Editor's note, June 5, 2015: This review has been updated to reflect features added in the newest version of the app.
Yahoo overhauled its Flickr (iOS|Android) app last year with a refreshed design that made browsing a much smoother experience. It also gave all Flickr users a free terabyte of space (roughly 500,00o photos) with the intention of getting you to put all your photos into the service.
The only problem is, with that many photos, it makes it really hard for people to find the photos they want.
With the latest version of Flickr released today, new tools help you focus your searches on both dates and events, but also on colors that help you get the photos you want quickly.
If you're primarily a desktop user, many of the same Flickr features you're used to are still available in both apps, including your photo stream, albums and groups. You can also still view original-quality uncompressed photos. Both versions automatically back up everything you shoot with your phone. The apps are dead simple to use and make Flickr a useful tool for storing all your mobile photos in the cloud.
To get started, you must have an account set up with Yahoo, or you can create a new account right from the app, which lets you use your Facebook or Google+ credentials if you like. Once you're all set up, you'll get free access to Flickr, which comes with the ability to upload up to a terabyte of photos or video to your account. Before you start worrying about running out of space, Yahoo points out that you could take a photo once every hour for more than 60 years before using it all up.
Both the iOS and Android apps have a similar look, but some features live in the different places. In the iOS app, there's a prominent camera button at the bottom of the screen, which launches the camera. On the left and right are toggles for the main photo stream and your profile, respectively. With the Android app, there are icons at the top of the screen for search, your photo stream, your profile and notifications. The camera button is in the far right corner.
In both apps, your profile page shows your profile photo at the top, which you can customize from the app, with your most recent uploads right below that. There's also a stock background photo behind your profile picture, but you can't swap that out. You can jump to your albums, the photos you've liked, and your groups from your profile page.
There's also a notification menu in both apps, which shows new followers, comments and likes.
With the increase in storage capacity to a free terabyte for every user, it means that people can have up to 500,000 photos available to post. But the problem is, finding a specific photo among that many becomes extremely difficult.
To make it easier to find individual photos or groups of photos, the latest version of Flickr uses image recognition technology to make it easier to find photos even if you didn't provide extra information when you uploaded them. Even search terms like Easter or Christmas will gather photos that fit that time frame instead of relying on whether you tagged or labeled them directly.
The latest version on desktops also has the option to use a search filter that seeks out specific colors. (This feature isn't part of the mobile apps, but will probably be added at sometime in the near future.) So, selecting the color of sand on a beach would turn up most of your beach photos. It's a great idea, so hopefully it will be available in the mobile versions soon.
Both the iOS and Androids apps open directly to a stream of photos that the people you follow have shared to Flickr. It's a vertical column of photos, just like you see on Instagram, and you swipe up and down to get around. Like Instagram, there's a space below each image to like, comment on, and share it. The difference with Flickr is that while the images are squared off in the stream to save space, you can also tap each photo to view it full-size.
If someone you follows uploads multiple photos at once, you'll see a small collage in your stream with the number of photos the shared below it. You can tap that collage to see photo individually.
If you want to see more photos from the Flickr community, head to the Explore section, which shows you Interesting (popular) photos on Flickr, as well as photos that have been geotagged nearby, all in a seamless collage-like layout. You get there by tapping the search icon.
Clearly, the folks at Flickr want users to do more than just upload photos; they want them to hang around, browse, and connect with the community, just as they might do on Instagram. With a terabyte of space to work with in the latest version, users may jump back on board knowing that the storage limitations (and pay walls) in earlier versions are a thing of the past.
If you're looking for a powerful photo manipulation tool, Flickr probably isn't it. That said, it does offer a few filters, image touch-up tools and the ability to caption items. In the iOS app, you can apply a filter in the camera viewfinder, so you see what the finished shot will look like before you take it. That feature isn't available in the Android app, but that version gets stylish controls to add filters and effects after the fact. There are two wheels -- one for filters, the other for brightness, saturation, and other similar touch-ups -- that show up on the left and right on top of your photo right after you snap it. The iOS app has the same aftereffect tools, but they don't have a special design.
When you're finished tweaking your finished photo in either, you can move on to adding a caption, tagging your friends and family, and sharing it to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or via email. Plus, it lets you download any photo from Flickr in just a few taps.
Previously, you couldn't customize your profile or organize your photos from the Flickr apps. Luckily, you can now do both. You can change your profile photo, but unfortunately, you still can't edit your personal information. Also, you can now organize your photos into albums and change their privacy level from your profile page.
Thanks to the one terabyte of storage space that Flickr now provides for free to all users, you can now automatically backup every photo and video you record with your phone to your account. When you download and install the Android app, it'll ask if you want to turn on Auto-Sync. In the iOS app, you can turn it on in settings.
With a new Instagram-like layout and one terabyte of storage, it seems that Yahoo is trying to position Flickr as a go-to social network and cloud storage system for photos. The app is definitely getting easier to use, but it's hard to say if people will decide to switch from other social photo networks like Instagram, especially because it doesn't seem to have the same volume of people using it like they use Instagram.
Still, if you're looking for a way to share your mobile photos and back them up to your Yahoo account in the cloud, then Flickr's mobile apps for iOS and Android are great choices. They may not be able to do everything, but with plenty of filters and photo editing effects, and a simple photo stream, it's a great way to take photos and share them with your friends and the entire Flickr community.