iOS 18 Photos — Apple explains the biggest redesign in years

iOS 18 logo next to iOS 18 Photos app screenshot on iPhone
(Image credit: Apple)

iOS 18 rolls out a lot of changes, but the biggest could be the new look for iOS 18 Photos. Apple has called it the biggest redesign to Photos in the app's history, and now executives are revealing more about the reasons for some of the changes. In an interview with three Apple executives, The National dug into what's going into the Photos redesign.

Ultimately, it sounds like the app probably needed a redesign after almost a decade in the world. The focus appears to be on improving security and creating a "frictionless" design.

"As our features, users and libraries have grown, so has the density of the [Photos] app," says Billy Sorrentino, senior director at Apple’s human interface design unit. "So rather than hunt and peck throughout, we've created a simple streamlined single view photos experience based on deep intelligence."

According to Apple, after Mail and Safari, Photos is the third-most popular app. The app is managing more than 3 trillion images and videos a year, according to data from Apple. 

Combined with Apple Intelligence, the company's foray into artificial intelligence, the redesigned Photos is meant to be more streamlined. The design appears to focus on customization and giving users more control over the layout of the interface.

In iOS 18 Photos, you'll be able to create albums by typing out a description. A related new feature adds the ability to find more specific images using conversational language to search.

The streamlined app will change to a simplified, single-view grid with months and years listed to help locate files faster. Apple is also introducing a Collections feature that will automatically create themes of images and video based on topics or common themes like pets or kids.

"Lots of deep intelligence combined with customization means that Photos can be more personal,” said Della Huff, manager of the camera and photos product marketing team.

On the security front, new safety measures were created to to prevent misuse that extend to third-party apps that can access Photos. One new feature is the ability to confine a third-party app's access to a sub-catalogue of photos instead of the enitre library.

Jon McCormack, vice president for camera and photos in the software engineering team said, "We make it very clear that when an application goes and uses an API [application programming interface] for the first time, we'll inform the user exactly what that app is asking for."

A full version iOS 18 should arrive in the fall, most likely with the launch of the iPhone 16. In the meantime, the operating system update is available as a developer beta with the rest of us gaining access to an iOS 18 public beta this month.

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Scott Younker
West Coast Reporter

Scott Younker is the West Coast Reporter at Tom’s Guide. He covers all the lastest tech news. He’s been involved in tech since 2011 at various outlets and is on an ongoing hunt to build the easiest to use home media system. When not writing about the latest devices, you are more than welcome to discuss board games or disc golf with him.