Photo Stream critique

Usually, I love Apple's tools and services, but as it stands right now, Photo Stream is a bit of a yawn. Photo Stream is the feature of iCloud which stores some of your pictures online. This bucket of photographs can be accessed from iPhoto's sidebar, Aperture's sidebar, iPhone's Photos app below the camera roll, iPad's Photos app, and an Apple TV (from the Internet heading). Pictures get added to Photo Steam in two ways, either by dragging and dropping photos in iPhoto to Photo Stream in the sidebar, or by turning on Photo Stream in your iPhone's settings. The latter will upload every picture you take with your iPhone as soon as it finds a wifi connection. The idea is that your pictures are viewable from anywhere, without having to plug in your iPhone. Snap a shot with your iPhone, and view them almost instantly on your iPad, Mac, or Apple TV. It's a neat idea, but in practice, I've found it to be more obnoxious than helpful. For starters, it's only photos. I still have to plug in my iPhone to the Mac in order to import videos. If the aim of iCloud is to negate the need for connecting your iPhone to your Mac, then it's a bit off target, right? Without the ability to handle videos, Photo Stream seems like a flashy trick rather than a new convenience. (Yes, I know it's just called Photo Stream and not Photo and Video stream, but iPhoto does videos and so does the Photos app on iOS.) My guess is that Apple doesn't want to store gigs and gigs of home video on their servers. A way around this might be to allow local syncing of videos, rather than going through iCloud itself. For example, when my iPhone is charging, the videos sync to iPhoto's Photo Stream. Secondly, there is no way to delete individual photos from Photo Stream. As of right now, my personal Photo Stream contains screen shots, burry pictures my kids accidentally took, and just poorly taken pictures of my own. Oh, and a meager sprinkling of actually decent shots I took are in Photo Stream, too. The uglies have already been cleaned out of the iPhone's camera roll, but they're forever glaring at me from Photo Stream until I either nuke the whole thing via or wait until these pictures pass the 1,000 mark and therefore get dropped from Apple's iCloud servers. The last gripe against Photo Stream is that you cannot share these pictures as public albums. If they are already being stored online, why shouldn't I be able to organize the few good photographs into an album and share them with my family? For all of MobileMe's issues, its Web Gallery feature was a hit. Of course, iCloud and Photo Stream are in their infancy right now. My hope is that the next round of updates brings some sort of social photo sharing. But for now, Photo Stream is only convenient for the individual user. In fact, Photo Stream is only convenient for the person who doesn't shoot video, takes perfect photographs each time, and doesn't like to share entire photo events. Now, at the risk of sounding hypocritical, I will admit that I plan on leaving Photo Stream turned on. It has been helpful when sharing iOS screen shots, or emailing from my Mac a couple shots I just took on the phone. In this instance, it has replaced Pastebot. It's also fun to show off to friends and clients. For all my critiques against it, Photo Stream does have its shining moments. In the future, I hope Apple adds the ability to curate Photo Stream, either through iPhoto or Let us delete some of the stupid photos! You can already create albums with iOS 5, how helpful would it be to publish an album to a public web gallery? Here's to you, Photo Stream. I wish you all the best.

Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.