An update to Google Photos landed earlier today. So far, we haven't come across any visible changes, but there are a few topics for a teardown. Hints can be found suggesting Google may be building a new movie editor. Improvements to the search interface could be forthcoming, as are helpful suggestions about features that may not be obvious to all users. As always, a link to the latest updates is available at the bottom.


Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that plans could change or may be canceled entirely. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

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.

New movie editor

It looks like a new movie editor may be coming to a future version of Google Photos. The latest update contains quite a bit of new text related to functions you'll normally find in a mobile video editor, including pickers for clips and music. If you think that sounds like the existing movie editor, you'd be right. In fact, most of the text below has an exact match or a very similar line already present in the text. However, one single line signals that this isn't just a run-of-the-mill reimplementation:

To use the new editor, you need to update your movie. Themes are no longer supported, so you'll lose any effects you may have.

This makes it sound like Google is changing the format it uses for movies and will suggest that users "update" them to be able to use the new editor. The warning about themes is a reference to the visual effects that can be applied to a video, not the recently-added "Movie Concepts" that are used to auto-generate a movie from photos and videos stored on your account.

<string name="photos_movies_activity_storyboard_upgrade_dialog_message">To use the new editor, you need to update your movie. Themes are no longer supported, so you\'ll lose any effects you may have.</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_storyboard_upgrade_dialog_title">Update your movie &amp; edit?</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_storyboard_upgrade_dialog_update_button">Update</string>

<string name="photos_movies_activity_no_storyboard_error_message">This movie is not editable</string>

<string name="photos_movies_activity_play_movie">Play movie</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_pause_movie">Pause movie</string>

<string name="photos_movies_activity_label_movie_editor">Movie Editor</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_save_failed">Couldn\'t save movie edits</string>

<string name="photos_movies_activity_change_soundtrack">Change music</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_label_soundtrack_picker">Music Picker</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_theme_music">Theme music</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_my_music">My music</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_no_music">No music</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_soundtrack_preview_failure">Error loading soundtrack</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_soundtrack_change_failure">Couldn\'t change soundtrack</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_soundtrack_library_failure">Couldn\'t load the theme music library</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_soundtrack_source_sheet_title">Choose music source</string>

<string name="photos_movies_activity_download_progress_message">Downloading clips…</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_load_error_message">Error loading clips</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_picker_title">Select</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_picker_error_toast">Couldn\'t add clip</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_player_error_text">An error occurred</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_remove_missing_clips_dialog_title">Missing content</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_remove_missing_clips_dialog_message">This movie includes items that you\'ve deleted. Updating the movie will permanently remove the deleted items and make the movie editable.</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_remove_missing_clips_dialog_confirmation_button">Overwrite</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_save_button">Save</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_storyboard_load_error">Couldn\'t open movie</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_unsaved_edits_dialog_discard_button">Discard</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_unsaved_edits_dialog_message">Unsaved changes won\'t be applied to your movie.</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_unsaved_edits_dialog_title">Discard changes?</string>

<string name="photos_movies_activity_app_upgrade_dialog_decline_button">No thanks</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_app_upgrade_dialog_message">Update to the latest version of Google Photos to continue</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_app_upgrade_dialog_title">Can\'t edit movie</string>
<string name="photos_movies_activity_app_upgrade_dialog_update_button">Update</string>

<string name="photos_photoeditor_fragments_cpu_not_supported_error">Editing is not supported on this device</string>

<activity android:name="" android:configChanges="orientation|screenLayout|screenSize|smallestScreenSize" android:exported="false" android:label="@string/photos_movies_activity_label_movie_editor" android:theme="@style/Theme.Photos.MovieEditor" />
<activity android:name="" android:configChanges="orientation|screenLayout|screenSize|smallestScreenSize" android:exported="false" android:label="@string/photos_movies_activity_label_soundtrack_picker" android:theme="@style/Theme.Photos.MovieEditor" />

From what's available above, it's hard to spot anything that actually marks a discernible improvement or new feature that separates this from the old movie maker. However, that might be explained by another batch of new lines for a so-called clip editor. None of the individual functions of the clip editor seem particularly remarkable, but it vaguely reminds me of the days before Google Photos was an entirely separate entity, but was instead a part of the Google+ app. That version of a video editor was still fairly simple, but it offered some features and a design that many users preferred to the current editor.

<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_add_clips_item">Add photos and videos</string>

<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_move_clip_down">Move down</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_move_clip_up">Move up</string>

<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_clip_show_action_menu_button_a11y_label">Clip options</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_insert_clip_below">Insert clip</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_remove_clip">Remove</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_duplicate">Duplicate</string>

<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_enable_motion">Enable motion</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_disable_motion">Disable motion</string>

<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_video_clip_content_description">Video clip</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_photo_clip_content_description">Photo clip</string>

<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_hide_trimmed_portions">Hide trimmed portions</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_photo_clip_trim_content_description">Adjust clip duration</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_show_entire_video">Show entire video</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_thumbnail_content_description">Thumbnail</string>

<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_mute">Mute</string>
<string name="photos_movies_ui_clipeditor_impl_unmute">Unmute</string>

Judging by the text above, the clip editor will allow users to add photos and videos to their movie, enable or disable audio (mute) and motion on those clips, trim the length, and change the order.

I'm guessing a bit here, but I have a feeling that the clip editor will be used for piecing together the visuals for your movies, and then the new movie editor will have the responsibility of applying a soundtrack and possibly applying any visual effects, if new versions are available.

Even if the new movie editor doesn't reveal any new features immediately, it's very possible this editor will be a redesign of the code that will make it easier to enhance it in the future. That could mean we'll see regular improvements. Ultimately, I'm hoping this turns out to be the video editor available on the iOS version of Google Photos, which is based on the Clips app, which Google acquired in 2015. Check out the video below by Mark Dodsworth to see what's hopefully coming to the Android side.

Promotions notification channel

We're well beyond the point of explaining notification channels, so I'll simply point out that a title for a new one has been added. This one is for Promotions, which likely relates to the printing promotions setting added in v3.13. So far, Promotions doesn't appear in the list of notification channels yet. It may not turn up until the first notification of that type is posted.

<string name="photos_notificationchannels_promotion_channel">Promotions</string>

Promotions notification channel is live(-ish)

The Promotions notification channel has gone live some number of hours after this post was originally published. It doesn't appear on another device immediately after updating, so there may be a built-in delay, a staged rollout, or some other behavior preventing it from automatically appearing after installing an update.

Search results with category counts

There's some guessing going into this one, but the names of many new strings may hint at search results that might contain a count of the different types of things found based on the search phrase. Three categories are mentioned: People, places, and things. From the look of it, a single main category will be found, but it may be accompanied by a count of other results that also match the criteria in some way.

This interpretation is based on the likely pairing of one initial string, e.g. 'One person found,' which would be combined with subsequent lines for the other categories, e.g. 'Plus 3 places' and 'Plus 1 things.' These all belong to strings with a "search retention" prefix. With that name, I'm inclined to guess that the counters might appear either in the search results as group headings, or possibly in the search box after tapping on it again. On the other hand, all of these strings include the word 'notification' in the name, which doesn't fit with my theory very well; but I also have trouble imagining a way to pair search and notifications.

<string name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_content_single_category">Find them organized in albums</string>
<string name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_title_single_cluster_people">One person found</string>
<string name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_title_single_cluster_place">One place found</string>
<string name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_title_single_cluster_thing">One thing found</string>

<plurals name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_content_places">
<item quantity="other">Plus %1$d places</item>
<item quantity="one">Plus %1$d places</item>
<plurals name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_content_things">
<item quantity="other">Plus %1$d things</item>
<item quantity="one">Plus %1$d things</item>
<plurals name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_content_things_and_places">
<item quantity="other">Plus %1$d things &amp; places</item>
<item quantity="one">Plus %1$d things &amp; places</item>
<plurals name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_title_people">
<item quantity="other">See %1$d people from your photos</item>
<item quantity="one">See %1$d person from your photos</item>
<plurals name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_title_single_category_people">
<item quantity="other">%1$d people found</item>
<item quantity="one">%1$d person found</item>
<plurals name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_title_single_category_places">
<item quantity="other">%1$d places found</item>
<item quantity="one">%1$d place found</item>
<plurals name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_title_single_category_things">
<item quantity="other">%1$d things found</item>
<item quantity="one">%1$d thing found</item>
<plurals name="photos_searchretention_full_notification_title_things">
<item quantity="other">See %1$d things from your photos</item>
<item quantity="one">See %1$d thing from your photos</item>

Misc: Retentive actions / Desktop uploader

I only include this section because there's a lot of text here, but frankly, I doubt it's significant. A bundle of new strings with a "retentiveactions" prefix has been added. These are all lines of text describing features most of us already know about, but I think they are going to be used as promotional reminders of features many people have forgotten or might not know about.

The only tip in here that strikes me as interesting is a set of instructions suggesting that users dig up their old SD cards and use the desktop uploader to send any old pictures to Google Photos. There is even a new screen that helps users with sending an email with instructions for setting up the desktop uploader.


<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_action_button_text">Add older photos</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_activity_title">Add old photos on your computer</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_email_sent_button_text">Email sent</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_icon_content_description">Desktop uploader icon</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_instruction_1">Send a link to %1$s</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_instruction_2">On your computer open the email and follow the instructions</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_message">Back up photos stored on a computer, SD card or external hard drive to see them on this device</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_sd_card_section_header">Got old SD cards?</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_sd_card_section_instruction">Insert them and follow instructions to back them up. &lt;a href=help:&gt;Learn more&lt;/a&gt;</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_send_email_button_text">Send Email</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_desktop_uploader_title">Got old photos on a computer?</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_finish_setup_action_button_text">Finish setup</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_finish_setup_message">Now that your photos are backed up, get more out of Google photos</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_finish_setup_title">Finish account setup</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_free_up_space_action_button_text">Free up space</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_free_up_space_message">Remove photos &amp; videos from this device that are safely backed up. Access them any time with an internet connection</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_free_up_space_title">Free up space on this device</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_no_thanks_button_text">No thanks</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_shared_library_action_button_text">Select partner</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_shared_library_message">Select your partner and choose what you want to share. Learn more</string>
<string name="photos_retentiveactions_shared_library_title">Save time &amp; share automatically with a partner</string>

<activity android:name="" android:exported="false" android:launchMode="singleTop" android:parentActivityName="" android:screenOrientation="portrait" />


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.


Google Photos
Google Photos
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free