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SynchroCam Sorely Disappoints

SynchroCam Sorely Disappoints

SynchroCam links two iOS devices to snap photos that it combines into a 3D-like animated GIF. Linking and snapping the photo was easy enough, but the result was simply atrocious. Did I do it wrong? Did I misunderstand the scant instructions provided? Hard to tell. SynchroCam's makers need to put some better documentation and some dazzling results on their website -- if dazzling results are possible.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
05/14/12 5:00 AM PT

SynchroCam, an app from Taber Buhl, is available for free at the App Store.

SynchroCam
The sample screenshot from the App Store is your first warning sign: It doesn't seem "3D-like" nor animated, and clicking through to the SynchroCam Web page also doesn't give you an animated GIF version to revel in.

I very much prefer to write reviews only of apps and products that I appreciate, that I find useful, interesting, or just plain awesome. This is not one of those reviews. And the app? It's not one of those apps, either.

The makers of some products sometimes try hard to make them appear to be things they really are not. Wrinkle cream comes to mind. Magic? Hardly. Exercise gadgets -- same sort of thing, usually. Sometimes marketing claims will explode full of hyperbole, too.

SynchroCam, fortunately, doesn't go to these extremes, but the implication of what the app is and does did not match my expectations. Was this intentional? Probably not. Maybe I was leaping to conclusions.

Before I downloaded the free app and tried it out, though, I should have noticed the warning signs -- signs that point to a likelihood of a less-than-stellar experience. After all, while Apple curates the App Store, it doesn't always reflect my own -- or your own -- sensibilities.

The Warning Signs

First of all, I should have noticed the spare description. At about 65 words or so, it's one of the shortest and least descriptive descriptions I've ever read in the App Store. Next, it flirts with specifics and yet remains vague. The first sentence? "SynchroCam lets you freeze a moment in time and save it as a 3D-like animated GIF using multiple iOS devices."

SnychroCam requires two side-by-side iOS devices, like two iPhones, and if the devices are the same model, so much the better. It links the two cameras via WiFi and lets you snap a photo, which it then combines into single animated GIF image.

Sounds sort of cool, right? As if you'll get an image that somehow implies or shows cool depth perception that you don't normally get out of just one camera lens. And "3D-like" ... OK, we understand it doesn't create true 3D images, but "3D-like" sounds promising.

The process of connecting two iPhone 4 devices was easy -- just download the app on both phones, launch one and designate it as the "Host Camera." The other is the "Extra Camera."

Similarly, snapping the photo is easy enough, just hold the two iPhones together and snap the shot.

So far, so good.

The app does its thing and gives you a flickering image, an animated GIF that moves back and forth between the two snapped images. You can set the transfer rate of speed so that the animation is fast or slow.

As near as I could tell, the animated GIF didn't look anything like a 3D image at all. Nor did it seem to have any sort of extra depth perception. In fact, the flickering image seemed to hurt my head and make me vaguely nauseous. Seriously, I did not like looking at the result.

Flabbergasted Here, Utterly and Totally Flabbergasted

I think because it's been a while since I've downloaded, installed and tried out a dud app that I figured I must have missed something important. I returned to the app's spot in the iTunes Store and looked harder. The description was spare, so I examined the screenshots more closely. There's a screenshot of girl blowing something like glitter at the camera. It's flat and static. At first glance, I believed that the App Store simply didn't support animated GIF images, and that something was obviously lost in the translation ... which was the point of the app, I thought -- to provide a new look at the subject in the photo.

The flat and confusing screenshot was another warning sign that I missed.

What else? There were only a few reviews, but since the app was new, I dismissed them. Two rave reviews and one bad one. Par for the course for many new apps.

Next, I checked out the SynchroCam support page online. Not much there. Just a splash page, really. Again, not unexpected for a new app. And yet, I started getting the sneaking suspicion that the real reason there wasn't a bunch of awesome GIF examples on the app's own site is because there are no awesome GIF examples. None at all.

Perhaps I'm Wrong

There is a small chance that I simply don't understand the app -- that my brain and sight aren't wired to enjoy the result, or I somehow failed to position the iPhones in the correct way.

I don't think this is the case. But if it is, the solution is easy: The app developer just needs to create a page on the SynchroCam website full of fantastically amazing animated GIFs. The evidence will be there. Until then, I don't know what else to say. If I'm wrong, great. If not, SynchroCam will likely fade into the obscurity of the universe as we all continue along on our merry way.

And next time I consider downloading an app, I'll pay closer attention. Even if it is free.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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