Thursday, June 13, 2024

Redesigned Photos App in iOS 18

Federico Viticci:

The Photos app is getting a big redesign in iOS 18 that is surely going to take some time getting used to. The new design revolves around a single-page UI that eschews a tab bar in favor of a split-screen approach with your grid of photos shown at the top, followed by a series of collections that encompass both traditional albums, previous categories such as ‘People and Pets’ and Memories, as well as new sections such as Trips and Recent Days.

The best way to think about this redesign – which I’m sure will be debated a lot this summer – is that everything can now be considered a “collection” that you can pin for quick access to the top of the Photos UI. The top of the interface is still taken up by the regular photo grid (which you can more easily filter for content now), but that part can also be scrolled horizontally to swipe between the grid and other collections. For example, you can swipe from the grid of recents to, say, featured photos, your favorites, or any other collections you want to pin there.


It’s a lot to take in at once, and this new design can be quite daunting at first. I understand that Apple wants to try a unified design for the Photos app to put a stronger emphasis on rediscovering memories, but I wonder if maybe packing too much information all at once on-screen could be disorienting for less proficient users. The new Photos design almost feels like an exercise in showing off what Apple can build with SwiftUI just because they can; time will tell if users will also appreciate that.

The new Photos interface reminds me of the TV and Music stores, which are among my least favorite Apple designs. I never want to see horizontal scrolling.

Ryan Christoffel:

Photos in iOS 18 now puts all your content on a single screen. Similar to the Journal app introduced last year, the entirety of Photos navigation is done in a single screen that you scroll through to find all your content. That’s it. One screen, scroll up and down, scroll side to side for carousels—everything in the app lives there.

I suppose I should reserve judgement until I try it, but this sounds dreadful.

Juli Clover:

These changes to Photos are in iPadOS 18 and macOS Sequoia as well as iOS 18.

The Mac version does still have a sidebar.

Benjamin Mayo:

iOS 18 Photos app is weird. It’s like they tried to simplify it, but in reality it is now more complicated. No tab bar means there’s nothing to permanently ground navigation.

Ryan Jones:

iOS 18 Photos app is NOT going to go over well.

Waaaaaaay too little org hierarchy.

iOS 18 Photos == iOS 15 Safari

Steve Troughton-Smith:

If the new Photos app is the new poster child for ‘rewritten in SwiftUI’, hoo-boy…


Update (2024-06-18): CTD:

Still very surprising and longstanding omissions in iOS and iPadOS Photos including no support for viewing or adding keywords. No Smart Albums.

Update (2024-07-02): See also: Brandon Butch and Trevor.

Update (2024-07-08): Chance Miller:

Billy Sorrentino, senior director at Apple’s human interface design team, explained the motivation behind this dramatic redesign.

“As our features, users and libraries have grown, so has the density of the [Photos] app. So rather than hunt and peck throughout, we’ve created a simple streamlined single view photos experience based on deep intelligence,” Sorrentino explained. “Ultimately, we wanted to remove friction.”


“Lots of deep intelligence combined with customization means that Photos can be more personal,” Apple’s Della Huff, manager of the camera and photos product marketing team, explained. “Everyone has a different workflow and so automatic customisation is really key here.”

Emphasis added.

Frank Rausch:

It’s a typical modern UI: You don’t get to form a fitting mental model / cognitive map of how the app is structured and how it works; instead you react to whatever pops up on screen and tap to see what happens.

Mario Guzmán:

This is the current state of app design. And I hate it. Also, what makes it more frustrating is that the old HIG used to have a section on mental models.

But it feels like prominent apps like Photos get redesigned so often that even if you adapt your mental models around the app, you’ll have to re-adapt again shortly because they will be introducing a whole new design soon.

I also hate that it is “Suggestions-first” rather than let me just go to where I need to go to.

Mario Guzmán:

For any designer who has lost their way… here is some information on Metaphors and Mental Models when designing your app’s UX from the original Mac Human Interface Guidelines. I hope this helps.

Federico Viticci (Mastodon):

It’s been a few weeks since I installed iOS 18 on my primary iPhone, and I feel pretty confident in saying this: I was wrong about the new Photos app at first.

I’ll reserve more in-depth comments for the public beta and final release of iOS 18; of course, given the drastic redesign of the app, there’s also a chance Apple may scrap their plans and introduce a safer update with fewer structural changes. However, over the past few weeks, I noticed that not only do I find myself discovering more old photos in iOS 18, but the modular approach of the more customizable Photos app really works for me. I was able to fine-tune the top carousel to my liking, and I customized pinned collections with shortcuts to my favorite sections. Put simply, because of these changes, I use the Photos app a lot more and find navigating it faster than before.

John Gordon:

Things are bad when Apple execs bother to say anything about

In my hallucinations the EU forces Apple to make PhotoKit a full platform for third parties to replace Photos.mac with their own product.

Update (2024-07-15): D. Griffin Jones:

With the major Photos app redesign coming in iOS 18, Apple aims for simplicity. However, the version of the Photos app in iOS 18 developer beta 3 is a hodge-podge of design that will confuse users. I think that if Apple doesn’t revise its approach, the company will face significant backlash when it releases the updated app to the public this fall.

Update (2024-07-16): Steve Troughton-Smith:

The new Photos app in iOS 18 just doesn’t do it for me; in fact, I can’t stand the changes they’ve made to the UI and navigation. I am firmly in the camp that feels the photo library is a feature, a utility to be used by other apps. Apple, however, wants Photos to be a destination, a product with a unique UI, flashy features and user retention gimmicks. Whether these two things should be two different apps, I don’t know, but what we’ve got here isn’t an app I want to have my photos in anymore.

It’s worth saying: none of this would be a problem if the Photos app were a user-replaceable component like antitrust regulators in the EU desire. I could just replace the Photos app, which is clearly going off in a direction I want nothing to do with, with an alternative that looks and functions like the old one.

Jason Snell:

I 100% understand the impulse and think it might be forgivable if you could dismiss the other thing and keep it gone, but I can’t get over the whole thing where you launch into the MIDDLE of a scrollable area with different destinations up, down, and (sort of) to the right. It’s bananas.


There is no sense of place. You are lucky if it shows you what you want to see because good luck finding it yourself. Good luck organizing.

There is no way to manage photos properly with this design.

Collin Donnell:

A lot of modern Apple apps on macOS are really lacking in the keyboard shortcuts department. Apple Photos are Freeform are two big ones for me.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

David Dunham

I still haven’t found where you can force syncing so iPad can get the pictures you just took on iPhone if your battery is a bit low (the controls used to be at the bottom).

Kevin Schumacher

I don't really mind horizontal scrolling, but the overall redesign is gross and user-hostile.

And people who just barely got how to use it as it currently is (which is not exactly the easiest interface to start with) are going to stop using it entirely if this ships.

Not looking forward to this redesign at all.

Not having the sync now option would be a big problem because the devices are so timid about syncing on their own.

Apple has reversed course before when they tried to remove the recents view from photos maybe 5 years ago. Maybe lots of negative feedback during the beta period will have the same effect this summer as well.

David: you now need to tap on your Apple Account icon in the top right of the main Photos section (where all the content is) and it will open a dialog with options etc including sync status. Dumb.
Especially since my iPad Pro 2024 pauses syncing to “preserve battery” as soon as the % goes below 50%. Dumb.

SwiftUI - destroying the platform one app at a time 😂

This is a terrible development. I have been complaining about the decline of Apple’s software for years now with a particular revulsion to what they done with Apple Music and the Apple TV app. To hear that, not only are they not acknowledging complaints about their software user experience, but may actually be doubling down on it and extending it to apps as important as Photos, is just mind blowing. I know AI is the topic du jour, but I wish there were stronger public pushback, especially from tech pundits, on the crappy state of Apple’s user interface designs, which seems to be very much intentional. It’s remarkable that they are doing so brilliantly on the hardware side, while turning all their software into garbage.

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