iOS 18 Photos — all the new features coming to your iPhone

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

The Photos app is getting a new look for iOS 18. Gone are the multiple tabs from the current version of the app that let you jump between your library of photos, your albums and search tools. In iOS 18, everything moves to a single unified screen, where swiping and scrolling appear to be the order of the day.

There's a motivation behind these changes, Apple says. In both the WWDC 2024 keynote showcasing iOS 18's new features and on the company's own iOS 18 preview page, Apple touts the new design as making it easier to find the photos you're looking for. Or as Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, put it during the keynote, Apple thinks this redesign will help Photos users "get to the good stuff."

Whether that's the case or not will have to wait until more people get the chance to use the iOS 18 beta. (A public beta is a few weeks off as of this writing.) For now, let's take a closer look at Photos in iOS 18, which undergoes what Apple is calling the biggest redesign in the app's history.

iOS 18 Photo Library

iOS 18 photos main interface

(Image credit: Apple)

The Photos app Apple has shown off takes up a single screen that's split into two areas. Your Photo Library — the main view in the iOS 17 version of Photos — now sits on top of a group of photos that Apple's dubbed Collections. (More on Collections shortly.)

To dive into your library, you swipe down. That gives you a grid of every photo in the library, but a toolbar at the bottom of the screen lets you view photos by year and by month.

iOS 18 photos filter tools

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has also included a button for further filtering your Photo Library. Based on the demo during the WWDC keynote, it looks like you can use the filter tool to show select types of images, like photos, videos and favorites. You can also set filters to remove things like screenshots, according to Apple.

iOS 18 photos carousel

(Image credit: Apple)

While your Photo Library dominates the upper half of the screen when you launch photos, it's not the only thing you'll be able to view in that area. Photos in iOS 18 has a Carousel feature at the top where if swipe right from your library, you'll be able to view featured photos and favorites. (You can see a small visual cue that there's more photos lurking besides you Photo Library — there's a bunch of dots separating the library from the Collections beneath it that indicate additional image you can swipe to see.)

On its preview page, Apple describes says the Carousel "highlights your best content in a beautiful, poster-like view." That sounds a lot like the Memories and Featured Photos highlights contained in the For You tab of the current version of photos.

The images featured in the Carousel will change every day, according to Apple. You'll also be able to customize which images appear in the Carousel.

Collections

iOS 18 photos collections

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple intends for the Collections area of the iOS 18 Photos app to be the place that helps you either find specific photos or discover old favorites from your albums. It does this by listing photos both by time and topic.

The time element is represented by the Recent Days section, which organizes the shots you've taken in the last little while. You start off with today's photos, but you're able to swipe between days to go back and find recent shots. At the top of each day, there's an autoplaying slideshow that highlights the photos you've taken.

iOS 18 photos recent days

(Image credit: Apple)

Just below the Recent Days section, Collections start organize your photos by topic. These include things like Trips, People and Pets and favorite memories, among other sections. A brief glimpse at the People and Pets screen during Apple's iOS 18 preview shows a grid of faces that taps into the facial recognition features built into Photos.

Collections also has a Pinned Collections section, for groups of photos you like to have at the ready. And like a lot of iOS 18, there's customization features that will let you select which topics appear in the Collections section.

iOS 18 Photos and Apple Intelligence

iOS 18 photos Apple Intelligence story feature

(Image credit: Apple)

When Apple Intelligence arrives later this year, Photos figures to be a big beneficiary, even if only iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max users will be able to see for themselves. Photos is getting a Clean Up tool via Apple Intelligence that lets you remove unwanted objects from the background of photos just by tapping. It sounds an awful lot like the Magic Eraser capability that's available on any Tensor-powered Google Pixel phone.

Apple Intelligence will also allow the Photos app to create new content, which Apple is calling a memory movie. You enter a description of what you want — in the WWDC demo, it was a fishing trip — and Apple Intelligence selects photos and videos that fit your description, organizing with chapters and even adding background music. Similarly, you'll be able to select people in your Photos Library and have the Image Playground create a new image featuring them. Photos of people can also be turned into Genmoji with Apple Intelligence, that you can then use in Messages.

Finally, Apple Intelligence should make it easier to find images in your Photo Library, just by describing the particular photo or video your looking for.

iOS 18 Photos outlook

Apart from the Apple Intelligence capabilities, Apple hasn't really disclosed anything about editing or sharing tools coming to Photos in iOS 18. But that may be by design — it sounds like the focus with this version of Photos will be on the app's new methods of organizing and surfacing your favorite photos and videos. We'll find out more as we get the chance to spend some time with Photos in the iOS 18 public beta.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • tc10
    Thank you, your overview and insights have been very helpful.

    For the past 20-30 years, my wife has really enjoyed creating her own photo albums with pictures.
    I’ve been trying to give her a similar capability on iPhone iPad and macOS with limited success.

    Do you see any ability for us to easily add our own tags(keywords)
    to our photos
    so we can organize
    our photos the way
    we would like
    into our albums / folders
    on iOS & iPadOS?
    sorted the way
    we would like?

    Sadly, perhaps, for past several years,
    Apple has been very aggressive
    on telling us
    how we would like
    to see, group, organize, sort, arrange our photos.

    And yes, I do like memories.
    Imagine if we could use that tool for our own organized pictures our way.

    And yes, I do provide feedback to Apple on a regular basis every year for the past 15 years.

    This should be possible without having to have the most recent iPhones and iPads. It is basic organizational capability … we thought.

    iPhoto did this reasonably well in 2008 on my first iMac.

    End result I have to print off our photos so that she can continue to make her photo albums since we cannot do it online.
    Reply