A new version of Google Photos is rolling out to Android users around the world. Like so many recent updates, this one doesn't change much from the user perspective, but it is meant to begin preparations for new features that will be enabled in the coming weeks or months. A teardown reveals more details about what we have to look forward to in Google Lens when it launches. Also showing up are the signs that we might finally get to edit timestamps on our pictures.
It's barely worth mentioning, but it's probably the only thing that should pop out at users in this release. The icon for editing photos has been changed. Instead of a pen, it is now a settings icon, which was likely chosen because it more closely resembles the adjustment sliders used with filter effects. Like I said, barely worth mentioning.
Above: Old version of the overlay row. Below: New version.
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.
Timestamp editing (again)
The Google Photos web interface began allowing users to edit timestamps back in 2015, and even made mass edits possible in the following year, but the Android app somehow never gained this fairly common feature. But there's a chance this subject sounds familiar, and that's because a teardown back in January of this year already covered it. After eight months of radio silence on this one, I can only assume that the task was either forgotten or deprioritized before it could be launched.
Regardless of what caused the delay, it seems that somebody is back to work on making it possible to edit the timestamps on your photos. A set of strings with "editdate" in the name have turned up in the latest update. They are basically just labels for each portion of a timestamp, including: year, month, day, and time, plus the separators for each.
Note: If you're paying particularly close attention, you'll notice that the string named photos_editdate_backslash happens to contain a forward slash, not a backslash.
Naturally, it seems likely that timestamp editing must be coming up fairly soon. I mean, they wouldn't do the same tease twice, right... Right? Judging from the fairly regular complaints in our comments about how this one has been missing, I suspect quite a few people are looking forward to getting it.
At this point, everybody knows about Google Lens and how it's meant to be used, and it's even possible to make a pretty good rough guess about when it will officially launch. We also know that Lens is going to be integrated directly into the Photos app, and that's where this teardown picks up.
In preparation for making Lens available to the public, there will be a fairly standard welcoming screen with examples of what Lens can offer the most to users. The suggestions are broken down into the topics of artwork, text & barcodes, places, and media covers. Each topic also has a short explanation of the types of things you can do with each, like learning about the landmarks you're viewing, looking up reviews of books or movies, and saving dates to your calendar from a poster.
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_page_title">What can Lens do?</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_page_subtitle">Try Google Lens with</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_subtitle_artwork">Paintings, statues…</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_subtitle_landmarks">Landmarks, points of interest, buildings…</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_first_time_landmarks">Learn more about landmarks and paintings</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_title_media_covers">Media covers</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_subtitle_media_covers">Books, movies, music albums, video games…</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_first_time_media_covers">Look up reviews of books, music albums, or movies</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_title_text">Text & Barcodes</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_subtitle_text">Add contacts, save dates, look up products…</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_row_first_time_text">Save dates to your calendar from a poster or add a contact from a business card</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_page_first_time_message">Google Lens lets you learn more and take action on your photos</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_page_first_time_camera_footer">For best results, get close, center the object, and make sure it's in focus.</string>
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_page_first_time_confirm_button">Got it</string>
Most of this stuff was either covered directly or fairly predictable based on the original announcement at Google I/O. There was also a little bit of specific functionality demonstrated last week during a conference keynote presentation.
Things start to get a little more interesting as a line of text also promises some specific enhancements planned for the future, including language translation, plant and animal identification, shopping, and more.
<string name="photos_lens_promo_learnmore_page_standard_footer">In the future you will be able to use Lens for translation, learning more about plants and animals, shopping, and much more.</string>
While we know the broad strokes of what Lens will allow us to do, there are a lot of specific actions that haven't really been discussed to any extent yet. New strings tell us basically everything that will be possible with text found in a scene. Naturally, any detected text can be copied to the clipboard or shared to another app, but if it fits a specific format, Lens will offer options suited to that context.
- Web addresses can be opened in a web browser.
- Contact details can be added to existing or new contacts. Alternatively, you can directly call phone numbers, open addresses in a mapping app, or start a message to an email address.
- Dates and times can be added to your calendar.
- And finally, if you've got any text that doesn't fit one of those known formats, you can launch directly into a Google search for it.
<string name="photos_lens_card_text_card_copy_toast">Copied to clipboard</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_text_card_clipboard_title">Google Lens</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_text_card_action_email">Send email</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_text_card_action_contact">Add to contact</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_text_card_type_from_date">From date</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_text_card_type_to_date">To date</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_text_card_action_calendar">Add to calendar</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_unstructured_text_display_string">Text selection</string>
I've included most of the remaining strings below for those that want to peek, but the only thing remaining with much relevance is that you'll be able to search for similar images and find web pages containing matching ones – basically Google's reverse image search. There is also a new activity for Google Lens, and it is even exported, which means it will probably be possible to start it from within other apps or directly from your home screen. However, it crashes if you try to run it from a command line.
<string name="photos_lens_card_search_query_message">Search results</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_best_guess_title_text">Best guess for this image</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_carousel_matching_links_card_title">Web pages that include matching images</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_reverse_image_search_message">Search image on Google</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_visually_similar_images_message">Visually similar web images</string>
<string name="photos_lens_component_similar_images_disambiguation_chip_label">Similar images</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_visually_similar_images_see_more_message">See more</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_fallback_header_title">Sorry, Lens is still learning.</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_fallback_header_subtitle">What can Lens do?</string>
<string name="photos_lens_card_fallback_header_message">Maybe similar images from the web can help you find what you're looking for.</string>
<activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.photos.lens.oem.LensActivity" android:excludeFromRecents="true" android:exported="true" android:launchMode="singleTask" android:resizeableActivity="true" android:screenOrientation="portrait" android:theme="@style/Theme.Photos.Lens">
<action android:name="com.android.camera.action.LENS" />
<category android:name="android.intent.category.DEFAULT" />
<data android:scheme="content" />
<data android:mimeType="image/*" />
The timing of these additions (and common sense) tells us that Lens will be (re-)announced next month at the Pixel 2 event, and it should be launching officially around that time or within a couple of weeks. We now also have a pretty good idea of what will be possible with Lens and even some points about what will be added later. We're basically just waiting it out now.
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.