Adobe has been making a big push in the mobile space, but its imaging apps have mainly been confined to iOS. Adobe told us that more Android version of pro apps are in the works, and today the company launches its first major app, Lightroom Mobile for Android phones.
Lightroom is Adobe’s photo editing and management software (part of the Creative Cloud suite), and it’s popular with pro-level and enthusiast photographers. The mobile version is a stripped down, easy-to-use version of the desktop software, but Adobe says the experience is similar and just as powerful. For those already familiar with Lightroom on the desktop, the app contains the tools in the Basic Panel, native presents, and the ability to view and edit RAW (DNG) files. The Android version of Lightroom Mobile is nearly identical to its iOS counterpart, so if you’ve been using it on an iPhone or iPad, it’s the same experience (the big difference is that the Android app currently doesn’t support the commenting function).
For casual users, there are plenty of photo editing apps available on Android. Lightroom is really designed for the Android user who is also using the desktop version, which tend to be more advanced photographers; it gives them the ability to work while away from their computers. Because the app is tied to Adobe Creative Cloud, all photos and their edits and metadata are synced, so that means a photo you are editing on your Android phone can be continued on a Mac or PC later; you can even pick up your work on an iPad via Lightroom Mobile for iOS or other Adobe iOS apps, like Photoshop Mix. The original versions of photos are always intact, so you can reverse the edits you made, on any platform you are using. Creative Cloud also lets you view your work via a Web browser (Lightroom for Web).
Lightroom Mobile for Android is a fairly demanding app. It requires a 1.7GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of native storage (it does not support removable flash memory), and either Jellybean, KitKat, or Lollipop versions of Android. While the app itself is free, it requires a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud service and Lightroom 5.4 or later for Mac or PC (plans start at $10 a month); new users can try out the app with Creative Cloud free for 30 days. The app is also designed strictly for phones; an Android tablet version is in the works, but Adobe has no timetable for its release.
The app demonstrates the change in photographers’ workflows. More and more of them are editing with mobile devices while working in the field, or are incorporating smartphone cameras as part of their work. Lightroom Mobile lets them work and share immediately (privately or publicly via social networking), or start a project and finish it later on the desktop, where they have more tools and presets. It also lets photographers continue working when they are traveling; while Lightroom Mobile is limited, all the edits and metadata made with the desktop version can be viewed on the mobile device. Casual users might find the app an overkill, but for those who find the benefits useful, they could potentially become new Creative Cloud users (with the rise of mobile computing and smartphone photography, Adobe is seeing a lot of new users who don’t come from the design world).
Lightroom Mobile is relatively easy to use (based on comments at the iTunes App Store, many users find it too limiting, but Adobe continuously updates its apps with new features). You can crop an image; apply changes to white balance, exposure, tone, highlights, contrast, etc.; or use one of several native Adobe presets. You can flag or star photos you like, and using a two-finger tap pulls up a histogram and metadata. Because the original version is untouched, holding down three fingers on the photo reveals the original. All edits are synced in real-time. You can also open RAW files from your cloud account; because RAW files are generally very large, Lightroom Mobile downloads a smaller size version, but all edits remain intact. The ability to use all that metadata is what makes the app powerful, Adobe says. You can also sync photos in your Android camera roll to Creative Cloud, and work on them using Lightroom Desktop later on. We found it as simple to use and understand as the iOS version, however we had some issue pulling a photo from Creative Cloud to our Android device; we were, however, able to pull a photo taken with the Android phone onto an iPhone.
Down the road, Adobe says it’s working on video support, compatibility with Lollipop’s RAW capture, and third-party presets, but Adobe says it doesn’t have any dates to announce. Adobe also mentioned it strives for feature parity between iOS and Android releases, but it’s not always possible; it will release what it can first, and play catch-up later.