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Dear Apple, Let’s Talk About Photos

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We’ve been managing our photos together for almost a decade now. Things were nice and simple at the start and we both knew what to expect from each other—I pulled my photos off my camera on the computer, imported them into iPhoto and arranged them. Life was good.


But then you came and gave me the great iPhone camera and I started taking more photos like that of this lovely cow. Also you give me a wonderful wireless sync facility so I didn’t ever need to plug my phone into my laptop so I didn’t. So then the photos on my phone and the decade of photos in my iPhoto library started to diverge because I didn’t get round to syncing them.

Then you gave me a beautiful iPad which would looked so perfect for curating my iPhoto library. I couldn’t wait to edit and organise photos from the comfort of my sofa except that you didn’t give me any way to save things back to the library. So I couldn’t. So things just kept piling up on my camera roll.


Then I thought you’d heard my pain and figured it out - you gave me “photo streams” which put every photo on every device. Unfortunately the only way to get photos into iPhoto was still through my desktop so the fact they were available on the iPad was academic because I still couldn’t save them to my library. Also when I pulled them off the photostream they still existed in the camera roll. Two copies (three if I edited them) and you also occasionally told me to delete some because I ran out of space.

To be honest, I got a little confused at this point. Have I transferred them into iPhoto? I’m not sure I’ll check the photostream - ack, no, I remember you told me to delete photos off my photostream because there were too many. Hmmm, check the camera roll again. Hang on a minute - where are my videos?! Turns out photostreams don’t stream videos. Man, these things are not cool.

Just so as you know by the way and don’t freak out but, I’d like to sort my photos when I’m sat on the loo. Or in the bus, or anywhere else I want to kill time with my phone. I don’t want to edit them when I’m sat at my desktop - that’s work time. It really pains me that I can’t do that and so my photos just pile up in a big heap while I waste time reading things I don’t care about on Twitter.

Finally, to add insult to injury, when we moved to your lovely little MacBook Air you kyboshed my disk drive. All of a sudden, after 10 years of taking high-res photos and videos I couldn’t even fit them onto my laptop. Not only that but you insist on keeping a cache on my Macbook of my entire decade of photos at just the right size for each iDevice. Did you know that I’m using 7% of my entire Macbook disk drive just caching photos for my iPhone and iPad? That’s crazy! I paid a lot of money to you for that flash drive—I don’t want to waste it on a photo cache.


So Apple, I think you’ve got a bit confused. Don’t worry about sharing, we don’t need you for that. Your job is to take photos, organise them and make sure they don’t get lost. So let’s talk about how you can do that.


What I would like from Apple to manage my photos

1) I want the canonical copy of my iPhoto library in the cloud. One iPhoto library in the cloud, many devices with access to it. I want to edit, organise and delete photos on any device and see the same changes on all other devices. No master/slave setup - just straight cloud access.


2) You can charge me for this. I suggest $5/month. Maybe that’s a bit more than it costs you at the moment but that’s what I’m prepared to pay and we both know that you’ll do very well out of this in the long run. However for that I want unlimited space including for all of my videos. FYI that’s not what really I’m paying you for. I’m really paying you for the peace of mind that you’ve got my memories safe-guarded. I’m technically paying you for insurance. The utility this offers just the carrot that gets me over the hump of paying you.

3) Get rid of photo streams. Make the camera roll a single photo stream that shows up in iPhoto (on all devices). I want a single camera roll that all devices feed into. I want to take photos, queue them in my camera roll then pull them out as I organise and sort them into my library. Let me explain: photos and videos have two phases 1. on the camera roll 2. in my photo library. Nowhere else.


4) I’d like you to create API for my iCloud camera roll so any camera I own could hook into it - I want to be able to buy an SLR with wireless capabilities and simply connect it as a new source to my camera roll.

5) Make iPhoto on the iPad and the iPhone work well. Make them do clever things to give me fast access to my photos from the cloud. You did it for iTunes, let’s bring the magic a second time. Let me harness power of that splendid little device direct from the loo.


This opportunity won’t last forever by the way. Most people haven’t got a good backup strategy and don’t spend any money on backup but by the time they do they won’t be prepared to give you yet more dollar to take care of their photos. When the inevitable time comes that they’re paying Dropbox or Google $10/month for unlimited backup they won’t cough up another $5 for photos. However they’re not doing that now and you’ve got a window to bring some Apple magic.

I know Steve’s not around to crack the whip but you need to get your act together Apple. This could be a nice little $2 billion/year recurring revenue stream but the window will close. If it closes before you’ve been bothered to sort this mess out we’re all rodgered so chop chop!


Photo credits: My iPhone

Peter Nixey is a Rails developer, entrepreneur, and the former CEO of Clickpass. You can follow him on Twitter here. This piece originally appeared on his blog.