Flickr (for iPhone) review

Flickr's mobile photo-sharing app has gotten a huge redesign that adds just about everything missing from earlier versions.
Photo of Flickr (for iPhone)

Flickr is the most popular photo-specific web service around (with over 26 million unique visitors per month, according to recent comScore numbers) and it earned our Editors’ Choice as the best. But its mobile app has long been held up as a missed opportunity because of the many features of the main service it lacked. A recent major update changes all this—it’s now a fantastic photo app—and adds a strong play in the social networking ecosystem, with Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr integration. But maybe most significant new features are its Instagram-like photo enhancements, which, coming on the heels of Instagram’s recent lessening of Twitter integration, could be a big new venue for Flickr.

In the iTunes App Store, the same new Flickr app states support for both iPhone and iPad, though it only appears in the iPhone section. Users of the new iPhone 5 will be happy to note that the new app takes advantage of their phone’s longer display. Unfortunately, on the iPad, the app is formatted with the small iPhone-size image; you can hit the 2x button to fill most of the screen. Of course, you could just go to the full Web version in Safari on the iPad. If you don’t have a Flickr account, you can sign in with your Facebook or Google account, and of course, a Yahoo Mail login works

Interface and Features
In place of the old app’s three simple tabs for Recent, You, and Contacts, you now get five buttons across the bottom for contacts/groups, Interesting/Nearby, your own Photo Stream and Activity, and More, which offers searching among other functions. This is one interface design aspect that some may prefer the old app for—there the search box was prominently at the top of the home page.

The really great thing about the new interface is its use of the swipe gestures. I can swipe sideways through any of my contacts’ photo streams or up and down to switch among contacts. In the Interesting/Nearby mode, accessible from the globe button, I can swipe down through all the cream of the photos culled from nearly 2 million daily uploads. And all this swiping and switching among button modes is superfast; Yahoo has clearly put efforts into the performance of the app.

Instead of showing a grid of small square boxes when you’re viewing a photo stream or set, the new app uses the much more appealing “justified” layout familiar from the new Flickr Web design. This layout offers a much better view of the photos, and you don’t get it with Picasa’s mobile experience (Picasa doesn’t have an iOS app) or in apps from Photobucket, SlickPic, or even Instagram.

The individual photo view is also improved. Tapping on the image opens it in full screen, but not you can zoom in by spreading fingers on it—up to its full resolution—and pinch to zoom out. The old app only let you fit the image to the phone’s screen—no pinch zooming. You can still comment on, favorite, and share a photo from its page, and now, clicking the “i” brings up the photo’s map, tags, groups it’s included in, and EXIF info such as shutter speed, ISO, focal length, and F-stop. To Favorite a photo, you double-tap on it; I actually prefer heart button, which seems less likely to result in unintentional favoriting.

One thing you can’t do is save a photo from a Web album to your phone, something available in the previous version. This app is more about going the other way—taking pictures with your iPhone and uploading them to the service and sharing them on social sites. It now even offers batch uploads, where you select multiple photos for uploading at once. But hopefully the Flickr dev team will restore the ability to download photo stream images in a future update.

Photo Editing and Enhancements
With the old Flickr app, you could shoot a photo from the mobile and upload it to the service, but that was about it—no editing at all to speak of. Zilch. Not even rotation. The new version addresses this shortcoming in a big way. You can now get the full set of Aviary editing tools found on the Web site, accessible from a pencil icon: auto-enhance, rotation, crop, brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, drawing tools, red-eye and blemish correction, and teeth whitening. You won’t find this stuff on Instagram, let alone in PHotobucket’s iPhone app or SlickPic’s.

You also get a set of filters that give Instagram a run for its money. These have clever animal names like Panda, Toucan, and Orangutan. There are 15 in all, compared with Instagram’s 17. They’re every bit as dramatic and retro, but I do miss Instagram’s nifty selective-focus/tilt-shift tool available from the drop icon. You also don’t get to control the frame border in Flickr as you do in Instagram. But at least you’re not restricted to a square image as on Instagram.

Social Integrations
In addition to sharing with Flickr’s large community of photo enthusiasts, the new app offers plenty of other social integrations. Where previously, you could only send an image to Twitter and e-mail (you still can), the new app adds easy sharing to Facebook and Tumblr, probably the most popular places on the Web for sharing photos overall. A really nice aspect of sharing with the Flickr app is that tapping each service’s icon lets you upload simultaneously to all of them. For Twitter photo sharing, Flickr has the advantage of supporting “Cards” meaning the photo can appear right in the Twitter feed, rather than requiring a link out.

One of the most disappointing things about the old Flickr app was that it didn’t let you participate in the Flickr community the way the Web site does. Sure, you could see your notifications and the photo streams of your contacts, but what about finding new Groups or browsing the wonderful Explore images that Flickr algorithmically selects for display on its home page because of their “Interestingness”? Well, now you can do that, and more.

Right from the app’s front page, the globe icon offers looks at both the recent Interesting photos on the site and Nearby photos from Flickr members. Just as on the website, you can delve into the photo, start following its photographer, see their contacts, and just keep exploring. This is one of the addictive traits that made Instagram a hit, even though Flickr predated it with similar activity.

Get Flickring your Photos!
Flickr has done a bang-up job in improving its mobile app. Where previously the Flickr mobile app was functional but limited, the new version is everything you could want in an iPhone app for the richest photo sharing site on the planet. It gives you nearly everything you get on the full Web site. In fact, with no actual Picasa app and a weaker one from Photobucket and other competitors, Flickr (for iPhone) is our Editor’s Choice for photo-sharing apps on the iphone.

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Type Personal, Professional
Free Yes

Flickr's mobile photo-sharing app has gotten a huge redesign that adds just about everything missing from earlier versions.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc