iOS 8 and the Photo Stream Nightmare


Simplicity. One word that Apple can't use when describing the horrific experiences with the new Photos app in iOS 8. Every tech blog on the internet has written articles on the new iOS and described the features in depth. Why is it still so confusing?

Users are crying out on social media asking things like "Why are my photos deleted?" and "Where is my Photo Stream?" No photos have been deleted at all, just the concept of Camera Roll and and tangible reference to your Photo Stream album.

It hasn't helped that every tech website and blog have detailed their experiences with the developer release of iOS 8—with iCloud Photo Library as an option. I realize that when that's released, many of my issues (hopefully) will be resolved.

Photo Stream Importing

I’ve had this feature enabled on my iPhone, iPad and Macbook Pro (iPhoto auto-downloads originals from Photo Stream). I definitely understand it’s quirks and workflow.

I’ve encountered a bug in how photos from Photo Stream are sorted in the album Recently Added when Photo Stream is turned off/on on a device. Turning on Photo Stream will download photos that are still stored in Photo Stream (last 30 days), although not in any logical order. Previously, photos downloaded and were sorted by date. I have turned Photo Stream off/on multiple times trying to figure out the method in which they are sorted and they are sorted differently each time.

Missing Album Named “My Photo Stream”

I get that the future workflow with the iCloud Photo Library makes the Camera Roll and My Photo Stream albums obsolete, but the documentation for iOS 8 references the My Photo Stream album specifically:

Without the “every photo lives on every device” and “edits sync to every device” promises of the iCloud Photo Library, losing these albums now make it harder to know which photos live on the device and which photos only exist in Photo Stream. How do I know which photos are only showing up because they are in Photo Stream so I can make sure some are downloaded to the device for safe keeping? Editing on another device prompts me to “edit a copy” hinting that the photo isn’t on my device currently.

If the albums for Camera Roll and My Photo Stream still existed, it would be easier to see which photos I would need to store before the 30 day, 1,000 photo limit was over.

Deleting a Photo Across Devices

This goes along with Photo Stream. When deleting a photo on my iPad, I’m alerted that the photo will be deleted on all my iCloud devices. After deleting a few photos and returning to my iPhone, they still exist. Why? Well, iOS 8 attempts to remove the complexity of “a photo lives in Camera Roll on the device AND as a copy in iCloud in Photo Stream temporarily” nonsense. However, iOS still maintains that old methodology of Camera Roll and Photo Stream but removes any tangible reference to either. All user controls or views of this system have vanished.

More Documentation and Explanation

Before Apple removed all the details about iCloud Photo Library on the website, I was excited about its possibilities. Now that iOS 8 has been released without it, many details are becoming more of a mystery. I have no clue how Photo Stream is intended to interact with the iCloud Photo Library, or if it’s actually a bug that an album named My Photo Stream doesn’t appear when Photo Stream is enabled on devices. How are users supposed to interact with their photos now? When iCloud Photo Library is released, will Photo Stream still be an option? If so, what does it do? If it’s still the same as it’s been, then a My Photo Stream album would make the most sense. Enabling and disabling Photo Stream on devices would add/remove an album named My Photo Stream.

I'm really hoping that Apple releases an update soon to sort out this complexity. How has your experience been so far?

It appears that iOS 8.1 will address some of these issues and bring back an album called "Camera Roll" when iCloud Photo Library is turned off. This album will show just the photos taken with the device. If iCloud Photo Library is turned on, that album turns into "Recently Added" and only shows a 30-day snapshot of photos taken or added by other devices—a rolling snapshot of the Photos tab.

To me, this is the best of both worlds. The new iCloud Photo Library is a single library that all devices can help manage. You won't care what device you took a photo with because all devices see the same photos. If you don't want to use iCloud Photo Library, then the smartest decision is to revert this new folder back to Camera Roll and function the same as it did before. My next request would be to show either a dedicated My Photo Stream album (which they could bring back) or a label/outline to show which photos in the Photos tab are local or in the cloud. An easy method would be to outline each photo with a 1 pixel border if it's not on the device.

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