Is a complementary, folder-based photo library an improvement to the iOS photo management?

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by pavelatanassov, Aug 4, 2016.

  1. pavelatanassov macrumors newbie


    Feb 10, 2016
    This may sound like an app promotion at a first glance but it's a real question.

    In my startup we developed an app called Utiful that is a complementary photo library for mobile devices (available for iOS and Android). It allows for easy and fast organization of photos into folders, and this completely separated from the standard photo library of the device. It enables to clean up the Camera Roll without losing the photos because you can freely move (not just copy) photos between the Camera Roll and the Utiful folders.

    I did quite some research before coming up with the idea and it makes sense to me but I need critical feedback whether a complementary photo library really adds value and provides an improvement to the iOS photo management. Here's the link to the App Store, if you decide to give it a try:
  2. eyoungren macrumors Core


    Aug 31, 2011
    ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
    So the app allows you to move photos out of the camera roll (verus just copying or creating an alias)? My question is, is this actual management of the Camera Roll or just manipulation in the app? In other words, is Utiful doing this to the Photos app?

    Here's an example: I have an app called Groups. It allows me to immediately make Groups in my Contacts app right on my phone. I don't have to do this using a computer and then sync with iTunes. So, the Groups app directly affects the Contacts app.

    If Utiful acts in this manner, but with the Photos app I would then say this is a very useful app.
  3. pavelatanassov, Aug 4, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2016

    pavelatanassov thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 10, 2016
    Yes, Utiful directly interacts with the Photos app, which is the "owner" of the Camera Roll and All Photos in iOS. You don't need any computer or iTunes or whatsoever. Let me explain how it technically works. Utiful is an organizer, in which you can create folders (you can "mark" the folders with emoji sticky labels for faster orientation - the eye recognizes faster the sticky label than it reads the folder name). You can thus move photos (and videos of course) from the Photos app to the Utiful folders. You can choose to move single photos or a whole album from the Photos app, or even the whole Camera Roll at once. When you choose the photos to move and the target Utiful folder, here's what Utiful does under the hood: it requests from the Photos app the chosen assets (photos, videos) and copies them into the Utiful library, which means a 1:1 copy of the asset is made in the Utiful app and placed into the Utiful folder you chose. Immediately after this Utiful requests from the Photos app (through the API of the Photos app) to delete these assets from the main photo library of the device, that is, from the Camera Roll aka "All Photos". iOS prohibits that third-party apps can delete photos without the explicit consent of the user, this is why at this step of the process a dialog pops up in Utiful asking you to confirm the deletion of the photos from the Photos app (in fact, this dialog doesn't come from Utiful but from the Photos app). After you confirm the deletion, it is in fact the Photos app that deletes the photos from itself in the background, which as usual on iOS means that they are placed into the "Recently Deleted" album of the Photos app and automatically wiped away after 30 more days (so this is the standard way how iOS operates). The result for the user is that the photos/videos got moved out of the main photo library of the Photos app (Camera Roll / All Photos) to the complementary photo library Utiful, where you can organize in folders and move the photos around just as you like. You can of course anytime move back photos/videos from the Utiful folders to the Camera Roll, which is great when you want to reorder photos in your Camera Roll: you first move them to Utiful, where you can reorder them as you like, and then move them from Utiful back to the Camera Roll, so you get your Camera Roll reordered.

    I attach a screenshot of my Utiful home-screen to get an impression of how it looks like. I only keep family and vacation photos in the Photos app. Everything else I move to the Utiful library. This way, in my Camera Roll I have an uninterrupted timeline of all my leisure pics. And, in Utiful I have sorted all the photos that I need to be able to quickly access in my everyday life.

    Attached Files:

  4. eyoungren macrumors Core


    Aug 31, 2011
    ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
    Very useful @pavelatanassov.

    This thread will hopefully gain some attention and as it's specific to your app the discussion will center around it.

    Thanks for the explanation!
  5. windowpain, Aug 14, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016

    windowpain macrumors 6502a

    Apr 19, 2008
    It looks like a very useful app. I just have a few questions about it though..

    1 - After reading the FAQ it appears the photos in utiful are backed up in iCloud but not synced between devices, is that correct?
    2 - I know it is possible to send folders to another device, but if I add to a folder and resend will it duplicate all the photos or just send the newer ones?
    3 - Is there a Mac companion app? Or another way to simply view the photos inside utiful on a computer?

    Like most people I imagine, I have a lot of things cluttering up my photos app, would be nice to offload them to somewhere else.

    EDIT - as the app was only a dollar (¥120) I decided to pick it up and check it for myself.

    So to answer my own questions if any one is interested. ( the dev can correct me if I am wrong)

    1 - the folders are not synced between devices.
    They are (apparently) backed up in iCloud.
    2 - sending a folder again will create an entirely new folder on the target device.
    3 - you can Airdrop to a Mac, and create a folder there.
    It would be great to be able to send directly to Dropbox or something like that..

    Some suggestions;
    1 - Please put a trash inside the app or some other way of recovering deleted photos.
    2 - when/if you re-add the photos back to the camera roll it appears to change the metadata of the photo and resets the date..can you add a setting to change this default behavior?
    3 - some basic edit functions (for example rotate) would be very useful.

    All in all it is a good app and certainly worth a dollar. Recommended.
    I managed to remove some debris from my photos app and began to clean it up.
    If there were better sync/backup options I would move a lot more to it, but for the time being it does the job well. Thanks.
  6. pavelatanassov thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 10, 2016
    Hello @windowpain, a huge thank you for the feedback! Below are my comments to your post:

    First, to your Questions:
    Q1. Yes, we don't have a sync across devices yet. It's on our backlog but I don't have a target release date yet.

    Q2. Yes, sending the same folder twice will copy it twice to the target device's Utiful library. You can simply delete the old folder. There were ideas to implement a kind of merge, however without a backwards info to the source device it won't be perfect either, so we decided to rather address that again when we're implementing the sync across devices.

    Q3. A Utiful Mac app is also on our backlog but again no planned release date yet. Besides AirDropping a folder to your Mac, you can also use iTunes for the transfer, whichever preferred. In one of the next versions we'll make it possible to transfer several (or all) folders at one time.

    Many thanks for your Suggestions! Let me comment on them too:
    S0: Send a folder to Dropbox: This is already on our backlog.
    S1: Adding a system folder like "Recently deleted" is a good idea. I'll add it to the backlog right away. However, I'd keep the items only for a short time inside - just a couple of days (or eventually let the user be able to choose). So basically this should provide a possibility to undo, right?
    S2: No, we don't change the EXIF metadata of photos. Perhaps what you mean is that when you save/move something out of Utiful to the Photos app, it appears at the end of the Camera Roll. This is indeed so but just because the iOS Camera Roll can only add stuff to its end, you can't insert them somewhere in-between. So if you open the photo in the Photos app, you'll see its original date at the top. And also if you change to the Moments view in the Photos app, you'll find the photo at its original date when it was taken.
    S3: Crop, rotate, and basic annotations are already on our backlog, we want to deliver them in the beginning of Q4 this year.

    Let me know whether I got all your points right.
  7. gaanee macrumors 65816

    Dec 8, 2011
    So, Utiful creates a folder in Camera Roll and then you can create more subfolders inside this Utiful folder... is that how it works? or those subfolders are under Camera Roll itself?
  8. pavelatanassov thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 10, 2016
    Hi @gaanee, the answer is "neither nor".

    Utiful serves as a separate photo library itself. Completely separated from the Camera Roll. So when you move photos from the Camera Roll to Utiful, these photos get deleted from the Camera Roll. The folders you create in Utiful are only within Utiful. Let me know whether this answers your questions.
  9. windowpain macrumors 6502a

    Apr 19, 2008
    Hey, that's fantastic, thanks for the answers.

    I have been playing around with it a bit more and I like the app a lot, it will come in very handy.
    Sometimes I want to create an album and show that to someone without them looking though all my photos.. So it does the job well. (I often move rather than delete.)

    Yes, having some kind of trash to guard against accidental deletion would be a life-saver!
    I did wonder why the re-added photo went to the back of the camera roll, I mistakenly thought the exif data had changed, and didn't realise it was the (ios's) default action, makes sense now.

    For those that are wondering, the app is basically a secondary (and completely distinct) camera roll/folder system which you can use for all the stuff that you don't really want to be mixed with your holiday snaps.
    I use it for whiteboard snaps, pictures of Pokemon I found, screen shots, snaps of maps etc..very useful and well worth a dollar. Check it out!
  10. pavelatanassov thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 10, 2016
    @windowpain, this is a very good and concise description of the Utiful app!

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