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Mobile Apps

​Google adds new muscle to Snapseed photo editor for iPhone, iPad

The app unlocks the power of raw photo editing, an option that offers new flexibility and image quality compared to plain old JPEGs.

Snapseed for iOS greets you with a notice ​it can edit raw photos.

Snapseed for iOS greets you with a notice saying it can edit raw photos.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Snapseed, a Google photo editor that goes beyond the basics of Google Photos, just got a little more serious.

With Wednesday's Snapseed 2.9 release for iPhones and iPads, the software now can edit raw-format photos, the pictures taken directly from a digital camera's image sensor without any processing.

Photo enthusiasts love raw photos. Although they're more of a pain to edit and share, raw photos offer editing flexibility and better image quality compared to conventional JPEG photos. For example, you can typically do a better job with raw photos if you want to boost brightness in dim areas and fix the blue cast of shady shots.

Google's Snapseed move shows how raw photos are gradually becoming more mainstream. Photography is a core part of what we do with our phones, and raw photography on mobile devices helps those with a creative bent express themselves better without having to head to a PC.

Raw photo editing lets you pull more detail out of shadow areas, like this backlit tree bark, while keeping bright areas like skies from blowing out into a white patch.​

Raw photo editing lets you pull more detail out of shadow areas, like this backlit tree bark, while keeping bright areas like skies from blowing out into a white patch.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

File management is cumbersome at best on iPhones and iPads, but I was able to use Google Drive's "send a copy" feature to open a raw file for editing in Snapseed. This should all get easier soon, though, because Apple's soon-to-be-released iOS 10 software can take raw photos on its own.

Google has some other options to get raw photos into Snapseed for iOS on its help site, along with a full list of the 144 supported cameras from companies like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm.One big Snapseed competitor, Adobe Systems' Lightroom, got raw editing support on iOS devices just last month and on phones and tablets powered by Android software already can already take raw photos.

Snapseed for Android has been able to edit raw photos in Adobe's DNG format since 2015. That's the raw format Android uses for its own photos and that Apple will use with iOS 10.