Thursday, June 20, 2024

There’s a big problem with the iPhone’s Photos app


Samsung Galaxy S24 in Marble Gray showing Google Photos.Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

While my primary device these days continues to be my iPhone 15 Pro, I’ve dabbled with plenty of Android phones since I’ve been here at Digital Trends. One of my favorite brands of phone has been the Google Pixel because of its strong suite of photo-editing tools and good camera hardware.


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Google first added the Magic Eraser capability with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, which is a tool I love using. Then, with the Pixel 8 series, Google added the Magic Editor, which uses generative AI to make edits that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. There are also tools like Photo Unblur, which is great for old photographs and enhancing images that were captured with low-quality sensors.

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Though some of these features were only available on the latest Pixel phones, Google recently announced that it’s bringing these photo -diting tools to all Android phones — and even iPhones — via the Google Photos app beginning on May 15. The best part? There’s no subscription or fee required. The included tools are Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, Portrait Light, and Magic Editor. Magic Editor only gets 10 saves per month for all users unless you have a Pixel device or Premium Google One plan (2TB and higher), but that’s the only caveat.


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When I heard this announcement, I realized just how far behind Apple has gotten on its native photo-editing tools in the Photos app. It’s been trailing behind Google for a while, and with this latest update, it’s only gotten worse.

Apple has a lot of catching up to do

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Since I always have my iPhone 15 Pro with me, it’s the device that I primarily take the most photos with. A lot of my photos these days are of my daughter and I don’t usually make edits to those unless I have to (there are simply way too many). But for work-related photos, I tend to do some quick edits before I upload them.

Unless I need something specific that I can’t do in the Photos app, I pretty much just make those quick edits with the native editing tools in Photos. But sometimes, I will notice things after the fact, like a speck of dust on the back of a phone or a spot that didn’t get wiped away beforehand. Hey, it happens!

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

But with the Apple Photos app, I don’t have a way to get rid of those unwanted objects in images or a way to clean up a photo before sharing it. I’d have to rely on a third-party app or, starting on May 15, use the Google Photos app for those edits.

It’s just a little embarrassing that we don’t have a tool like Magic Eraser in the Apple Photos app. Right now, you can adjust the depth and lighting for portraits, make basic photo adjustments, add filters, and use cropping tools. In other words, just the basics.

Though many people may think of Google’s Magic Eraser first, even Samsung has its own version of the tool on Galaxy devices in 2021, appropriately named Object Eraser. And with the launch of Galaxy AI this year, that feature became better than ever. Though we haven’t yet done a side-by-side comparison of the two, both are pretty decent at getting rid of those unwanted objects and tidying up photos. Both Google and Samsung also have their own versions of generative AI editing too, for those even fancier edits.

Could iOS 18 be the answer?

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

There has been a lot of talk about Apple researching and investing in generative AI, and possibly even partnering with Google on Gemini or using ChatGPT for a future version of iOS.

With Apple’s WWDC 2024 just around the corner, and rumors suggesting that iOS 18 will be the “biggest update yet,” there’s a high chance that we will see some form of AI in the next software update for iPhones. After all, with almost every other competitor implementing mobile AI in some form these days, it would be foolish for Apple to not get on board.

Of course, even if Apple were implementing some kind of AI into iOS 18, it might start small with things like natural language conversations for writing, summarization, better automation with Shortcuts, and perhaps Siri improvements. I would love to see generative AI photo-editing tools, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t make it into iOS this year.

Regardless, Apple’s Photos app is clearly lacking in tools compared to the competition. I hope Apple has plans to make the Photos app better soon, because I’d rather not have to use multiple apps for photo editing if I can avoid it. It’s cumbersome, awkward, and just looks bad for Apple. It’s high time to fix this.

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