Latest Google Photos Playback Controls Aren't New, But Good To See

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Google Photos has a "new" feature on mobile, taking the form of playback controls for videos stored there. More accurately, Google has added two new icons to the UI that appears when users tap on a video during playback. Bordering the Play/Pause icon, users will now see a double-arrow icon pointing to the left and to the right. Those are, as might be guessed, meant to control rewind and fast-forward functions.

That's according to recent reports detailing the change.

Here's how Google didn't actually add anything new here at all

Now, the new icons here aren't entirely new. The playback controls appeared in Google Photos way back in 2016. And they were later removed. In the interim, the company also tacked in a mute button. It handily placed that icon to the right of the playback progress bar at the bottom of the UI. But that's no longer making an appearance at all.

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After this update, which appears to be taking place server-side, not only has Google added back the rewind and fast-forward buttons. It removed the mute button entirely. Or it reportedly appears to have removed that for some users, at any rate. At least one test device at Android Headlines still showed the mute button alongside the newly re-added icons.

So, in effect, Google has simply removed a feature that replaced the rewind/fast-forward functionality. And it's added back the latter functionality.

The real puzzler is why Google chose such archaic icons for its playback controls

One other point that's worth noting is that the company has opted to use entirely different icons here than it uses in other media playback controls. For instance, in Google Play Movies, YouTube, and other apps, a circular-arrow icon is used. At the center of that, the time that will be skipped forward or backward is clearly noted. Here, the icons are just arrows.

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That means that they not only provide less detail about how users are meant to interact with them. The icons also look somewhat out-of-place when compared to other Google-backed applications.

Those changes mark just the latest in a long string of updates to the app's interface over the past couple of months. And the controls will undoubtedly be a welcome addition for those who don't like controlling playback via a progress bar.