This month, I am going to be reviewing the app Carousel, a photo app made by Dropbox. Dropbox made a big deal of launching this app a few weeks ago, and I finally got around to trying it out. For a while now, Dropbox has tried to make itself a home – or the home, they hope – for your photos. The Dropbox app already has a special “Photos” tab, and a feature called “Camera Uploads” that automatically uploads all your phone’s photos (and videos) to Dropbox. This can be done in the app (over Wi-Fi or cellular) or by connecting your phone to the computer (running the Dropbox client of course). Dropbox remembers which photos have been uploaded, so there’s no duplicates. It is into this context that Carousel was launched, and while there are certainly improvements to be made, I’d say this is a great app.
The app gives you a simple screen that scrolls vertically, showing you all your photos. These are grouped by date, and the location taken is shown too, if you let your phone geotag your photos. Tapping a photo opens it full screen, another tap closes it. Pretty basic so far. The app will automatically upload all your photos (similar to the Dropbox app) and place them in your Dropbox’s “Camera Uploads” folder. Since the app has Background Refresh permissions (in iOS 7), it seems to keep on top of the uploading pretty well, at least when it’s running in the background. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to test the effects of this on the phone’s battery life. There is no way to make the app sort the photos into subfolders – the pictures are just there all together in Camera Uploads. However, each photo is handily named with the date and time (“2014-05-01 17.49.46.jpg”, for example), so at least it’s easy enough to sort them later.
There’s no way to delete a photo in the Carousel app; you have to do that through the Dropbox app (here’s hoping that changes in the future). You can, however, hide a photo from the gallery without deleting it. All your hidden photos and videos can be viewed and un-hidden from the settings screen. You can also share photos, but the only way recipients can download them is through the Carousel app. If your recipient doesn’t have the Carousel app, they’re out of luck. If your recipient does have the Carousel app, there’s a nice little “Conversations” screen that allows you to chat about the shared photos (I didn’t actually get a chance to try this, I just saw it in the app’s introduction screen). Again, this only works if your friends have the Carousel app. That being said, if you’re going to share photos, you’re better off sharing them through the Dropbox app, since anyone can access Dropbox shared files regardless of whether or not they have a Dropbox account.
Despite these few flaws, I really like Carousel. I’ve used Camera Uploads for a long time, simply because it’s a really unobtrusive uploader, and then used a batch file to move the pictures out of Dropbox. However, now that I have Carousel, I’m going to keep my photos in Dropbox (at least the more recent ones, since I have limited Dropbox space). The app isn’t perfect, but I have hopes that it will get better over time. If you have lots of photos to keep synced over lots of devices, I definitely recommend you give Carousel a try. Now we just need an app that keeps the good selfies and deletes all the ugly ones… ••
Update 10/12/14: You can now delete photos from Dropbox from the Carousel app, and non-Carousel users can now download the photos you share with them from the app.