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Instants is a slick iOS photo organizer, but do you need it?

Finally, a way to sort your photos. But with iOS 7 and its improved Photos app just around the corner, third-party tools like this one need to step up their game.

Instants organizes your photo library in, well, an instant. But it could use a few improvements.
Instants organizes your photo library in, well, an instant. But it could use a few improvements.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Not everyone likes the look of Apple's upcoming iOS 7 release, but there's one feature I suspect every user will welcome: better photo management.

That will come courtesy of an updated Photos app, which will automatically group snapshots based on time and place and provide better tools for sifting through your collections.

But even with iOS 7 just around the corner (the fifth and probably final beta has been in developers' hands since early August), third-party developers are still working to solve the iOS photo problem on their own. The latest effort: Nuthinking's Instants, which automatically groups snapshots based on time and location, but also adds features like favorites, tags, and color-coding to the mix.

Right from the get-go, Instants taps your Camera Roll and divides all your photos by month taken. By default, you see all the photos from the current month; all previous months have an abbreviated, single-line view you can expand just by tapping. That alone makes it easier to jump to a specific time frame, and you can also color-code various months to ease your browsing. Still, some kind of date-search option would be welcome for users with years-old libraries.

There's also Location view, which confused me at first because it sorts based on county, not city -- and I could find no way to alter that setting. That's less than ideal. And I had mixed feelings about the Color view, which organized snapshots based on their predominate color, but didn't delineate them, and didn't seem to include my full library.

For any given photo you tap, you have the option of sharing, deleting, tagging, or marking as favorite. This last is a no-brainer: why doesn't the stock Photos app have such an option? As for tagging, it's a very cool way to assign one or more visual tags (in the form of little icons) to your photos, which you can then quickly access in the Tag view. However, while Instants is a free app, the tagging option requires a 99-cent in-app purchase.

That's more than reasonable, but I do think the app needs a few improvements before I give it the permanent keys to my photo library. What's more, there are lots of other photo-management apps (Flayvr is an especially good one), though we'll have to see if iOS 7 staunches development on that front.

In the meantime, hit the comments and name your preferred tool for keeping your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad pictures better organized.