Google, can I please have control over my Gallery again?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: December 4, 2012

I've been on a bit of a rampage of late. I have stumbled across several features of both Android and iOS that have been tearing me apart. There are features of both platforms that are inching their way deeper under my skin every passing moment.

I can't stand the interoperability of iOS – having to switch between multiple applications to perform a single action is a bit silly and can be cumbersome. The Android lock screen doesn't give me a way to quickly view notifications at a glance (without pulling the notification shade down). And the entire iOS interface looks like it's straight out of 2007; it has hardly changed since version 1.0.

For Android, one that has increasingly become worse over the last year or so is the Gallery app.

Design-wise, it hasn't changed all that much in at least two years now. The various albums are larger and the background is black, versus the golden background found in Gingerbread. And the position of the albums and pictures no long change with the accelerometer movement. But the basic horizontal, Metro-like layout is still present, and the core mechanics of the Gallery app are exactly the same as before.

What has changed, though, is that Google has added some services that are synchronized (by default, mind you) to the Gallery app. Picasa online albums are synchronized straight to your device upon logging into your Google account. Each respective album counts and a separate album within the app. And your Google+ Instant Uploads album is also synchronized to the Gallery app.

The result is a cluttered mess of photo albums. The locally stored albums are generally the topmost (or leftmost) albums. But every picture you have taken with a phone and uploaded to Google+ – automatically or otherwise – is viewable directly from the stock Android Gallery application.

That's only half the problem, though.

These photos are only viewable. They're not locally stored and are instead stored in a remote cloud account. What that means is you don't really have control over the albums directly from the phone or Gallery app. You cannot pick and choose what albums are shown. And you cannot delete the photos or albums.

As far as I can tell, after you sync the photos upon logging into your Google account (again, it's checked by default), there is no getting rid of them without wiping the phone and starting over. Unchecking the sync option in Account settings doesn't remove the pictures from the Gallery app, it only stops the syncing and leaves the existing photos in place.

If you're like me, this can be a problem. I take a lot of pictures and I take even more screen captures. Pile these handful of albums on top of the mess that syncing Picasa and Google+ albums creates, and the Gallery app quickly becomes the most disorganized app my phone. It's a disaster; I can barely stand to look at it.

What's more is custom versions of Android add more sync options to the stock Gallery app. TouchWiz, for example, adds Dropbox sync, which I quickly learned was a terrible idea.

Fortunately, TouchWiz let's the user pick and choose between viewing options. You can filter between locally stored photos, Facebook photos, Dropbox photos or Picasa photos. However, it doesn't remember your selection. When you back out of the app, it reverts back to showing all content – local and remote.

It's unnerving how poor the user experience has become in the stock Gallery app when you consider how much has been done to the user experience and interface over the last three updates. The stock interface has become more polished and user-friendly while the Gallery app has taken leaps in the opposite direction.

Although I hate to replace so many of the stock applications (I've replaced the stock browser, lock screen and default launcher on my Galaxy Note II), I have been on a search for a decent Gallery app alternative until Google  updates the stock app to permanently remove or filter online albums. So far, I have found only one application that works as intended: QuickPic. I plan on using this app for the foreseeable future.

Readers, have any of you had trouble with the stock Gallery app? Do the persistent online albums drive you crazy, too? Or do you like being able to view all of your online albums directly from the Gallery app?

Update: Reader Taftaf Séne has come to save the day! You can remove the Picasa Web Albums by disabling the sync on all Gmail accounts in Account settings. Then in Application Manager, force close Gallery and clear the cache. Pictures be gone! While this works, though, there should definitely be an option to remove these applications directly from within Gallery settings.