Keeping thousands of photos unorganized in your smartphone is the equivalent of those endless stacks of Kodak moments stashed away in cardboard boxes in your parents’ garage. All those moments of careful framing and snapping the shutter are effectively rendered lost and pointless.
Everyone needs some kind of photo organizer. Finding the right gallery app can be tricky business; how can you ensure that the app’s methods will match your photo collections?
High-profile mobile developer Francisco Franco and designer Liam Spradlin released Focus for Android this past July, and it’s taken off since then as one of the sexiest, most highly-functional gallery apps on the market (our editors loved it: check out their review). It’s one of the most effective, easy-to-use solutions for organizing your locally stored photos that we know of – and the basic version is totally free.
Besides great design, Focus features a neat and tidy tagging system so you can organize your photos on multiple levels: subject, source, date, and so forth. A ton of other thoughtful details are included for an IAP of $3.79, like a lock so friends can’t swipe too far and a dark mode perfect for goths and night owls.
We gave Francisco a poke on Twitter last week, and he graciously agreed to a little interview with us regarding Focus, Google Photos, how to get positive press, and more.
Check out our recent interview with Liam Mcferrin, an 11-year-old app developer
Appszoom: How’d you recognize the need for a better photo organizer?
Francisco Franco: I was browsing through my Dropbox (Android, iOS) where I had a couple thousand pictures stored, and I was struggling to organize them into different sections. The idea of moving files around, deleting, creating folders was feeling too archaic, and I knew I would end up not respecting my own directories – because I just didn’t have the patience. Then, on my mobile devices, there was no clear way on how I could keep my pictures organised into different categories in a clean, well-thought-out design.
So, I had this initial idea that started to brew inside my head for a while and one day I saw some mockups by Liam Spradlin (the designer who worked with me) and something clicked, and I just knew that we could build a better gallery experience;
AZ: How did you decide what features were going to be the most added value for users? Did you do any user testing along the way?
FF: Initially, other than offering a good design with clean lines and soft colours, we didn’t have any major idea that could set us apart from others. But one day, I was browsing my OSX machine, and I saw those colourful tags looking at me, and I instantly knew we could have Focus sit on a powerful, yet simple, organizational feature without the need to move files around manually.
Obviously along the way, after you start programming and discussing mockups, ideas start popping up. After you get an app out there and start receiving feedback, you gotta be really careful on which features you end up implementing, because users just ask you for more and more, and they threaten you with 1 star reviews on the Play Store if you don’t add what they ask.
It’s not an easy task balancing it all, but, in the end, we mostly know (almost) up-front when an idea is great or plain stupid. I think that’s one of the most interesting parts of our job: keeping the balance. We had an extensive testing program for about 1 month so that we could validate ideas, but mostly find bugs.
AZ: Are you worried that the revamped Google Photos will take users away from your app? How is Focus different?
FF: We’re not worried because we’re not competition with Google Photos‘ direct market, which is cloud services. Their support for local storage is really barebones, and I don’t see them investing in it. And I’m not a huge believer in automatic sorting and relying on machine learning to organise my library.
I think Google Photos and Focus complement each other, in a sense.
AZ: How did you decide on a monetization model for Focus?
FF: This is probably a boring answer, but I just came up with it one day, just like that. It seemed normal to me to offer basic features for free, stuff that users expect to be present in a free package, and them cram it full with interesting and powerful features in the premium package.
AZ: Focus has received significant positive press and attention in a glutted app market. Why do you think it’s stood out from the pack?
FF: First of all, it was because of its design, which is basically the first thing everyone sees without even installing the app.
Then I think our feature set helped; the Tag system is really powerful, easy to use, and fun. Also, having two known Android developers working together helped a lot for the initial buzz. We were very careful with the media kit: screenshots in amazing detail, a great introduction video… all of this helps to capture attention.
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AZ: What’s next for Focus? Any plans to release for iOS?
FF: I’m currently working on a new feature called The Vault, which will amplify the current Passcode protection (which is currently used in a feature to lock the picture viewer, only to be unlocked with a passcode) to several layers of security, so that you can hide your pictures under secret “compartments” only you can access.
I’m also working on improving a ton of other areas. It’s an ongoing effort!
I haven’t really thought of iOS since I have no knowledge of Objective-C or Swift, and currently I have 0 time to learn a new language and environment, but who knows! I would certainly would love to see Focus on iOS, though.
AZ: How are your other apps going lately?
FF: My other main app is called franco.Kernel updater which serves as a front-end to my custom Kernel, which is compatible with Nexus devices. It’s for the “root world,” but it’s highly popular and has one of the best ratings in the entire store (4.7/5.0 in more than 10k reviews).