Review: Lumia 800 Part 6 - Picture Hub
Continuing in our series of in-depth reviews of all aspects of the Lumia 800, this time we're looking at the Picture Hub, which is universal to all Windows Phone 7 Mango device. The Picture Hub brings together all of the photos saved to, and captured by, your device. In addition, it brings all of the photographs and imagery in your social networks togeether in one cohesive user experience, along with affording you the ability to share your own photos, and more. This is our definitive, and universal, guide to this part of the operating system.
Version Reviewed: 7.10.8107.79 (12070)
The Picture Hub closely follows the People Hub, by letting you see the latest images in your social stream, and from your friends – all in addition to managing images on your device. The various views within the Picture Hub are intermingled across two levels of pivots, but despite that, it's not difficult to find your way around.
I have a complaint about the handling of image files on Windows Phone 7 – there's no 'multiple select' method. This makes mass deletions and uploads a rather tiresome exercise. The only exception to this, so far, is in Microsoft's official SkyDrive application, which must be installed separately.
Starting with the pivot aligned with the Pictures heading, we have 'favourites'. This is a tiled view of images you marked as, unsurprisingly, favourites! The point of this is to give you quick access to the images you want to see, whether it be for reference or sentimental value. Images marked as favourites will also be given preference when the software is choosing an image to use as the background for the pivot – further personalising the experience. In my testing, some favourites synchronised across multiple devices and some didn't – so it's not at all clear how or if the favourite status is synchronised with Zune desktop.
This view is very much like its counterpart in the People Hub, except that (obviously) posts are limited to those with images. Primarily, this features pictures posted to Facebook, and pictures posted to Twitter via Twitpic. As with the People Hub, you can filter photo updates by social network.
Understandably, but nonetheless frustrating, is the distinct lack of support for other Twitter photo sharing services. For example, if you post an image from Flickr, or even Microsoft's own SkyDrive service(!), image previews are not shown, and will therefore not be listed in the Picture Hub's What's New view. Given the social integration of images, the omission of Flickr as a social network is a definite oversight. While Facebook is now the biggest photo sharing site on the internet, it's actually very poor at browsing and discovering images. Therefore, Flickr still has an important role to play on the social web of images.
Here, the Picture Hub earns its name, rather than being just a glorified gallery. Here, all applications that have associated themselves with images are listed. This gives you quick access to images that match the context of what you're currently doing – i.e. looking at images.
For example, you'll find listed here the official Flickr application, and any applications for editing images such as Nokia's Creative Studio. Also listed are some Dropbox apps, like BoxShot, for quick uploading when tapping the 'Applications' menu option while viewing a single image.
Camera Roll and Albums
Finally, we arrive at the meat of the Picture Hub. Here there are four links: "camera roll", "albums", "date", and "people".
The camera roll is pleasingly simplistic, offering just a scrolling grid of all the captured images stored on your device. The only menu option here is to turn on auto uploading of images to SkyDrive. This option is also found in the list of Picture Hub settings. The idea of automatically uploading images is, in principle, good – and matches similar features found on competing platforms. However, I have been disinclined to use it as there's no 'Wi-Fi only' option. This means that while out of range, your Lumia will be trying to upload images via your mobile data connection, which will sap battery life, especially if you're in a poor signal area, and possible bankrupt you at the same time(!) Far better to turn on wireless Zune synchronisation, and wait until you get home.
The albums link sends you to a new view which pivots between albums, dates, favourites, and people. Zune desktop lists sets of photos by the folders on your desktop in which it finds them. As you drag a folder-load over to your device for synchronisation, a corresponding album is created on your device. In addition to synchronised folders, the Picture Hub also taps into your Facebook account and presents all of the albums in your account. Given the read-only nature of Facebook photos, there are fewer options available for acting on images – however you can tag people in photos which will be synchronised with your Facebook account. Similarly, albums stored on your SkyDrive account are also listed.
You cannot create albums on your device, but there is a special album in which new images (not from your camera) are saved. The "Saved images" folder is where all of your edited and saved images go. For example, if you edit a photo in Creative Studio or save an image from Internet Explorer.
Here you get a chronologically-ordered list of all photos on your device – segmented by headings with their month and year. This is particularly useful if you've loaded a large back catalogue of images and want a quick way to journey back in time. Fortunately, if you're going way back in time, you don't have to keep flicking through the list. Tapping a month heading brings up a complete list of months and years spanning the photos on your device.
This view gives a set of tiles linking to Facebook albums. First are images of you, then an aggregate set of photos from your contacts groups (where applicable), followed by photos of the person you're in a relationship with, and the rest are a seemingly random selection. You can long press on any to remove them, but there's no apparent way to choose who the replacement will be – which leaves it as something of a Darwinian process with no going back. As you tap a person in this view, you will get a new set of tiles for all of their albums (but this doesn't apply to contact groups).
As mentioned before, the background of the Picture Hub regularly changes between photos you've stored, or captured, on your device. If you have populated your favourites list, the images will be limited to that set. However, if you're tired of the same series of images, there is a 'Shuffle' option available. You can also set a single image as your background if that's your preference.
There are also a lot more options available here, some of which pertain to the camera, such as: using the touchscreen to take photos, holding the camera button to wake from sleep, geotagging, automatic upload to SkyDrive (see above), and your 'Quick Share' preference (see below).
Viewing images is straightforward, with little user interface to get in the way. Pinching and double tapping gestures are supported for zooming, as are drag-to-move and swipe-to-next image gestures.
A menu can be accessed, by tapping the familiar "…" symbol, which has plenty of options for acting on or with the image, such as set as (lock screen) wallpaper and delete. The 'Share' option brings up a list of all applications that can post the image elsewhere – similar to Android's share/send menu. The 'Quick Share' option mentioned above allows you to select one of these services to be placed in the top-level menu for fast sharing to the service you use most.
I must chastise Microsoft for scaling images down to a paltry width of 718 pixels when sharing – this is especially irksome given the 8 megapixel resolution of the Lumia 800. I can understand the reasoning, scaling down gives smaller file sizes, and in turn quicker uploads; but one should be able to override this and upload native resolution if so desired.
As mentioned previously, the 'Applications' option links through into all the applications you have that can actually do something with saved images. In a very limited sense, this gives something of a desktop experience – in as much as being an analogy to Windows' right-click action to "Open with …"
If you don't have any sort of image editing application installed, you can still touch up your image with the Auto-Fix option. This is quite limited, but seems to just bump up the colour saturation somewhat. Once you save though, do note that it's the original image being changed, not a copy!
Of all the image selections, only your synchronised albums and your favourites can be pinned as a live tile – dated groups and friends' Facebook albums can't be. However, the main live tile is interesting as it's one of the few examples of a full-width (double size) tile. Like the Picture Hub background, it shows randomly selected images (which slowly pan across the tile to give a more lively feel) – or cycles through your favourites if you've picked any.
Following hot on the heels of this Picture Hub review, we'll be moving on to look in-depth at the Music + Video Hub. Watch this space!
Reviewed by David Gilson at