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Like Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, we relentlessly seek our own white whale: A way to curate digital photos on the Mac, sync them to the cloud, and make the whole collection accessible from iOS. All of the services we’ve caught in our net thus far have been tossed overboard, but another has now surfaced on the horizon. Picturelife may not completely live up to “white whale” status, but it’s definitely worth harpooning. With the right subscription plan, we can upload even a massive library to the cloud (with a few caveats), complete with automatic organization and duplicate detection while backing up images stored across multiple social networks.
Picturelife is actually three services: Mac/Windows “syncer” clients, a rich web app for organizing and sharing, and a free, universal iOS app capable of both. The Mac client includes options to upload RAW images or videos, and can even display the current local temperature in place of its menu bar icon. The service creates handy “smart albums” by default – Highest Rated photos, or another consolidating those from mobile devices. Existing albums from iPhoto or Aperture on Mac do get carried over, but Picturelife sadly ignores Projects, Events, and Folders; there’s also no two-way sync back to Apple’s software.
On the web, Timeline view conveniently displays images in a scrolling grid, and users can jump to a specific date with just a click. The iOS app also adds Calendar view, which makes it easier to find images sorted by month and day. At nearly every turn, Picturelife makes it convenient to view, edit (filters, rotation, or caption/description), rate, and share images. The most unique Picturelife feature is search: Type in any date, year, or even plain English terms such as “last week,” and you can instantly view photos matching that request. It’s a great way to narrow down selections when creating new albums or trying to find specific images to share with others.
Speaking of sharing, Picturelife includes separate “streams” dedicated to Family and Friends. Images flagged as “Shared with Family” are instantly viewable in the Family Stream by users you have designated as such. Images upload as private by default, but can be changed to viewable by specific people, all friends, those with a link, or everyone with a tap. Users can also send “Picture Mail” to each other, which can be a single photo or even an entire collection.
While the company’s Android app is little more than an upload client, we’re happy to report that the iOS app is a full-featured affair that faithfully mimics the web app. If your only camera is an iOS device, it’s entirely feasible to use Picturelife as a one-stop hub for digital photos, even without a Mac or PC. Though the iOS app is nearly perfect, we’d ultimately like to see more granular controls for the Mac client, which is currently limited to uploading entire image folders or iPhoto/Aperture libraries, rather than specific albums inside them.
All of this digital goodness does comes with a price: Free accounts receive only 5GB of storage, with more generous Premium (100GB, $7 per month) and Premium Plus (300GB, $15 per month) plans available. That’s costlier than competing services, but the overall experience and robust features are worth it. Picturelife plans to address the free storage problem in late April by switching to a free 30-day trial so users can experience Premium service for a full month before committing to an upgrade. In the meantime, users can earn additional space as they learn the service – 50MB for creating your first album or 100MB for inviting a friend, for example.
The bottom line. Picturelife’s robust feature set is absolutely worth the money for users looking to ditch the desktop entirely and make their digital photo library entirely cloud-based.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 5.0 or later
Plain English search terms for finding images. Dedicated shared image “streams” for family and friends. Full-featured iOS app, even for users without Mac or PC.
No Project, Event, or Folder import from iPhoto/Aperture. Free 5GB storage too limited for most users. Pricier than competing digital photo cloud storage services.