Mobile app stores are full of photo-sharing services, and they're all trying to be the next big thing. But how many of them really change anything (well, apart from who you're giving your money to)? Microsoft Research has a new service that could actually change the way you share photos. Meet Xim.

At some point, we all want to show a group of digital photos to friends or family. Before Xim, there were a couple ways you could do this. You could simply hand your phone or tablet to your friend. This way is fast and easy, but the person might also stumble upon some – ahem – "personal" images. The other option is to send the pics via email or MMS, or upload to a cloud storage service. Those approaches won't reveal your nude selfies, but they also take time.

(iPhone owners can also use AirDrop to quickly transfer photos, and Galaxy owners can use S Beam to send, but unless everyone is on the same platform, that just won't cut it)

Xim wants to provide the speed and synchronicity of handing over your phone, along with the privacy of sending only the photos you want them to see. And it won't matter one lick which phone your friends own (though you can't start a Xim with an iPhone just yet).

As long as you have the new Xim app installed on your Android or Windows Phone (iOS coming soon), nobody else in the group needs to install any apps. Start by opening Xim and selecting the photos you want to share. You can choose images not just from your phone's gallery, but also from Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram or Microsoft OneDrive. Then you select the people that you want to be included in the slideshow. Nobody needs to create any accounts or install any apps: you just enter their names from your contacts (or manually enter their numbers or email addresses).

Each person in the group will then receive an SMS or email with a link. When each person clicks the link, the collaborative slideshow will open in their respective browsers.

After everyone clicks their links and joins the party, they'll all see the same thing on each of their phones. If you swipe to the next picture, Aunt Mae and Uncle Junior will see the same thing. If Grandpa Seth zooms in on your terrified face in that Space Mountain picture, it will zoom on everyone else's devices as well.

I tested Xim by initiating the slideshow on a Galaxy and picking it up on an iPhone, and it worked well. The entire setup process is fast (only limited by the time it takes you to select images and recipients) and there's only about a one second delay between zooming on your phone and seeing the zoom on the next phone.

Xim might not have the hipness cred of Instagram or Snapchat (or their zillion and one competitors), but it might also solve more of a problem than any of those services do. I can see myself using this at the next family outing.

Xim is available now, as a free download from the Google Play and the Windows Phone Store. Keep an eye out for the iOS version. You can check out Microsoft's video below for another walkthrough of how it works.

Product page: Microsoft

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