Access your photos in Instants (2013-06-11)

For obvious reasons, following Apple iOS 7 announcement, I am about to show you what I have been up to in the last few months.

Today it is easy to access our contacts photos and getting inspired by photowalls a la Pinterest, but what about the photos we care the most, ours?

Let me introduce you to Instants!

Instants has been designed to give you access to your photos in… let’s say, few taps!

A couple of design principles were set at the beginning:

  • Speed, speed, speed: the app should give by default quick access to any photo in your camera roll, but should also allow you to have faster access to the photos you access more frequently.
  • Light management: the default Photos app lets you create photo albums, but how many people do really do that? It’s definitely hard work which you can’t expect anyone to do. Any management required in Instants should be easy, fun and meaningful.

In Instants you can browse your photos using different and distinctive criteria. The assumption is that when you look for a photo urgently, you want to have full control on how to browse. Different people might also different preferences.


This is how usually people browse their entire library of photos, starting from the most recent. Instants automatically groups the photos by month which can be scrolled horizontally when contracted (in one row) or expanded in full height and re-contracted again. It doesn’t take into consideration any geo location data, no problem if for privacy reason this is missing.
But not all the months in our lives are the same! Sometimes months include holidays and have lot of photos, others are pretty quiet. In the Time view you can split the months (basically adding points in time) and any group can be color-coded to be quickly recognized when scrolling the whole table. The app has at the moment 3 different color themes to please all tastes.


In this view the photos are grouped by city and are ordered alphabetically starting from the country code. The location have a clear and succinct name, easy to scan when you are scrolling. All the features available in the Time view are also available here but the possibility to split the groups (since there isn’t a clear single dimension).


I believe this feature alone might worth the switching from Photos. There are some shots we took that we are particularly proud of but when posted on Facebook they rapidly disappear in the flow of friends updates. In Instants you can explicitly star photos; there is no algorithm which recognizes what you watch the most, you are in control.
Because these are photos you like and you Marketing Heaven for, their thumbnails take a more generous space of your screen (bye bye 4 columns grid!).


Photos can be tagged using 24 predefined visual tags. Tags in general are great but if you leave people managing them it can easily get messy, not to mention if they are textual (see Delicious). The tags in Instants don’t have necessary a clear meaning despite they of course resemble real concepts, they give some room for interpretation so that they can be easily adapted to your needs.
Because these are photos you are attached to, and the end you took the time to tag them, they too are represented in the table as glorified thumbnails.


When the photos are initially imported they get analyzed and the ones with a clear dominant color or black and white get pulled in this view ordered by hue. Not all of your photos will be here but if you are looking for a nice picture of the sky, even if a sunset, this could be a good starting point!

Here a screencast which shows some of these functionalities in action in the version 1.0:

Instants App – v. 1.0 from Christian Giordano on Vimeo.

The app will be freely available (ok, tagging might require a minimum of investment from your side) in the AppStore very soon (much before iOS 7), if you want to be notified the exact day, please register your email on the dedicated website.

If you like what you see, feel free to share it!

Further thoughts on the upcoming iOS 7 Photos app
Finally Apple put some weight on improving this app, all the users, me included, should be happy about it.
In what we have seen yesterday, they too introduced an auto-grouping functionality which creates automatically some separation between the photos in the camera roll. It’s probably still early to know if their grouping is more effective than Instants straight-forward logic. But there are definitely some missing features (favorites and visual tagging) that hopefully will be enough to differentiate the two apps.