What do iOS 8′s new photo editing capabilities mean for apps like VSCO Cam, Snapseed and even Instagram?

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At WWDC last month, Apple unveiled a plethora of new features for iOS and OS X (and a bunch of stuff that spans both). A couple of things that really struck me related to photo editing in the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 8.

Firstly, Apple is greatly expanding the range of editing tools in the stock Photos app in iOS and secondly, with it’s new Extensibility APIs for developers, the Photos app can now draw on the editing capabilities of third-party apps, should the developer choose to allow it.

Improvements to Photos

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Apple has gradually been improving the photo editing experience on iOS over time. Basic editing features worked their way into the Photos app over the years like cropping, red-eye removal and autocorrect. The company went a step further in iOS 7 last year by adding a range of Instagram-like filters.

In a move that is likely to please any iPhoneographer, Apple has upped the ante in the iOS 8 Photos app by including a number of advanced editing tools. Smart adjustments for light and color, auto-straightening for better compositions and, importantly, extremely granular controls for fine tuning of brightness, contrast, saturation and so on.

My question then is: with all these editing capabilities right in the default Photos app, is there any need for a dedicated third-party app on your iPhone?

If you’re a nerd, or a keen photographer, your answer might be yes as your editing app of choice might provide a tool or function that Photos still lacks. But for the user that wanted just a few more capabilities in the Photos app, more advanced apps like Snapseed or VSCO Cam might seem a little unnecessary going forwards.

Surely, these developments can’t be good for the long-term future of iOS photo-editing apps. If I can complete most of the editing I need in the stock Photos app, can I justify paying for an additional editing app from a third-party developer? I’d certainly think twice before shelling out those few precious dollars.

Extensibility

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Apple’s new Extensibility options in iOS 8 might stand to be third-party photo editing apps’ saviour. In iOS 8, apps will be able to offer up UI and functionality to other apps. In the case of the Photos app, as demoed at WWDC, editing apps like VSCO Cam or Waterlogue can allow Photos to access their filters and editing capabilities right there in the Photos app.

It feels a little strange for such cross-app compatibility to exist on iOS but it will certainly make editing photos in multiple apps much easier (no more saving to Camera Roll and uploading into each app every time!).

In this way, though, Apple is treating third-party apps as features rather than products in their own right. Does this diminish the value of third-party editing apps? Personally, if I can access VSCO’s preset filters in the Photos app and avoid flitting between applications, I will. But that would mean I spend less time enjoying the other aspects of that app, like the Journal tab and social Grid. Similarly, if Instagram allows me to use its filters and tools in Photos and then post to the network without ever having to open the Instagram app, will I spend less time perusing other people’s uploads? Presumably, yes.

If I can make use of features of editing apps I own in the Photos app, it means that app has less of my precious eyeball time which can not be good, especially if they have social functions that I would spend less time experiencing. The value-added of the app will need to be enough to warrant its download and to keep me using it independently.

Your opinions?

I guess only time will tell as to how the much-improved Photos app will impact on third-party offerings. For the majority of iOS users, this won’t be an issue – they’ll simply use the app as they always have and might never even dabble in the more advanced editing capabilities.

The more adept iPhone picture taker who uses their iOS device for some photo editing stands to see a difference in their workflow.

What do you think? Will the new Photos editing features change how you use the app and how you use third-party offerings? What impact will this have on the third-party photo editing app ecosystem? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or get in touch with me on Twitter: @TiP_AdamO.

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