You also get no help in selecting these photos. The company does not use AI to prompt or resurface memories, the way that pretty much every other photo app does. “There’s a big difference between passive reminders and actively chronicling the moments that matter to you,” says Retro founder Nathan Sharp in an email.

Retro’s team is made up of six former Instagrammers, and their original intention was to create a better Instagram, a place where you can share snaps and commentary with people you actually care about. The Journals feature expands on that by allowing you to share that content with a larger group of people.

For example, if you’re a parent, you can create a Journal for each of your children. You can post photos to that journal and share with grandparents. Then you can share public links to that journal via Instagram or Facebook. People you are not friends with on Retro will see your Journals as curated photo albums.

“We wanted to emphasize the ongoing use case,” Sharp said. “This isn’t just a photo dump. This is building something for your future self to look back on.”

Shine’s use case is similar. It’s aimed at people from multiple generations with different phones who want to pool photos on similar themes or events. (Even the seemingly dated color choice and app design seems a deliberate callback to an earlier time.) Let’s say you attend a baby shower. You can create an album for that baby shower and add photos via two separate modes. In Magic Mode, Shine’s AI will select pictures for you, or you can add photos manually. Then you can share that album with whomever you choose, and they can also add pictures.

As we discussed in our review of the feature, Apple’s Journal app also prompts you to write about your day on a regular basis. You can schedule reminders and turn on prompts. You can paste in photos, locations, and voice memos. This feature is, of course, available only on iPhones; moreover, it’s not remarkably different from a few other, older apps that also provide journaling services (WIRED has a few other suggestions here). Apple is presenting the feature as part of its new suite of mental health services.

Paper Trail

How do you make or share memories? Like most people, I share my photos haphazardly: in photo batches texted to group chats on different messaging apps, in shared Google Photos folders, in Instagram posts, or in the occasional Story or Facebook Reel. It would be very nice if every single person I know could get on the same app. Unfortunately, every person in my life also has other people in their lives, so I suspect this will turn out the same way as when everyone tried to force everyone else to use Slack, or Discord, or WhatsApp. I half-heartedly texted Retro invites to a few friends, but only got a disinterested “What is this?” in response.

Sharp also suggested creating a private journal with my husband, but with a 6- and 9-year-old, we are unfortunately too busy making memories to document them thoroughly (my spouse also hates social media). I scrolled back through our text messages for possible snaps, but I really do need to enlist an AI to help me decide which of our constant backs-and-forths of “Where are you?”, “Where did you guys go?”, and “Did you get garlic bread?” moments are worth memorializing.


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