some newly enhanced editing controls and dynamic filters added with version 2.3 a couple of weeks ago, which will also be discussed in this post. All of this can be topped with with a couple of interesting hints at future additions found during a teardown, including initial support for RAW images.
- An all-new set of smart, dynamic filters to enhance photos in one tap.
- Advanced editing controls to tweak lighting, color, and more, including an innovative Deep Blue slider that adds color to sky and water.
- More movies, made for you: your child's first months, holiday traditions over time, highlights from the year, and more – all easily editable.
- In-album detection on people pages
Note: We originally skipped v2.3 because it appeared to make no changes at the time. The official changelog was posted yesterday, but upon a second look, the features listed are also available in v2.3. This suggests they were probably turned on with a server-side switch after the release, which is why we're covering them now.
In-album detection for people
Left: version 2.3. Right: version 2.4.
If you've created a lot of albums, you might get curious which ones some of your friends appear in. It's now possible to get a quick look by going to individual pages. Version 2.4 now opens up space directly between the person's name and pictures of them to list albums in which they appear. Naturally, tapping on the albums will open them up for viewing or editing.
A few team members have already mentioned that they're not getting this feature yet, which suggests it's either a staged rollout or possibly buggy. Whatever the reason, people have been requesting this functionality for a while, and now it's happening.
Left: version 2.2 and below. Right: version 2.3 and above.
Quick filters are a staple in image editors these days, and Google Photos is no different. With version 2.3, Google replaced the older filters (named after celestial bodies) with a new set of smarter, dynamic filters. It's hard to judge how they differ exactly, but most of them seem to produce results that aren't as harsh as their predecessors. The layout also gives a bit more space to the thumbnails.
Note that the buttons for presets/filters and effect sliders have traded places. The order is more logical, but it takes a bit to get used to them.
Enhanced editing controls
Version 2.3 and above.
While the filters received a fairly non-specific upgrade, it's the adjustment sliders that got the huge improvement. Above are the shots of the new interface, and the older interface has been included below for reference.
Upon first opening the adjustments screen, there are now three sliders stacked vertically: Light, Color, and Pop. All three work like their previous counterparts, but Light and Color can be expanded using the arrows to the right of the sliders. Here you'll find several more sliders that allow for custom control over specific aspects of the image.
The Light group includes: Exposure, Contrast, Whites, Highlights, Shadows, Blacks, and Vignette. The Color group expands to include: Saturation, Warmth, Tint, Skin tone, and Deep blue. According to Google's changelog, Deep blue is particularly useful for adding color to the sky or water, both of which can look unusually white in photos. (Most photographers use a circular polarizer on their lens to solve this problem.) The sliders are obviously not as robust as those in professional apps like Adobe Lightroom, but they allow for some good creative control.
Version 2.2 and below.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.
This one has been a long time coming, Google Photos now supports RAW images! Well, sorta...
Starting with v2.3, you can open RAW images in Google Photos. That part is technically live already. However, there are no editing functions, at least not yet. In fact, even opening a .dng file has to be done from outside of the Photos app. I used a file manager (e.g. Total Commander), which now even identifies a file type association with Photos. There is a delay of a few seconds to load such a large image, so you probably won't want to examine very many in this way. Once the image is fully loaded, the most you can do with it is Cast it to a TV or open the information screen, which only includes the basic file information.
The lack of capabilities explains why RAW support hasn't been mentioned as a new feature in Photos – it's clearly not done. That's a large part of the reason I've put this into the teardown section. But there is some evidence that more is coming. A few new lines of text were also added, indicating that RAW images will carry a badge to show they are special and a (very) short explanation about what they are. So far, this doesn't appear to be visible anywhere in the app.
<string name="photos_pager_raw_dialog_title">RAW photo</string>
<string name="photos_pager_raw_dialog_body">RAW preserves all data from your camera's sensor</string>
It's not clear how much more functionality will be added for RAW images, but it only seems natural to give them the full editing capabilities regular photos already have. At the very least, it would make sense to be able to open and convert them to regular jpegs or pngs so they could be edited like regular images. Nevertheless, it's clear the Photos team is still working on it.
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.