Mobile Apps

Scan and archive your old photos with just your phone

Stop taking photos of photos and start scanning.

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Get ready to backfill your Google Photos library. Or just improve your next attempt at Throwback Thursday.

Google has a new PhotoScan app for scanning old photos that creates vastly improved results over merely snapping a photo of a photo. Unlike the other scanner apps I've used such as Scanner Pro and Dropbox, which added scanning capability earlier this year, Google's PhotoScan app takes multiple shots to create each scan. This combats glare, a frequent enemy when scanning glossy photos.

How it works

PhotoScan takes four shots for each scan but is still quick and easy to use. Simply open the app, position the photo you want to scan inside the frame and tap the the shutter button. You will then see four large, white dots on the photo with a circle in the middle. The app will direct you to move the circle over each of the dots, which will then turn blue and disappear.

google-photoscan-2.jpg

Haircuts like these will soon be causing hilarity in your news feed.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

After the fourth dot, the app takes about one second to produce the scan. A copy is saved to your phone's camera roll and, if you have the Google Photos app installed, to your Google Photos library.

PhotoScan's other features and tools

Like most scanner apps, PhotoScan has edge detection so it can crop out the background, though it included part of the frame when I scanned a framed photo.

The app also corrects perspective so that you don't need to be positioned directly above a photo to get an accurate, distortion-free scan. And it has smart rotation to keep photos in the proper orientation.

The app has two edit tools. The first lets you adjust the corners to crop out any unwanted bits around the edge, such as a portion of a frame. The second lets you rotate the image in the event the app's smart rotation feature was fooled.

PhotoScan is available globally for free, for both iOS and Android.

Don't forget the Photos app itself

In addition to rolling out the new PhotoScan app, Google is updating its Photos app. I've yet to receive the update but Google promises it will offer a new auto-enhance tool, 12 new filters ("looks" in Google's parlance) and finer controls (that is, additional sliders) for the Light and Color tools.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on November 17 and has since been updated to include a video.