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Android's Photo Picker will finally let you search your gallery

You’ll no longer need to endlessly scroll through your Google Photos library to find an image.

Published onMay 15, 2024

Android Photo Picker hero
Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority
  • Android’s Photo Picker will support local and cloud search later this year.
  • Currently, Android’s Photo Picker only sorts your gallery via albums, which you can’t even search through.
  • This update was announced at Google I/O 2024, Google’s annual developer conference.

Your phone’s gallery has a lot of personal and sensitive content that you probably don’t want random people to have access to. Unfortunately, a lot of apps request access to your entire media gallery even though they might only need access to one or two items to do their job. Google created the Photo Picker API in Android 13 to solve this problem. The Photo Picker lets users choose exactly which media items to share with an app, making it more private by design. However, many developers have chosen to not use Android’s Photo Picker for various reasons.

One reason that many developers eschewed the Photo Picker is that it’s missing a lot of features compared to the older system file picker it’s replacing. One of those features — cloud media support — was finally added not too long ago, meaning users can finally select media from their Google Photos libraries. But there’s still one more issue with the Photo Picker that cloud media integration only exacerbated: the lack of search.

Currently, the Photo Picker has two tabs: “Photos” and “Albums”. The Photos tab shows your photos and videos in reverse chronological order, while the Albums tab shows what’s in your Camera, Videos, Screenshots, Downloads, and Favorites albums. Unless you store tens of thousands of images locally, you probably won’t have trouble finding the exact photo or video you want to share using the Photo Picker. If you have a massive cloud media library like I do, though, then you’ll either need to be really organized with albums or hope you can quickly find the item you’re looking for while scrolling through your entire library.

It’s a huge bummer the Photo Picker doesn’t just let you search through your local and cloud libraries, especially since, well, it’s made by Google of all companies. Fortunately, Google will rectify this problem in an upcoming update to the Photo Picker. During the second day of Google I/O 2024, the company confirmed that the Photo Picker will support both local and cloud search. This is coming “later this year” apparently, but we don’t know exactly when.

When search support does roll out, it’ll hopefully be made available on all OS versions where the Photo Picker is available. The Photo Picker is available natively on all devices running Android 11 and newer through a Project Mainline module, but it’s also available on devices running Android 4.4 and newer thanks to Google Play Services. Hopefully the search bar in the Photo Picker will be as smart as the new AI-powered “Ask Photos” feature that Google unveiled the other day, but it’s unlikely that’ll be the case.

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