Google Photos version 3.23 just started making the rounds, but there doesn't appear to be anything immediately changing with the update. However, the traditional clues about upcoming features are certainly there to be seen. We can look forward to applying some of those smooth bokeh effects of portrait mode, and this time, we'll control the intensity of the blur. There will also be a new option to downgrade your already backed-up photos to high quality so you can get back some of that cloud storage. I've also included a couple other teardown sections for earlier versions that were slated to appear in the next Update Notes post, but this is the better place for them.
Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are wrong or inaccurate. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that products could change or may be canceled. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
Custom adjustments for portrait mode
The headlining camera feature of 2017 was all about faking bokeh – simulating defocused backgrounds to give more prominence to subjects in the foreground. Most of us know this feature as either Portrait Mode (Google, Apple, and almost everybody else) or Live Focus (Samsung). Google has discussed how it achieves the effect with the Pixel 2, but there are other methods.
Google's current implementation of portrait mode has one notable shortcoming: It doesn't let users control how much defocus is applied to the background. Sometimes you may want just a subtle blurring of background elements so people in the foreground pop just a bit, and other times you might want to blast away every detail of the background until it's a swirl of barely-distinguishable fuzz. Google is making it happen.
New adjustment controls are coming that will allow users to change the intensity of blurring on the images. There will be two sliders: One for setting the blur intensity and one for defining how shallow the depth of field will be (i.e. how fast does the focus fall off). At this time, it looks like the sliders for controlling blur will appear in the photo editing interface within the tab that includes the color adjustments.
For those that have been following along for a while, this is infamously known as Austin's Mystery-er feature, a fun series of increasingly telling hints that came out of the Photos dev team, ultimately leading to ASCII art depicting foreground and background elements.
It's not really clear if this will be limited to pictures taken in portrait mode or if can also be applied to regular shots after they were taken.
Downgrading online photos to high quality to recover storage
The unlimited storage offer from Google has been fantastic for a lot of people, provided they don't mind losing a little bit of quality on those images. But many of us probably started off by selecting original quality storage, assuming we'd never run over the copious amounts of space Google grants to all of our accounts.
Once we inevitably reach the point of filling our storage, Google's only suggestion is that we need to buy more. However, that's about to change. Google is adding a feature to Photos that will make it possible to downgrade images from original to high quality, and in return, we get to reclaim the storage space.
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_ui_backupoptions_compress_existing_items">Recover %d GB of storage by reducing quality of existing items.</string>
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_assistant_storage_1gb_left_card_title">Account storage is %d%% full</string>
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_assistant_storage_1gb_left_card_description">Your photos & videos will stop backing up if you run out of storage. To continue backup, buy more storage or change backup options.</string>
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_ui_backupoptions_resume_with_compression_message">Existing items will be reduced in quality to recover %d GB. This can\'t be undone.</string>
If you're not prepared to sacrifice the original quality versions of your photos and video, but you also can't justify paying for more storage, Google Photos will also point out that you can hit takeout.google.com to grab all of those originals before taking the plunge with a downgrade to high quality.
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_ui_backupoptions_save_files_dialog_message">Before resuming backup, you can download your original photos & videos from takeout.google.com</string>
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_ui_backupoptions_save_files_dialog_got_it">Got it</string>
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_ui_backupoptions_save_original_files_link">Want to keep original files?</string>
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_ui_backupoptions_storage_quota_limit">%d GB</string>
<string name="photos_cloudstorage_ui_backupoptions_resume_backup_button">Resume backup</string>
Prior to this, switching our backed up photos and videos from original storage to high quality required a very annoying manual process. While it would be nice if we could individually degrade some images while keeping others at original quality, it's still a big improvement that Google is offering a no-hassle shortcut for the people that don't need any more than that.
Those suggestion chips will currently offer to archive photos and fix brightness, but as far as I'm aware, the Color Pop suggestion hasn't made an appearance yet. In v3.21, the title of the button was added, and with v3.22, we also get the message that will appear after you take the action. With the latest update, we're also getting a button label for the photo editor to manually activate Color Pop.
Added in v3.21
<string name="photos_suggestedactions_editor_color_pop_chip">Color pop</string>
Added in v3.22
<string name="photos_suggestedactions_editor_a11y_color_pop">Color popped</string>
Added in v3.23
<string name="photos_photoeditor_presets_color_pop">Color Pop</string>
These obviously aren't revelations, but seeing them is a good clue that Color Pop has to be coming soon, assuming it's not already live.
Captions in Photobooks (v3.22)
If you're taking the time to create a photobook today, you may have noticed that the only words in the book are on the cover and spine, but there aren't any words on the pages themselves. If you're looking to add a little context to your custom prints, you'll soon have that option. Google is preparing to enable captions on photos.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.