This year, Google acquired Nik Software. Nik Software is lately renown on iOs for their awesome photo editing app, Snapseed. Needless to say that every photographer expected to see this app coming on Android devices. This Thursday, Google updated the iOs app and of course, released Snapseed on Google Play. I will not have an extended review in this blog post, if I wanted so, I would have posted this on my photography blog. If you don’t know Snapseed, there are other great reviews on the web. Actually, there is far more interesting about this app. As everybody see that Google try to challenge Instagram, there is a lot to learn from the evolution of this app, should it be from the user or the developer point of view.
The iOs app was updated and is labelled 1.5.0. First thing to notice, it is free now. Snapseed was already free from time to time this year, but now you do not have any reason not to download this app.
The second obvious point will appear when you will want to share your picture. The first entry is now Google+, and aside of the email, it s the only hard coded sharing target. So yes, Snapseed became an entry point for Google+ photo publishing. Oh… Did you missed the splash screen ? Snapseed is now named “Google+ Snapseed“… When a company gets a product like this one and integrate it with its own services this way, you can fear about the original feature. Do not, they are all still there. Snapseed is very easy to use app, really touch friendly. It is still that app. All the features are still there, unchanged. iOs users can still use Snapseed as they did, until they will have to share they work.
So now that Snapseed is hard connected to Google+ for photo sharing, it become Google’s competitor to other apps such as Instagram. Among all the other image manipulation apps, Google+/Snapseed and Instagram have the most in common. Both are social networks on which you can share images and build a community. One feature that attracts people on Instagram is their filters. So here we are with the third new feature on Snapseed. Google added a new setting named Retrolux which is a set of old style filters. The frames settings have been updated. Now we do have a greater choice and at last, black borders. Unfortunately, we lost any tuning in this settings. You can no more choose how tick your border will be.
Finally on Android
So here comes this app on Android. The user interface is exactly the same, any manipulation will be done on Android as it used to be on iOs. This is a good point for this app which really takes advantage of touch screens, providing a great touch interface. Snapseed didn’t use any specific iOs graphic element, so Android and iOs versions are exactly alike.
But both apps are not the same. Android version is 1.4.1 so it does not contains the Retrolux settings and the frames are limited to the ones we used to work with on iOs. I don’t really understand why those two versions are different on this point. I can’t say that I am missing those settings, just wondering why they haven’t been included in the Android App. One can argue that Google may have a team improving the iOs app and another adapting it to Android, that would explains why the Android version is the former one from iOs. But it is not if we look at the sharing option…
Android UI design
Snapseed on Android is in a way compliant with the design guidelines and uses an Action Bar. This is similar on iOs where Snapseed also uses the iOs Action Bar. On an iPhone, the open image button and the share button are located on this Bar. On an iPad, the Share button is in the home screen. The Nexus 7 user interface is therefore very similar to the iPad UI. But on Android, the Share button is a menu on that bar. You know, the 3 dots button. Is there a “share” button on the home screen ? Yes… A hard-coded “Share on Google+” button…
On iOs, sharing with Google+ is also hard coded in the app. We can understand this as you can’t transfer content to the iOs Google+ app which does not appear in the “share with” menu. Facebook sharing was similar. But on iOs, you do access all sharing trough that first “share” button. On Android, sharing on Google+ needs only one click. You need to understand the meaning of the 3 dots button to share with something else and need 3 clicks to share with another app.
From a developer point of view, this may be disappointing. One of the biggest asset of Android is its ability to request functionality from other components. Snapseed do have that behavior, but it is hidden deep into a menu as sharing with Google+ is hard coded on the home screen. Snapseed is a photo editing app, not a Google+ app. Unless…
From Snapseed to Google+ Snapseed, can Google compete with Instagram ?
As I wrote earlier, Snapseed is not just Snapseed anymore. The splash screen clearly names it Google+ Snapseed. Google does not intend to leave Snapseed as a simple stand alone photo editing app. It is clearly part of Google+. If you browse the tech news, you’ll see that for all media, Google intention is clearly to compete with Instagram. Instagram is an app that allows you to make some basic photo editing and publish the resulting photo to its network, and optionally share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr… With its Google+ integration, Snapseed allows you to do really advanced photo editing and easily publish the resulting photo on Google+. So both apps offer a similar general behavior. But will Google succeed to drain Instagram users to Google+ ?
I am not really sure if Google really understood Instagram here. Instagram is not a photo editing app. Photo edition on Instagram is really basic. Taking photos with Instagram was useful when the app was released on iPhone because it made it easier than using the native app. Today, you don’t even need to unlock an iPhone to take a picture. Instagram filters may have enhanced the photos taken from the early poor cameras of the iPhone, but today, they are far too limited. The statistic page on Webstagram shows the filters used on popular photos. At the time of writing, 44 % of the photos are “Normal“, which means they do not use an Instagram filter. But this do not mean that the image haven’t been edited at all. Darren Rowse, editor of DPS, posted on Google+ his Instagram publishing workflow. He may use up to 5 different apps before posting on Instagram. Oh, wait… What does he use if the photo need some editing ? Right, Snapseed… Snapseed is already part of the workflow of many Instagram users. Today, there are 1.143.696 photos with the Snapseed tag on Instagram. Will those users start posting on Google+ rather than Instagram because Google made it easier trough Snapseed ? Why would they ? Instagram users have built their following there, what will the Google+ benefit will be ? Also, Instagram is only an image sharing social network, people can browse images as they like and only images, without the noise of other kind of sharing or suggested posts. Not to mention that some other services have been buit over Instagram like Instacanvas.
Moreover, most Instagram users are iOs users. On iOs, Google+ simply replaced Facebook in the menu. IOs users will continue to use Snapseed as they did before posting on Instagram. But on Android, things are different. First, Instagram came later on the platform. Pure Android users never used Instagram and considered the app as a simple Filter effect app, just like many others available on Android. Second, there was no decent photo editing app on Android (Photoshop Touch is available but it is not that easy to use). Will this app encourage people to share photos as they can now edit them, and more especially on Google+ ? I don’t really see why.
Sharing functionalities is bad
Android biggest asset is to allow components to request functionality from other components. From a developer point of view, Snapseed being a photo-editing app, it should request a sharing functionality from other apps. And that is what he does, in a hidden submenu. Of course, it could expose a sharing on Google+ functionality itself, but that functionality should be exposed among the others. Google is pushing their usage, as you can read from the Developer Blog. But with Snapseed, Google is demonstrating that Instants are bad. As a service provider, you shouldn’t use them, or at least, hide them. Intents allows your customers to use another app, another service. That is not what you want. You want your users to use your service, not your competitor’s.
As a software architect, I love Intents. I love the way functionalities can be requested. But I always knew that from a business point of view, you don’t want your customers to use competitor’s apps and services. Google is leading by example here, showing that you should hard code the call to your services and hide the global sharing.
The most interesting here is that they implemented that user interface on Android, not on iOs where global sharing is easier. Besides, it also very interesting to watch the apps behavior on Android. Instagram allows you to share a post to another app. That is how you can share a post from Instagram to Google+. The Google+ app does not offer that functionality. You can’t share a post from Google+ to another media.
Nevertheless, Snapseed remains the best image editing app on mobile devices. All the screen captures in this post where processed with Snapseed.
You can follow me on Google+, Instagram or check my Instacanvas gallery.
So, will this interface make your post photos on Google+ ? Would you stop using Instagram ?