Handheld Devices

Hands-on with GalleryNext, CyanogenMod's eye-catching Gallery app replacement

Custom ROM-maker CyanogenMod plans to take over the world with a more open version of Android, but to get there, the community project turned for-profit company is going to need some super-charged stock apps.

Android's open source-ish stock apps are starting to suck as Google focuses on developing proprietary replacements, as ArsTechnica pointed out last fall. Android's default Gallery app is one such victim of Google's lockdown, and slowly being replaced by the Google+-centric Photos app. To ensurethat open ROM users would still have a great stock photo app, CyanogenMod recently rolled out an image-handling app of its own, GalleryNext beta.

To give the app a test run you have to join CyanogenMod's GalleryNext community on Google+ and then download the beta version of the app from Google Play, as spelled out in this G+ post.

After spending some quick hands-on time with CyanogenMod's GalleryNext, it's clear that the new app is a little buggy--hey, it's a beta--but nevertheless offers a very attractive replacement for the Gallery app.

Gallery replacement

The new app functions very similarly to the stock Gallery, collecting all the photos from your local storage and displaying them in one spot. This includes photos stored on your camera as well as third-party apps such as Instagram and Whatsapp.

As with the standard Gallery app, CyanogenMod's app defaults to showing you all your images in an "albums" view organized by source (screenshots, Instagram, camera, etc,). Instead of showing your photos in small individual squares representing each folder, as the Gallery app does, GalleryNext spreads the view horizontally across your entire screen for each folder.

On the nearly 5-inch screen on my Nexus 4 that meant I could only view the cover art for two albums at a time, whereas the Gallery app shows off about six albums in the same space. But the larger photos made it much easier and enjoyable to scroll through my albums. GalleryNext also uses that space wisely by showing off multiple photos from each album instead of just one, as the Gallery app does.

Third-party poopers

The upper right-hand corner of the app offers one-tap access to your device camera, while tapping the upper left-side brings up a pop-out menu drawer where you can select to view your images by album, all, or date and location (dubbed Moments).

At the bottom of the menu drawer is a "Photo Sources" section where you can add image libraries from third-party sources, including Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa/G+. Since this is a beta, however, getting third-party sources to work was hit and miss.

Dropbox didn't work, because the cloud storage service sets strict limits on how many people can connect their Dropbox accounts to a beta app like GalleryNext. Facebook and Picasa/G+ went through the authorization process without any hiccups, but then my photos failed to show up in the app. I did finally get Picasa to work after several tries, but Facebook is still MIA.

Connecting Flickr to GalleryNext, however, worked just fine. Your experiences connecting with the CyanogenMod beta may vary.

GalleryNext is a slick looking app and will be a welcome addition to the CyanogenMod ROM once it's ready for prime time. If you're tired stock Gallery app and the G+ Photos app isn't your thing, join the CyanogenMod beta and give GalleryNext a try.


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