Gallery and Photos: Why does the Nexus 5 have two ways to handle images?

You'll likely be using two apps to manage your pictures on Android 4.4

If you're lucky enough to have picked up a Nexus 5 this week, you may be puzzled by two of the apps on your new phone. Not necessarily by the apps themselves, but rather the existence of both at once on one phone — Photos and Gallery. Two pre-installed apps that have many overlapping functions between them. You can tap either one to get to your photos, and in either case you'll have access to your automatically backed-up Google+ photos as well.

So why does the Nexus 5 have both a "traditional" Gallery app and this new Photos app at the same time? There are a few reasons. Let's dig into this somewhat bothersome phenomenon after the break.

What are the differences between Gallery and Photos?

As you would expect, Gallery and Photos duplicate most of each other's functionality. Both will give you access to local photos on your device, as well as let you see Google+ photos in both your Auto Backup folder and individual uploaded albums. Both will let you add filters, crop and frame photos, although the Gallery has a much more advanced photo editor built-in. You can also share pictures from either one with standard Android sharing intents, just like any other app.

The Photos app lets you view and actually manage your "Highlights" folder on Google+, as well as create Auto Awesome Videos right from in the app. You can only simply view Google+ photos in Gallery, and it is the only app directly integrated with the Camera — when you swipe left after taking a picture, you'll be using Gallery to view the photo.

So why are both installed?

Well, for a couple of reasons. First off, the standard Gallery app is part of the Android Open Source Project, meaning it is included by default in every build of Android. Google offers both the Camera (but not necessarily big features like HDR+ or Photosphere) and Gallery apps together as part of the default operating system when you pull it all down — some manufacturers choose to replace them with their own Gallery and Camera apps, and others leave it.

Google has chosen to keep the Gallery app on the Nexus 5, even though it simultaneously updated the Google+ app along with the completely revamped Photos app. At this point the functionality of Photos simply doesn't match Gallery in terms of integration with Camera and its editing tools, and it's hard to get rid of Gallery as it is still part of the Camera app itself.

For those manufacturers that choose not to use Google's apps or for those individuals who want to manage their photos without any Google+ integration, the Gallery app has to exist at this point. Further, the great parts of the Photos app aren't open-source like Gallery is, meaning that they wouldn't be distributed in AOSP when other manufacturers use Android.

Which one should you use?

Here's where the fun frustration starts — it's kind of hard to use just one app and not the other. As we noted above, if you want to keep your Camera app installed, you'll have Gallery installed no matter what. Pictures that you take are instantly available in the Photos app, but the transition between Camera and Photos is more than the single swipe it takes to get to Gallery.

Our recommendation is to stick with Gallery as your primarily picture and video handling app. It is integrated with the Camera, handles your Google+ photos (including auto upload), has powerful editing tools and while it may not look as good as the new Photos app it is very functional. If you want to better manage your Google+ Highlights picture folder or create some Auto Awesome Videos, hop over to the Photos app and use it when you need those functions.

It's far from ideal, and we sure hope that Google can pull things together and make them more integrated going forward. Whether that's a newly designed Gallery that better integrates with Google+ (if you choose) or a better way to handle a "default" photo-handling app, there is certainly some room for improvement here.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • This isn't a Nexus 5 specific condition - anyone with the latest G+ will have this. On my Nexus 4, I have Gallery and the Google+ Photos app which can manage my pictures.
  • Right, but the implication is that the N5 shipped with both, as in technically it shouldn't "need" to have a Gallery if things were done differently.
  • You're absolutely right, sorry.
  • Lol, reacted mad scared. Say it with your chest - kevin hart
  • lol
  • Nah just saw his point and admitted I was quick to comment. Posted via Android Central App
  • I had the same interpretation you did. Posted via Android Central App
  • Why is all my drive photos and videos showing up in my G+ app? It showing personal ones listed not to share in my drive and I can see them in my G+. Also I had auto sync off on G+ and it has been loading my camera's photos to G+ automatically on my GS3. WTH?
  • It's showing you the pictures because all GApps are connected. They aren't uploaded for people to see, they are just there as an easy way for you to share if you so choose. The on and off for auto-sync only works with the camera uploads. Meaning, it only stops G+ from taking the shots you take with your camera and uploading them directly to G+. It's my understanding that it actually has nothing to do with Drive. So anything you upload to Drive is far game for it to import into your G+ private galleries. So if you have your pictures set to upload automatically to Drive, they will also be automatically imported into G+.
  • In the photos app settings you can turn off drive integration. Posted via Android Central App
  • Seems to me that the N5 (and all the other Android Phones) don't need the new G+ tied Photos App. We already have a perfectly functional gallery. What we need is for the Gallery to support more image formats and to be generally better. Not to have that development energy put into making "Yet Another G+ Tied Cr-App"(tm) Personally, I went in and disabled the Photos App, then uninstalled it and the new G+ app too. You don't have to accept Google shoving that G+ wad down your throat. You CAN say "NO!"
  • I can, but I don't want to. Auto Awesome really IS awesome, and sharing/viewing is way better than Facebook or some other alternatives. I actually like Google+, a lot. Posted via Android Central App
  • While they are shoving it down your throat, at least they are making it worthwhile, huh? lolz
  • I'm on Android more because of G+ and other Google products than for the benefit of Android itself.
  • Agreed. I'm spending a fair amount of time attempting to use my N5 without having to sign up for Google+. I get weirded out enough when I see apps in the Play Store that have a "Steve gives this app a +1". I don't want to know that Steve is into. How do I turn this crap off?
  • You can turn it off in Google+ LOL
  • No, the title is misleading man. I have a Moto X and have the same issue. So do people w/ S4's! Read your user comments.
    I don't think Jerry would have written an article like this, with this title. Thank you for help running a great site, though.
  • Nah Jerry knows his shit. And he'd point out like some people did in the comments that this is because Google has updated the gallery aosp with closed sourced features and left aosp in the dust.
  • As a matter of fact, they should let Jerry have Android Central and the others can keep on with Google Central. Since they like to list their earnings and revenue and all that.
  • You didn't read the article right. The article isn't saying that this isn't the case on the ALL Android phones. The article is saying that this SHOULDN'T be the case on the Nexus 5. There's no reason for it to have both galleries given how tied together Android and G+ are becoming. Andrew is also hinting at the future removable of the ASOP gallery app as Google transitions to the Photo+ app as it's default gallery on Nexus devices. This article is EXCLUSIVELY about the Nexus 5, not all Android phones. Jerry would've written the same article, and was probably consulted about this article given the subject matter.
  • I noticed with my Moto X the other day. Was confused. I find the overlap a little frustrating. Posted via Android Central App
  • same thing with my S4. Just appeared. and I dont have 4.4 anyone else with the s4 have both??
  • It came bundled with a Google+ update:
  • It's included in 4.3 update for the Sprint Galaxy Nexus. So not just a 4.4 exclusive.
  • This is still a good article... I was wondering why both apps were there myself, on my N5. I've been using the Photos app... thinking about the editing features of the Gallery app, I may start using that instead.
  • Haha. Here's a first....Google bloatware.
  • Hah ya, I didnt unlock/root my Nexus 4, I felt Jellybean was a nice stock experience, but after seeing some of these KitKat changes I think thats exactly what I'm going to do with the Nexus 5.
    Maybe dabble in a custom ROM, stock AOSP, and/or Firefox OS, at the very least I'll be able to uninstall some Google bloat.
  • Nexus devices have always had bloatware. Let me explain.... Bloatware is described as apps that you don't want and don't need but they can't be installed. I know many people that don't want, need or use the news and weather app, the new G+ photos app, G+, etc.
  • Actually, you CAN uninstall all of those apps, without rooting, on stock Android. I have Android 4.3 on my GNex (Just got it the other day. Only what, a YEAR late? Stupid Sprint.) and I uninstalled and disabled the G+ and Photos app. I could do the same for the others. Just go to Settings, Apps, All, select the Google app you want gone, and select "Disable", confirm that, then "Uninstall" and confirm that. It will remove the code from your phone, and just leave a placeholder file for the app, and then mark it "Disabled" so it won't re-install on the next update. Now, as for all intents and purposes, that is uninstalled. I'm not 100% certain that it doesn't leave any old "stock" code on your phone, but as long as the update is deleted and the app is disabled, for all practical purposes, it's gone.
  • This should have been figured out before Kit Kat was released. It's REALLY inconvenient. The gallery should have all of the features G+ Photos offers.
  • It can't, though. Because then Google would have to open-source it's proprietary Google+ featureset, which would make no sense for them. Posted via Android Central App
  • I have the photos app on my Ultra. Haven't used it yet though. Posted via Android Central App
  • I noticed the Photos app was added to my phone (Nexus 4), not sure which app I updated that installed it. I only played around in it for a bit, but for what I need a gallery app to do, the old one works best. Plus, it is really easy for me to manage my auto uploaded G+ photos from the desktop. But I'm not going to complain about having options.
  • It was an update to Google+ that added the Photos app. Posted via Android Central App
  • Have they removed the 1,000 photo limit from "Auto Backup" in 4.4? It's very annoying to have to go back into Google Photos "Highlights" to be able to see some of your pictures but not ALL of them ...
  • Unfortunately not. Still an issue. Pisses me off b/c I like to have all my pictures available since I'm limited on storage space on SD.
  • Why don't you cancel the Auto Backup and enable Auto Upload via Dropbox instead? This is what I did.
  • more space on Google drive maybe?
    I have 25GB on that and 3 GB on dropbox
  • This exactly. I am on some grandfathered plan with Google. I get 30GB/year for $5.00
  • Also, DB doesn't tell you, but they automatically delete your photos that are over a year old. I still use Dropbox cause It's easy to hand out links, but. I've lost some pretty important pictures because I trusted their auto back-up too much.
  • That's not true, I just checked to make sure, and I'm able to view pics as far back as April 2012 (it's November 2013 at the time of this writing). Why April 2012? That's when I started to use DB's autobackup.
  • When I receive my N5 later today, will I be forced to upload all of my existing and new photos to G+? I prefer G+ to leave all images alone.
  • No, you won't. You can turn off photo auto upload in the settings menu of Google+. Posted from the awesome new Nexus 7
  • Thank you
  • I've turned it off now, but I can't remove the photos which uploaded automatically on to Google+ at the time of the initial update, I guess. When I delete an image from Photos, it deletes from my Gallery, too. This sucks! I really wish I was asked whether or not to upload to Photos/Google+ before they were copied. Posted via Android Central App, HTC One
  • They do ask you. Plus just because you can see it in the photos app doesn't mean its in Google+
  • Forget all this, I just want a decent camera app, not the drivel that Google supplies as stock and markets as great for capturing epic moments. What a load of crap. Although I suppose this ties in with the whole UX of the camera and gallery on android. It needs a massive overhaul. Posted via Android Central App
  • You may think it's a gimmick, but seriously: auto-awesome SHOCKED me with how good it really is. It took a bunch of videos and pictures of my niece, put it to music, and even seemed to time specific actions in the video to the music to give it that human touch. Posted via Android Central App
  • Was wondering about this. I have a GNex and the Photos app just appeared. Must have been some kind of Google Services app update. Not just a N5 thing or even just a 4.4 thing.
  • I was curious about this when the Photos app showed up on my Nexus 4 recently. Thanks for the very good explanation. Posted via Android Central App
  • " it's hard to get rid of Gallery as it is still part of the Camera app itself." no its not!! its not hard to remove gallery icon from the app. if you closely look at how both works the only relation between gallery and camera is the camera icon on the gallery
  • Sometime try disabling the gallery app, and then try opening camera. It won't work, because they both have code dependencies on each other. Posted from the awesome new Nexus 7
  • No, thats not the reason. that's because they are one app but with two app icons. each icons take you to 2 different activity(they are the base of Android apps) of that single app. All they have to do is disable the gallery app icon and the activities associated with it
  • OK, thanks. I wasn't quote sure just how it worked, but I knew you can't use one without the other. Posted from the awesome new Nexus 7
  • Yes and it is now more annoying. Integrate them together or something. Posted via Android Central App
  • Oh the backlash of requiring folks to sign up for Google+ to use their camera....
  • Someday, Google+ will be integrated when you create a Google account. Posted via Android Central App
  • Is it worth mentioning that picasa is embedded into the gallery? That's yet another strange half-baked layer. The integration of Photos (instead of picasa) and Hangouts into G+ is a train wreck. I hope they'll make sense of this sooner than later.
  • Well Picasa and Google+ Photos are the same set of photos now, so yup we've mentioned it above. It just makes things clearer as more people are probably familiar with it as Google+ Photos rather than Picasa at this point.
  • Well, I'll again point out that Photos is integrated with Google+ and Picasa is integrated with Gallery. Yep... half-baked.
  • Yep. Google+ strikes again.
  • My Droid Maxx has the Photos App as well, It's not limited to Kit Kat. I did find that the Photos app ONLY displays photos on G+ and from the Camera. It does NOT bring in photos from other photos, like the downloads folder or the photos saved by apps, the Gallery App brings in all those photos and allows you to see modify and share them from one place. The photos app will completely ignore any photos not already uploaded to Google plus or in the Camera folder. The Gallery is WAY better if you have other apps to save photos, Such as Tasker which you can grab photos from the web or have it take pictures discreetly, you'll never be able to find them if you only use the Photos App. I use the Gallery and ignore the Photos App.
  • The photos app picks up every photo and video on my device Posted via Android Central App
  • From the menu/overflow button (or whatever it's called) at the top left, there is an option to show albums. It'll show you everything the gallery will show you.
  • Funny thing is that the gallery app wasn't present on the leaked shots of the N5
  • I'm always thrown for a loop when Google adds more auto-backup and sync options into apps that are part of a user's G+ profile. Will pic I take that auto-backup in Photos, be publically visible in my G+ profile?
  • Nope, Auto Backup is always private until you share them explicitly.
  • Thanks for the clarity. +1
  • Still using AOSP Messenger and Browser on my Nexus 4 running KitKat, I prefer them anyway. android central app
  • My Moto X currently has G+ Photos as the default camera photo gallery. When I swipe left while in camera mode, the latest picture appears in the G+ Photos app. IIRC, I had to choose between Gallery and G+ Photos as a default the first time I swiped left. I'm surprised the Nexus 5 doesn't have that capability. My wife will be getting hers this evening, so that will be the first thing I look into.
  • I was going to say, you can have the camera swipe to the G+ photos app. You probably just have to clear defaults on the Gallery app. I would Make G+ photos the defaults for that reason. I am more likely to do auto-awesome, or a quick filter, or manager in G+ than I am to tweek and "edit" the photo.
  • Yes, same for me Posted via Android Central App
  • The Photos app is also nice for easily viewing Auto Awesome photos as there is a separate "folder" for them. My wife and I are like it when we get GIFs of the kids, and this makes it much easier for her to find ;)
  • Google Drive photos and videos are also available in Photos... are they visible in the Gallery app too?
  • Not that I can tell.
  • It appears that photos app doesn't show screenshots or downloaded images. It only shows the images taken with your phone and whatever you have on G+ account. So, it doesn't handle all the images you have on your phone. Gallery app does.
  • From the menu/overflow button (or whatever it's called) at the top left, there is an option to show albums. It'll show you everything the gallery will show you. I also just took a screenshot of my phone and it shows in the Photos app under the "Camera" heading with a folder icon that takes you to your other screenshots.
  • I notice there is no auto awesome movies icon in the Photos app. I've got a HTC One GPe and it has yet to show up in my Photos app once. Are there only certain circumstances where it appears? I'm running the latest G+ app. (Doesn't appear my 2012 N7 either) Posted via Android Central App
  • There is an option in Photos settings to "show auto awesome videos on this device" (or something very similar)... do you have that checked?
  • Yeah it's checked... It's a bit bizarre. Maybe it only works on 4.4?? Posted via Android Central App
  • I've made a handful on 4.3. They seem to show up more consistently after I move a group of photos into an album.
  • I just can't help but feel like kik kat was slightly rushed at his point... big ugly icons, half baked hangouts SMS integration, unintuitive panel adding option and now this?
  • The big icons are done on purpose. Hangouts integration is what it is, its not really dependent on KitKat considering that its set to be coming to anyone running 4.0 and above. Unintuitive panel adding option?
  • Sprint Galaxy Nexus just got this app in the 4.3 update for what it's worth.
  • I thought i came pre-installed on my Note 3 until reading this so it must of been an update, cant say i have messed around with it much, but the little i have i have found they layout to be great and the video maker thingy lol Posted via Android Central App
  • For me the Gallery app holds an advantage because it displays my G+ photos (formerly Picasa) from multiple accounts. In order to access them in the Photos app I have to log out of one G+ account and into another.
  • Photos allows native viewing of GIFs! That's the only one-up I've noticed.
  • Some people choose not to use Google +... Therefore the Gallery app is still needed. Eliminating it would be a mistake. Complaining about options.... Talk about first world problems Posted via Android Central App on my daily driver, the Droid MAX
  • Touch to share a photo with the Photos app takes them to Play to down load G+. Gallery works as if should. Posted via Android Central App
  • I actually think this should be quite simple. In my opinion anyways. 1. break the Photos app out of the Google+ Apk and give it it's own place in the play store 2. Leave the AOSP gallery out of the Nexus since it is, after all, a google device but publish it with the source so people can use it if they so choose. Yes, the negative implication would them closing yet another app but we all know this is going to happen anyways. I think eventually, Android will be open source at the core and that is it. Basic OS function, graphics, performance, etc. All user facing applications will be chosen by the manufacturer, then the user. The nice thing about managing all this through the play store is that, eventually, you will be able to create a full google experience on virtually any device.
  • Google needs to get their shit together regarding pics already.. They should be auto syncing to your Drive, not G+. The gallery should just sync, not have two apps.
    Luckily there's an app to accomplish this.. But it should be stock.. It should've been stock when Drive came about. Google.. Get it together already! Nexus 4 - CM10.1.3
  • I wouldn't use any. Love QuickPic for Android. Like the UI much better. Posted via Android Central App
  • The few times I used the camera on my N4, the images were duplicated and backed up to G+ photos. It took me a while to find out how to turn Auto Backup off. The N5 and N4 have excellent Galleries and accompanying links. For me [and how many others], two ways to handle photos just makes for confusion and duplicity.
  • Hi, how to remove picasa album in nexus 5 ?? plz guide
  • anyone?
  • Really frustrated with the auto backup on the Nexus 5. I wanted to delete a photo and it got sent there. Its still on my phone and I have no way of getting rid of it. I tried going to settings and looked up on youtube ways to do it, but it appears there is nothing. If anyone can help I'd very much appreciate it.
  • I've been exploring this issues and this is the second time this article came up for me, so I guess this is the one to comment on. There are a few important differences between the two:- 1) Photos scrolls vertically, Gallery horizontally. 2) Gallery has the more advanced editing tools. 3) BUT Photos saves a whole new picture and leaves the original intact. Which is really useful for cropping. 4) Weirdly, you can crop in Gallery, and it will change the time/date to the current day - which is a bit annoying, but then if you save that and go into the newly cropped picture and crop again you see that the original picture is restored (along with time and date if you exit). I'm not sure how it does this, if transferring a cropped picture off the device will allow that picture to be uncropped somewhere else later I don't know. Worth investigating. This may be why Photos is better for cropping. 5) One last major one, I have auto upload turned off, in Gallery I can share a picture and upload to G+Photos in private, which IS Photos app as far as I can see.. But from the Photo app you can't do this?? It's the oddest thing ever unless I'm missing something, but the option is not there.
  • good morning.I am using nexus 5 and I have a lot of pictures and wanted to group them into different albums but I failed,any advice.
  • Hello All, Can someone please tell me how to delete all pics and vids off the nexus 5 device? I have only discovered deleting by selecting one photo at a time.... HELP I need a delete all solution. Thanks
  • Please help me. I chose photo always and now I do not see the gallery option anymore. I cannot set pictures as contacts anymore I believe as a result
  • Oh yeah, I have a Moto G
  • Disable the stock gallery and just use Google photo app.
    That's what I did, Everything works fine.