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.

Something you should consider before buying an iPad (2010-04-01)

Everyone can agree that Apple does indeed very appealing (sexy) products which are also fairly good in many other ways, but to be honest with the money you’re paying you could get the best wooden watch and still buy something else. Understandably, many people would love to put their hands on one of them but because the direction towards closed and controlled systems Apple has taken, people should think about the consequences that can happen if they all are going to buy them.

The latest product Apple is about to launch is the iPad, it has been generously defined as a “magical” device, and some people think it will revolutionize the computer world as the iPhone did in the mobile scenario. The main reason people think that is because its accessibility, natural interaction and very simplified computer management, basically a super-sized iPhone. Unfortunately this simplification hides pretty well other political and economical reasons which limit in many ways what the user could do with a device like that in an open world.

Not everyone was so impressed during the presentation of the product. Someone, me included, thought straight away “no Flash Player? …you gotta be kidding!” especially if the product is promoted as the best internet browsing experience. Clearly there is a lot of politic involved in the decision and may not be much about the technology itself, which of course is not perfect (as the device which would host it). If Flash Player is such a dangerous plugin, why not having it disabled by default and make people enable it when needed, maybe as many third party softwares already allow you to (ie. ClickToFlash), I’m sure it wouldn’t take so long to implement it.

Do Apple really think that most of people these days don’t need Flash when browsing the web? I’m sure there are many others which regularly see websites with Flash content, like the one showed during the presentation, which are not the popular large Web 2.0 sites (YouTube, Vimeo), many small and personal sites can host videos these days, or maybe the future is Facebook pages not websites, maybe… but the reality that not even Google, which is a big promoter of web standards, thinks of ridding of the Flash Player, in facts they just announced the plugin will be embedded, and better integrated, in their browser. On a personal level, the lack of Flash Player in the iPhone is the reason why I don’t use Twitter on it, too many links points to sites with Flash content and not only videos!

If many people will buy an iPad (or an iPhone), browser plugins (i.e. Flash Player, Java VM, Silverlight, etc…) won’t be used any more on the web, bringing the web many years backwards.

Other very important aspect is the apps distribution. As mentioned earlier, Apple has basically full control on choosing which application you can run on it, this might be one of the reasons they want to keep Flash out of it (since there are many flash games on the web like the new destiny 2 trials of the nine flawless), so if you want to play flash games, or other games like csgo, you better get a computer and the best mouse for csgo to play them. Create a close system where any paid content has to give a part of the revenues to Apple has proved to be a winning solution for their pockets, it also allowed to be very aggressive with the price of the device itself, exactly the same thing happens in the Game Console market. Don’t get me wrong, Apple is entitled to try their very best to monetize from their inventions. But I can’t help to see this also as a step backwards in computer history. So far people didn’t mind and many bought 1 or 2 iPhones, me included. In my mind a mobile phone wasn’t really a computer and, also because the other options were not really competitive, I didn’t mind. With the iPad, though, Apple kept pushing in this direction to the point that, if they will be proven right, in the future instead of having an iPad with MacOS, which I would buy straight away, we might have a PowerBook with iPhoneOS! This is just too concerning for a Pax 2 vaporizer! I can agree that an iPad can be a good device for people not very digitally-savvy (ie. elderly) and as content consumers we don’t need much more from a device (Flash Player apart) but it can be very dangerous if kids start using it as computer. Who is gonna create the content or the channels of the future? Sure people can be creative also with an iPhone, but still it would limit a lot the media options. I think Ben Fry summed up that aspect pretty well. You don’t have to be a geek to realize how computers, and programming, today are key tools for creativity.

“Jailbreaking” the device is still a valid option, and I reckon, if Apple keeps this direction, it will become a more popular practice, especially for devices “less essential” than mobile phones (which should be 100% reliable when it comes to phone calls).

I am sure anyone would enjoy a lot the unboxing of an iPad but, before deciding if to buy one, we should just think about all the consequences. Not buying a product sometimes can be the only way to vote against a direction which we don’t agree with before it’s too late and all the competitors following it make the need to change in the future less relevant.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately I am not particular neutral to the argument because recently I bet the astronomic amount of £10 on the fact that Apple will sell less then 1M iPads in 2010. It’s more of a hope than a possible way of income, for the very same reason I’m writing this post. I’m sure no one is so crazy to think this post will help me to win the bet. Actually I feel pretty stupid after the rumors about Apple planning to sell 5M units in that period, especially considering how aggressive their marketing can be, but at the end I just hope it won’t go as smooth as many people believe so that Apple had to question their strategy. I do not own Apple shares but probably if I had money on the side I would, not because I love their products unconditionally, like many, but because I think Apple is very good on doing profits and the future is still bright for them. If I had some shares I would have probably written this post anyway because I’m confident Apple can find the way to good profit also without being so closed.

iPhone and Multi-touch development (2008-09-21)

After some months where I had big difficulties on finding the time to do some personal research, as I always did, it seems that I am finally finding again this mixture of motivation, constancy, and of course time. So in the last month I’ve been studying Objective-C with iPhone SDK and, as you can see from my more technical posts, I’m quite happy with the results I’m getting. Playing with iPhone SDK means also have a very portable way to test multi-touch interactions. This kind of applications are definitely not new for many developers, just imagine the Tangible Media Group at MIT, then of course all the Jeff Han’s & co. So despite it seems I got too late to face these issues, I reckon there is still so much to do and experiment with these kind of interactions but also that probably is getting a bit over rated. From one side there are companies like Apple and Microsoft that want to show to the world how innovative they are. The first delivering multi-touch devices to millions of people, but with a small usage in it, the second spreading info about new projects (Surface, Interactive Wall, etc.. ) and more importantly the fact that Windows 7 will support multi-touch, leaving since now just words, no facts. From the other side people that are probably not sure about how useful these interactions might be. I don’t think it’s a case that not many other mobile companies are planning to fight iPhone with similar feature.

It is definitely good fun start thinking about how you would architecture an application with that kind of functionalities, but it is still quite hard to see so many useful cases, a part of course the wow factor (which many might be consider enough). For this reason despite I am quite happy with some technical parts of my experiments, the interactivity still doesn’t convince me and it’s probably time I start thinking about it more seriously.