Survey: How apps can solve photo management

1Executive Summary

The number of photos that people take is ballooning. So, too, is the number of devices and services through which they take, view, or share their photos. In a survey we’ll refer to in this report as the “dispersed photo problem survey,” Suite 48 Analytics found that 76 percent of the respondents that store more than 25 photos do so on multiple devices. Meanwhile, 52 percent of them store photos on multiple online services (such as photo, social media or syncing sites).

With these photos more and more dispersed among multiple devices and online services, traditional desktop software programs (e.g., Picasa, iPhoto) are no longer the end-all photo-organizing solutions. This has opened the way for new solutions focused on tackling the dispersed-photo problem to enter the market.

Some of these solutions exist already, such as those for syncing dispersed documents (such as Dropbox or SkyDrive), and they are now adding photo features. Others are photo-storage or photo-editing solutions (such as Photobucket or Adobe Revel). These are now adding syncing or aggregation functions. Yet other companies are startups (such as Everpix or Pixable) that tackle the dispersed-photo problem from scratch.

In this report, 4 out of the 18 reviewed solution providers have been acquired in the past few months, which is indicative of the investment community’s interest in this space.

Highlights in this report include:

  • Solution providers for the dispersed-photo problem are rarely competing head-to-head with one another through identical feature sets.
  • The dispersed-photo-problem survey revealed that the largest unmet needs are around backing up and syncing dispersed photos (features we analyze under photo-aggregation methods) as well as finding and browsing photos (analyzed under photo-discovery methods).
  • Our solution providers vary in how they aggregate dispersed photos. Eight of them aggregate photos through unidirectional (upload-only) syncing, six do so through bidirectional syncing, and six don’t move the source files but display the photos through links to where they are stored. Some use a combination of all three.
  • Solutions that link to source photos don’t sync them or back them up — important unmet user needs, according to our survey. In fact, all but one of the free solutions (Woven) do not sync or back up photos. (Apple’s Photo Stream does sync but only for a limited time and for a limited number of photos.)
  • Browsing and finding dispersed photos also fall in the category of unmet user needs. These needs refer to a larger feature set that we classify as photo discovery, which includes automatically categorizing, filtering, and highlighting aggregated photos while leveraging metadata and image-recognition technologies.
  • We see many encouraging innovations among the 18 solution providers, but most still fall in the 1.0 category. It is not easy to develop sophisticated image-recognition solutions, and it will take several years before they get to a level that they will see broad acceptance and usage.
  • Finally, most solution providers use a subscription model to monetize their services, often while also offering a free version with limited online storage.

At this point few of the unlimited free solutions are deploying any monetization model. Over time, we expect them to experiment with selling add-on services (such as photo-output products) and context-aware advertisements, which could leverage the rich metadata that most dispersed-photo problem-solution providers already capture, coupled with image-recognition data in the future.

These nonsubscription-based monetization models could also be deployed in the free (“lite”) versions of paid solutions or, as is already the case for photo-output products, as add-on services to the paid versions themselves.

Relevant Analyst
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Hans Hartman

Principal, Owner Suite 48 Analytics

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