Browse and Share Photo Spheres With SphereShare

Google’s latest Android version 4.2 Jelly Bean brought a major upgrade to how our devices captured photos. In addition to still photos and panoramas, Google included a new feature called Photo Spheres. The technology allows users to take a 360-degree photo, bringing a whole new look to some familiar sights. The process is similar to panoramas in that the software takes multiple photos and then stitches them together using Google’s powerful recognition software. However, as the name suggests, the technology allows you to take a 360-degree view, something that panoramas don’t handle very nicely.

The major change with Photo Spheres is that they are unfortunately no longer a traditional image stretched out like panoramas are. By default, they are almost a video or an animated gif that rotates your view around the sphere. Because of this aspect, it has become rather difficult to properly share Photo Spheres in the format they are meant to be viewed in. It is important to note that you can get a flat copy of the photo to share through traditional channels, but it won’t provide the 360-degree feeling that they are meant to.

As it stands the most efficient way to share a Photo Sphere and maintain the 360-degree viewing rotation is through Google+. However, that limits you to only sharing with people that are in your circles and only being able to receive Photo Spheres from them as well. SphereShare aims to solve this by offering a service to share Photo Spheres with other users all around the world.


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The Basics

Creating a presence on the application couldn’t be easier. Because all users are on Android devices, each person is represented by their Google+ account. This means that there are no extra accounts to create or passwords to remember. Once you have the application installed, you can begin sharing immediately, and the best part is that it is incredibly easy to share photos that are already in your collection.

View of the side menu

View of the side menu

Once you login with your Google account, you will immediately be greeted with a variety of Photo Spheres that have already been uploaded. The application does a great job of displaying content from different parts of the world. Simply tap on a Photo Sphere that looks interesting to see it in its entirety. On the main page of the specific Photo Sphere, you will be able to tell which user updated it, from what device, and the exact time and location of the capture. There will also be a “play” icon that will begin rotating the photo for you to see. At any time, you can grab the photo and drag it with your finger to rotate faster or to get to a specific part of the photo.

Main Photo Sphere screen

Main Photo Sphere screen

Heading back to the main screen, you can tap the upload icon in the top right to view your gallery and select your own Photo Sphere to upload to the service. Once you’ve decided on one, you then enter in the title and a description to give the viewer more information. You can set the upload to be public or private depending on who you want to be able to view it. It’s then easy to share your Photo Sphere to anybody using traditional channels like Google+ and SMS. If you choose to share through these channels, the user will receive a link to the SphereShare website, not the actual Photo Sphere.

Screen for uploading new PhotoSpheres

Screen for uploading new PhotoSpheres

Premium Features

Like most applications, SphereShare has premium features that you have to pay to unlock. In this case, it is certainly worth it as it provides a major feature and isn’t too steep, price-wise. The premium version is only $1.99, which is certainly acceptable as that’s about how much the application should cost if it wasn’t a free app to begin with.

The first improvement you’ll receive is getting rid of advertisements. While some may view this as no big deal, it is especially important with this type of application. As it stands, the only screen that doesn’t present you with an advertisement is the screen that shows the Photo Sphere in full view. With this application, advertisements are particularly annoying as they take away from the beauty and appeal of browsing multiple Photo Spheres at once. You don’t realize how ugly they truly are until you no longer have to deal with them.

Browsing Photo Spheres without advertisements

Browsing Photo Spheres without advertisements

The second premium feature is perhaps the best feature in the entire application. You will get the ability to download any Photo Sphere that’s publicly uploaded. This is fantastic as there are some really great photos out there and having your own copy only increases the possibilities of what you can do. Additionally, having offline access to your favorite shots can be incredibly convenient when you are out of your coverage area.

View after downloading photo

View after downloading photo

Web Interface

SphereShare’s experience does not have to be limited to your Android device. To make browsing and uploading Photo Spheres easier, there is a web interface located at SphereShare.net that provides access the same photo spheres as the application. In addition, you can upload a photo directly from your computer’s hard drive if you don’t have it on your device.

Browsing Photo Spheres under the web interface

Browsing Photo Spheres under the web interface

Using the web interface also gives you access to a cool feature called Photo Sphere Map. This allows you to view all uploaded images based on location.

View of the world's Photo Spheres

View of the world’s Photo Spheres

This means that if you want to see all photos that were taken in New York City, you can just zoom to a specific area where you will see the exact location that the Photo Sphere was taken in. This can be really fantastic if you are looking to gain a different perspective on specific locations, or just want to explore other parts of the world.

View of New York City's Photo Spheres

View of New York City’s Photo Spheres

Because the service is cloud based, logging into the web interface will automatically pull all of your profile information. This makes it easy to always have access to your uploaded Photo Spheres in addition to keeping track of your favorite ones.

Final Thoughts

Because SphereShare is such a unique service, there isn’t anything out there to compare it to. As a result, most users will find very little wrong with the application. Perhaps the only thing missing is an intuitive way to collect the spheres you particularly like. As it stands the only way to do this is by downloading them to your device. The ability to simply favorite various Photo Spheres and being able to come back to them later could go a long way in terms of user experience.

Aside from the minor imperfection, the application performs very quickly and is extremely stable. It could potentially grow to become a fantastic collection of images the more users discover its beauty. Photo Spheres are without any doubt one of the most exciting additions to mobile cameras and having a solid service to exhibit them really shows users the true potential of the functionality.


Summary

Mobile application for uploading Android 4.2 Photo Spheres to SphereShare.net web application.

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