Google Photos update brings live video previews to your main timeline

Live thumbnails on Google Photos

Google Photos has come a long way since the old Picasa days. As well as seamlessly syncing all the photos you’ve ever taken across all of your devices, recent upgrades have seen cool features like live albums that automatically update with new photos of particular people or pets, auto-editing and fixing of images, and even experimental features like the colorization of black and white photos.

Simply put, since Picasa became Google Photos, it has gone on to change our very relationship with photographs. We’ve never had photography so easy and we’ve never taken more photos knowing we’ll be able to view them, share them, and edit them on any device and no matter where we are. The thing with Google Photos though, is that it isn’t just about photos, and Google is about to introduce an interesting little feature to Photos that will really liven up our timelines.

The new Google Photos live video thumbnail feature will play all videos you scroll past in their entirety as long as they’re on your screen

You might have already noticed it, if you have the latest version of Google Photos (v4.20) already installed on your phone. Whenever you’re scrolling through the Google Photos timeline any videos you’ve captured or added to your Photos collection will play right there in the thumbnail.

You won’t hear any sound, which is good because autoplay videos with sound are very annoying, but the videos will play from to start to finish in the thumbnail and will loop around and start again should they stay on your screen for longer than the length of the video. If this doesn’t happen for you, you should update Google Photos now.

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If there is more than one video thumbnail on the screen at the same time, then Photos will try to play them as live thumbnails one at a time in reverse chronological order. Our tests have found this feature to be a little buggy, however, but we’re sure it’ll work perfectly sooner rather than later.

Google Photos on Android
You can tell a video thumbnail from the small play icon in the top-right. Now, if the video is hosted on your Android phone, it will play without sound in the thumbnail itself.

The other thing to consider is data. If you’re automatically backing up your old photos and videos to the cloud and are worried about the data live video thumbnails might use up, don’t. Our tests showed that all backed up videos didn’t show as live thumbnails and remained static when operating over both mobile and Wi-Fi networks. It is only locally hosted videos that will get the live thumbnail treatment.

Google Photos video thumbnails on desktop
The feature works differently on desktop. You can hover the mouse cursor over any video thumbnail and it will play through.

For now, live video thumbnails are only available on Android as the feature is yet to launch on iOS. There are no auto video thumbnails on Photos for desktop, but video thumbnails will play if you hover your mouse cursor over them. This feature works on desktop for all videos too, as they’re all hosted online anyway.

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