First Impressions: iPhone and .Mac Web Gallery
With the release of Apple’s iLife ‘08 application suite came an unexpected new iPhone feature: a “Send to Web Gallery” option in the Photos application, which ties into the new .Mac Web Gallery feature in iPhoto ‘08, Apple’s photo organization and editing program. Today, we installed the iLife ‘08 suite and tested this new feature, which despite its limited audience turns out to be a handy addition to the iPhone’s photo sharing capabilities.
After installing and then upgrading iPhoto ‘08, we went straight about creating a new Web Gallery, for which we used an existing photo album. After clicking on the Web Gallery option in the lower right corner, we found that a small pane presents publishing options for the gallery. A drop down menu allows users to choose who can see the album — it offers you the options of “Everyone,” “Only Me,” or “Edit Names & Passwords.” Options for showing photo titles, allowing visitors to download and upload photos, allow photo uploading by email, and showing that email address to visitors are all presented as well.
After clicking “Publish,” the gallery appears in the application’s left sidebar, and a progress indicator begins moving at the top of the screen. Once the photos have finished uploading, the Internet URL of the gallery appears underneath the gallery title at the top of the window. Overall, gallery creation is relatively painless, especially if you take the time to keep your photos organized into albums, and iPhoto and .Mac work together to send out an e-mail announcing your Internet-based gallery’s address—and a contribution e-mail box—to your chosen recipients. As the “Web Gallery” name suggests, they can then view your gallery from the web with their preferred web browsers.
The Web Gallery is quite impressive, with four different available views: Grid, Mosaic, Carousel, and Slideshow. Grid is much like the standard iPhoto interface - an index page of resizable images. Mosaic will be instantly familiar to Flickr users, and Slideshow is rather self explanatory. Carousel is very similar to iTunes’ Cover Flow view. You can see the features in action in our Test Gallery.
The gallery also looks quite good on the iPhone, although it doesn’t get the fancy interface of the standard gallery. Instead, the iPhone .Mac Web Gallery interface is strikingly similar to that of the iPhone’s Photo application, with the pictures appearing as thumbnails on a white background. Tapping on a thumbnail brings up a large view of the picture, along with simple forward, back, and play buttons.
As mentioned above, the iPhone now has a “Send to Web Gallery” option in its Photos application’s options menu. Once our gallery was published, we took a picture with an iPhone, and tapped the “Send to Web Gallery” option.
A list of our Web Galleries appeared, so we selected the Test Gallery, and a new email message appeared, ready to send the photo to the gallery’s email address. In this respect, the process felt very much like using a Flickr magic email.
Also of note is the fact that the iPhone we used to upload the photo also happens to belong to the .Mac account holder. When we tested this feature with an iPhone not associated with this .Mac account, we received a message on the iPhone’s screen: “None of your .Mac accounts have been configured for posting from mobile devices. You must first enable this feature on the .Mac website.” Visiting our gallery using another iPhone let us view the pictures; we could only upload by sending a separately-composed e-mail to the address .Mac sends out to our preferred recipients.
Once the email was sent via either of our iPhones, we could reload the gallery to find that the photo had been successfully added, with the email’s subject as the photo label. Again, it’s quite similar to Flickr.
However, the .Mac Web Gallery is also meant to provide another bridge between the iPhone and iPhoto, and as such claims that photos uploaded to the gallery appear in the same gallery back in iPhoto, where users have the option of dragging the photo over to their library. Perhaps not surprisingly, this works exactly as advertised — a quick refresh of the gallery in iPhoto revealed the picture we had just sent from the iPhone.
As the iPhone matures, it would not be surprising to see more integration between the device and the Mac, especially in mobile-centric ways that aren’t provided by current iTunes syncing. While not exactly groundbreaking, and not cheap at $100 per year for .Mac and $79 for the new iLife ‘08 suite, this new iPhone feature will surely be a welcome addition to iPhone owners who also happen to use Macs and .Mac, and provides a cool new way to share photos with friends using a superior Apple-developed interface.
Also part of the .Mac Web Gallery is an option in iMovie ‘08 to export movies to the Gallery. Once you have a project ready in iMovie, adding it to your .Mac Web Gallery is as easy as right-clicking and choosing “Publish to .Mac Web Gallery.” A drop down menu lets you give the video a title, description, and offers size options - Tiny (176x144), Mobile (480x272), Medium (640x360), and Large (960x540). It should be noted that the Tiny and Mobile sizes are the only ones marked as iPhone-compatible.
Curiously, the Medium and Large sizes are marked as Apple TV compatible. We checked our Apple TV, and no new options have appeared, so for the time being this must indicate that these sizes can be downloaded from the gallery, then transferred to and played on an Apple TV. That said, we wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see the Apple TV receive an update to allow integration with .Mac Web Galleries.
Other options allow the movie to be downloaded, and shown on the Web Gallery home page. Once “Publish” is clicked, iMovie begins the process of creating the movie and uploading it to .Mac. This process was fairly pleasant and our movies appeared on .Mac within just a few minutes. You can view the test movie online.
Browsing to the movie from an iPhone via WiFi brought up standard Quicktime controls, and the movie can be viewed in landscape or portrait mode. When browsing to the same movie over an EDGE connection, the same controls appear and the movie is perfectly viewable, but it seems to be a smaller size — more than likely the “Tiny” size listed above. Video over EDGE looks good at its standard size, but tapping the “expand” button in the upper right hand corner really shows the video’s small size, an effect that is most profound in landscape view.
Overall, the iMovie/.Mac Web Gallery/iPhone integration works well, but doesn’t offer the same advantages as the iPhoto integration due to the iPhone’s lack of a video recording mode. Should Apple decide to add a video recording mode to the iPhone, and in turn allow uploading from the iPhone to the .Mac Web Gallery, we could see this being a much bigger — and more useful — feature.
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