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Flickr updates iOS, Android app with vastly improved experience and features

When those kids at Flickr (and their corporate parents at Yahoo) said they were going to give the photo-sharing service an overhaul, they weren’t kidding. Not only has the website received continuous upgrades, the companion mobile app has been getting a makeover as well. The company just released the Flickr 3.0 app for iPhone and Android, which has an updated look as well as photo enhancement features found in other apps like Adobe Photoshop Express, Instagram, Vine, Dropbox, etc. (we alluded to this update last month). Like most photo apps, Flickr’s goal is to become your one-stop shop for all your mobile photo needs, including 1TB of cloud storage.

Whereas earlier versions of the Flickr app looked more like a basic companion app to the Web component (it even tried to mimic the look and feel of the old desktop counterpart), the new 3.0 version has been treated more like a standalone product – something Flickr already started with the app’s last update. Gone is the convoluted, confusing, and sluggish viewing experience. Instead it has adopted a similar photo treatment used by nearly almost every photo-centric app, organizing photos neatly into columns and rows that are easily accessible.

You can use your smartphone’s camera or access the photo roll directly from the app, edit your photos, and apply filters (either live or in post-editing). New is the ability to capture 30-second HD video clips with live filters. All these popular features already exist on other apps, so no wheel is being reinvented; the company is simply bringing these features into the Flickr universe, in one app.

All your photos can be backed up using the new Auto Sync feature. As the name suggests, your original photos are uploaded automatically to Flickr, which you can access from another device or the Web (although you may want to turn this feature off if you have private photos you don’t wish to share). Flickr says that search and organization tools have also improved.

“Even if you have thousands of photos, our intelligent search engine will help you find what you’re looking for fast,” Bernardo Hernandez, Flickr’s VP, wrote on the company’s blog. “Flickr’s understanding of your photo’s date and time (ex: ‘January 2014’), place (ex: ‘San Francisco’), and even scenes and objects (ex: ‘car,’ ‘sunset,’ ‘beach,’ ‘portrait’) helps organize your images so you don’t have to.”

The app also has tighter integration with other social media networks, including Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, but don’t forget that Flickr itself has a tight community of users. The app allows you to explore other members’ photos, and vice versa – after you’ve uploaded them, of course.

Based on our quick spin with the app, we can confidently say that it’s not only a far more attractive-looking app, it’s also smoother to navigate. Like in the last version, you can scroll through larger photos from your Flickr contacts in a single column, with easy-to-read descriptions and options to Fave, Comment, or Share. The difference now is that it feels more fluid, not unlike that of the Tumblr app, which is another Yahoo property. Overall, it’s an improved experience. 

A complaint we’ve heard is that Flickr is now focusing less on traditional photographers (using regular cameras) and more on casual photos shot with smartphones. Unfortunately that is the growing trend, as more photos are shot with mobile devices – even Flickr’s findings says that, based on photo metadata of what a photo was shot with – so it makes sense that Flickr would want to tailor the experience to mobile users (the company has lost a lot of ground to the likes of Facebook and Instagram).

Even this writer, who was once a Flickr fanatic, has stopped uploading to Flickr with any frequency, simply because photography behavior has changed, but would probably return to the service now that there’s an improved way of getting those photos onto the site and sharing them on other platforms. Blame the smartphone all you want, but it’s the current reality, and it’s one Flickr is finally acknowledging. 

The Flickr app is available now for download, for iOS and Android.