The holy grail in communicating cameras

Okay, you know I love the Droid, but…

I’m beginning to figure out what I don’t like about it and why.

A picture named fargoDroid.jpgFirst overall, there’s a lack of attention to detail that makes the Droid frustrating to use. Has anyone on the Google team used the Droid to watch a full-length movie? It can be done, but you have to be careful about how you hold it. It’s hard to explain. When you’re watching a movie on a phone, your hands get tired, so you have to change the way your fingers are holding the phone every so often. But be careful what you touch. There are a lot of little buttons all around the phone. Touch the wrong one, and the movie starts over from the beginning. Watching Fargo, an excellent movie for checking out a new phone (I never get tired of it), it started over a dozen times. Somehow, for some reason, this never happens with a movie on an iPhone.

This leads to the trouble with the camera. I know it has a lot of megapixels and it does movies, but it’s slow and awkward to use. I went to pick up some Chinese food this evening, and thought I’d take a quick picture of the kitchen. On the iPhone it would have taken two or three gestures. On the Droid, I fussed and pressed buttons and clicked and tried over and over to take a picture. I felt like everyone in the restaurant was watching me. No pictures.

It’s not all about megapixels

Earlier in the day on a walk in the neighborhood, I stopped several times to take a picture. Only one of them made it up to Flickr, and it took a couple of minutes of fussing to do it. The beauty of the iPhone camera is how quick it is. A communicating camera has to be fast. The whole idea is you’re going to take quick pictures while doing other things. If it’s not quick you don’t take the pictures, which thwarts the whole purpose of carrying the real-time camera with you.

I said in my inaugural post on this blog that one of the three things I valued in the iPhone is the camera. It seems I may have to keep the iPhone and carry it with me just to get that function. But I’m not giving up on the Droid. I’m an experienced computer novice, I’ve been a newbie many many times. And I know that this may just be the strangeness of a new device, and I may find a workflow that works.

On the other hand it could be that neither Apple or Google has figured this out yet. It could be that there’s a separate market for a communicating camera. I wonder why Canon and Kodak aren’t active in this area.

Another aside, I have a Flip and a Kodak, I bought the former, and was given the latter as a speaker at #140conf in LA. I don’t use either, because neither communicat. I have a Canon PowerShot that I use when I need a high-res picture, and now I’m contemplating carrying an iPhone just to use it as a communicating camera. All this says to me that there is a niche for a communicating camera.

And my main conclusion after three days of Droid use, it’s still lovable, but it needs a solid human factors going-over. It is nowhere near as nicely groomed as the iPhone is. But its openness is still impressive. For example today I thought to look to see if there are BitTorrent clients for Android. There are! Bravo.

Finally I’d like to welcome three new writers for this site: Josh Turmel, Christopher Smith and Michael Gartenberg. This is going to be a community site, the more points of view the better. I hope to get some people who are skeptical about the Droid, as well. As you can see in this post, I have a fair amount of skepticism myself. 🙂

Posted in Droid. 17 Comments »

17 Responses to “The holy grail in communicating cameras”

  1. ankushnarula Says:

    Dave – have you seen these:

  2. Bernie Goldbach Says:

    I’ve owned a standalone quick-action Concord Bluetooth camera for several years. I don’t think the iPhone’s Bluetooth stack connects with the Concord but my Nokia phones do.

  3. Joe Says:

    Totally agree that the camera needs work. I’m pretty convinced that it’s mostly a software issue. I hope some of the photo quality issues can be improved with firmware updates, and the speed/UI issues can certainly be addressed with updates to the camera app.

    I tried a few of the alternative camera apps in the market. None are really there yet, but some of them perform well enough to convince me that it’ll happen, hopefully soon.

    (A better movie player app would certainly fix that experience, too.)

    In the meantime, the best workflow for taking photos for me is to unlock and then hold down the shutter button. Still takes a while for the camera app to load up, but I can mostly do it without having to look at the screen at all.

  4. Matt Says:

    I’m surprised to hear you had problems taking pictures with the Droid. Personally, I have been disappointed with the quality but have not had issues capturing an image.

    Seems the best thing to do is hold down the camera button for a couple seconds to launch the camera. Then hold down the camera button half way to focus and press fully to take a pic. From the home screen this can be done in less than 10 seconds. Is that method you are using?

    As opposed to the iPhone, Android devices have number of ways to accomplish various tasks so it takes time to figure what works best. This is one of the big reasons the out-of-box experience can be confusing. Another area to look at for efficient use is the keyboard shortcuts. Most users will never know they exist but they can be very helpful. Check out this link for a list…

  5. Jere Majava Says:

    Well, I for on am getting Nokia N900. It has a stand for watching movies and a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics that is quick to use.

  6. uberVU - social comments Says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by davewiner: Droidie: The holy grail in communicating cameras.

  7. Jason Keath Says:

    People say Apple is all style. But it is less about being sexy and more about the details, the details that make things easier.

  8. Christopher Smith Says:

    Dave, I have noticed that the camera application lacks polish. I only had an iPhone 3G S for 5 days but I will say that using the iPhone’s camera was much more enjoyable and easy to use. I do like snapping pictures throughout the day so hopefully I can make use of the DROID’s camera.

    The Palm Pre’s camera was at first extremely slow and buggy. Palm has since fixed that with the latest updates and actually turned it into something quite usable.

    The DROID’s camera is slow and sometimes freezes up for me, and this morning Android just totally restarted itself when trying to start up the camera app to show a fellow co-worker. Definitely not a good thing to show to a potential DROIDIE. Oh well.

  9. mikecane Says:

    Lack of a camera is exactly why I haven’t bought an iPod Touch (yes, I know, no 3G, which defeats one of your points, but still).

  10. Verizon Droid Hands-On Review -- Garrick Van Buren .com Says:

    […] Elsewhere: Graeme Thickin’s review of the Verizon Droid “Again the feeling I got from this was ominous and forbidding.” – from David Newberger’s Droid review. Justin Grammen’s covers the marketing confusion I’m seeing in his Droid Review “And my main conclusion after three days of Droid use, it’s still lovable, but it needs a so… […]

  11. Top Posts « Says:

    […] The holy grail in communicating cameras Okay, you know I love the Droid, but… I’m beginning to figure out what I don’t like about it and […] […]

  12. Erik Neu Says:

    The lack of a LOCK feature is a common flaw in a lot of devices. I spend all my day on teleconferences, and it is AMAZING how often someone will hang up when they mean to un-mute (i.e., at the worst possible time).

  13. Nicholas Says:

    Several years ago, I thought that it would be cool to have something along the lines of a Brownie that was a new interpretation of the concept. Instead of sending in the camera, we would send in the photographic information, and the first time you would see the images was on a website or viewer. The objective was to make the camera almost disposable, but adding a screen would be completely within reason.

    The idea of a communicating camera is interesting.

  14. EwanG Says:

    Well, I know the Communicating Camera I’d like to make if I had the money to make it a reality. Just take one of these:

    Marry it to one of these:

    Then setup a web server in places you’d like to “visit” that has one of the RF modems attached and a rovio docked. You could then “rent” the Rovio to go explore (up to 40 miles away), and catch the stream as you go along.

    Dave, what do you think?

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