Hands on: Shared Photo Streams in iOS 6

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One of the features I’m most excited about in iOS 6, which is coming sometime this fall, is Shared Photo Streams, which allow you to easily share photos directly to the Photos app on another person’s iPhone. Since Apple didn’t demonstrate the feature at WWDC this year, we thought we’d take a look at how it works.

In the Photos app, there’s a new Photo Stream tab. This is where all of your shared Photo Streams are kept, and where you can create new ones. Creating a new shared Photo Stream takes three steps: First, select contacts; second, name your Photo Stream; and third, decide whether it should have a public gallery on icloud.com. The contacts you invited will get a notification from the Photos app and/or an email asking them to accept.

Sharing photos to another photo stream is also easy. Simply choose a photo and hit the share button. iOS 6’s new share dialog box will pop up, with Photo Stream as an option. From there, you’ll get an interface that looks similar to iOS 6’s Twitter integration (at right), where you can add a comment before sharing. The iPhone being shared to will also receive a notification, and a “new” badge will appear over the shared photo in the Photos app. Users can add comments or “like” shared photos. Comments and likes can be hidden by tapping the speech bubble button on the bottom right.

A Photo Streams can also be shared via a public gallery on iCloud. If the person you want to share with doesn’t have an iPhone, you can send them a link to the public gallery instead. The galleries themselves are minimalistic, with a dark background overlaid with a single row of photos. If you tap on a photo, it’ll put that photo in fullscreen mode. From there, you can swipe left or right to view other photos, or turn on slideshow mode. I’ve made a public gallery specifically for TAB, so you can see this feature for yourself.

Contrary to what I thought at first when watching the Shared Photo Streams announcement during the WWDC keynote, new photos can only be added by the person that created the stream. This means that everyone who wants to share things with you has to have their own dedicated stream, rather than one Photo Stream multiple people can add to. Despite this one caveat, Shared Photo Streams certainly beats using Mail or Messages, though Facebook or Instagram would be a better option if the people you share photos with don’t have iPhones. That said, I look forward to using it to share pictures of my niece with my sister come this fall.

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