iPhone Gems: Every Flickr Application, Reviewed
As the Internet has become increasingly social, photo-sharing sites have increased in popularity, and at the top of the photo stack is Yahoo!‘s Flickr service. Flickr’s large userbase, friendly, clean interface, and open API have allowed it to grow to storing over 2 billion photos, and it’s that open API that has allowed developers the opportunity to create iPhone and iPod touch apps that work directly with the service. Eight such applications have been released on the App Store thus far, and today we’re reviewing all of them. Skip to Klick and Mobile Fotos if you only want to see the best of the bunch.
Two common limitations should be noted up front. iPhone OS 2.0 currently limits iPhone-to-service uploads to a maximum resolution of 640x480. As no iPhone application can apparently get access to full-resolution pictures taken outside of the app itself, we do not note this as a detriment to any single one of the apps reviewed below; it is a common issue in all of them. Likewise, in order to show a preview but maintain a full-resolution image, the preview image shown after taking a photo with an in-application camera is normally cropped in one manner or another. We’ve witnessed this in other, non-Flickr apps such as Wordpress, and like the Camera Roll resolution limit, it affects all the applications equally, and thus is not discussed further in the reviews.
AirMe (Free) by AirMe, Inc. is a minimalist camera application with the ability to upload photos to either AirMe’s site or to Flickr. It sports a single-screen interface for browsing through pictures taken with the application, along with a non-standard camera button above the bottom menu, which holds navigation buttons, a “tool” button which offers photo options, a tag and title menu, the ability to change upload sites, an “action” button that allows users to send the current picture out via email, and a trash button for deletion of the current photo.
Unfortunately, AirMe is hampered by a longer setup process than its peers, a sometimes confusing interface, and limited photo tagging and size options. To get AirMe ready to post on Flickr, one must first either have an AirMe account or sign-up for a new account; this adds an extra step on top of the standard Flickr authentication, which in turn takes a step longer with AirMe than it does on other competing apps due to the entry of an authorization code.
Once set up, AirMe’s other shortcomings become apparent. In order for a photo to be properly tagged and titled, the user must do so before taking the photo — it gives no warning about this limitation, and does not warn the user that the photo will be immediately uploaded after it is taken, without title and tag information. Title and Tagging options are accessed with a tap of the “tools” button; the app does offer a toggle switch to turn on its Auto Title feature, but gives no further detail of how it goes about said titling. The app also lacks the ability to upload files from the iPhone’s Camera Roll or stored photos; some users mightn’t mind, as they will want to upload in the highest resolution possible, but others might be bothered by this omission.
In addition, users are left to select from a long list of tags; only after tapping the “Edit” button is the user given the option of adding their own, and even then, they must be entered from that screen, one at a time, which is labor-intensive. On a positive note, AirMe does offer correct geotagging of photos, but that feature must be turned on prior to snapping a photo, and it also offers users the ability to smart tag the photo with written location and local weather information. From within a separate “Photo Options” menu, users are given the option to make photos public or private, toggle the Use Location feature on and off, and select from four different photo sizes ranging from 320x240 to 1024x768. Unfortunately, there are no full-resolution uploads here.
Though our rating might seem harsh for a free application, we didn’t think AirMe had enough positives to be worthy of even an “okay” rating on our scale. Given the fact that it forces you to sign up for an AirMe account, offers one of the worst interfaces of any iPhone Flickr application, automatically uploads photos without warning, doesn’t prompt for title and tag information entry, and doesn’t offer full-resolution uploads, we don’t feel comfortable suggesting AirMe, even with its free price tag. iLounge Rating: D.
Exposure (Free) and Exposure Premium ($10) from Connected Flow are fairly well-rounded Flickr photo viewers. Both versions of the application offer the same functionality and will be reviewed as one: the free version places small, generally unobtrusive ads at the top of each page, while the Premium version removes these ads.
Once the Flickr authentication process is completed, users are presented with an interface similar to that of Apple’s iPod and Remote applications, with a dark navigation bar at the bottom, complete with a “More” tab that offers the user the ability to choose which shortcuts appear in the bottom navigation bar. Users can browse their own photos—either grouped together, by set, or by tag—or photos of their Flickr contacts, by group, date, or individually. They can also explore Flickr’s currently featured photos, and see photos taken nearby thanks to use of the platform’s Location Services. Options for searching Flickr and viewing favorited photos are also included.
Clicking on an individual photo presents the picture on a black backdrop, with a simple menu for viewing the photo’s info, and a Done button for moving back to the prior page. There is no way to move from photo to photo from within the expanded view when viewing groups of photos from different people — you must be viewing a specific contact’s photostream for navigation buttons to appear. On the plus side, the Info screen for each photo does allow for the viewing and posting of comments, along with the standard description and tag information. Users may also choose to favorite the photo, post a link to Twitter, mail a link to the photo, or open it in Safari, all from a “Share Photo” menu.
Overall, while the application sports a decent interface and worthwhile browsing features, its inability to upload photos, and its small navigational oddities leave it short of our general recommendation. The company behind Exposure, Connected Flow, is planning a separate Flickr uploading app called FlickrExport Touch, which could really have been better integrated here. For iPod touch users or those not concerned with Flickr uploading, Exposure’s not a bad choice at the free level, but we feel the Premium version, with its $10 price tag, is pretty close to outrageous given its more fully-featured, lower-priced peers. You don’t get $10 of value by losing the ads, so stick with the free version if you want to try Exposure at all. iLounge Rating (Free version): B-. iLounge Rating ($10 version): C-.
Flickup ($2) from Martin Gordon is a fairly straightforward Flickr uploading application. Devoid of browsing features, the app presents a simple one-screen menu after being authorized with Flickr. Users can choose to upload a photo from the iPhone’s photo albums, or use the camera to snap a new pic, with new pictures being uploaded at full 1600x1200 resolution. Once a pic is taken, and the preview okayed, the user is presented with the option of editing the Meta data for the photo, including the title, description, and tags, as well as toggle switches for turning geotagging on or off, and for activating automatic posts through Twitterrific. In the Settings menu, users can set up a base description—“Uploaded with Flickup on iPhone” by default—as well as create default tags, turn geotagging on and off, turn posting to Twitterriffic on and off, and handling Flickr authentication by redoing the login or logging out.
In our testing, Flickup initially refused to honor changes we made to a photo’s description, instead double-posting the photo with a generic title containing the date and time information; however, we were unable to reproduce this bug in further testing. It’s worth noting that the application correctly handles differently-oriented photos, and does include accurate geotag information.
While it’s not a bad application by any means, Flickup is hindered by a price that is a bit high compared to more full-featured competitors. If you’re looking for an uploading solution only, and prefer to browse Flickr through Safari, it is the best standalone Flickr uploading application currently available; however, we feel most users will be better off with a more complete solution. iLounge Rating: B.
Fotomatic ($5) from SoundSpectrum is a visually impressive slideshow application that lets users view albums or photostreams from Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa. Albums are added through the app’s Setup menu, which also shows the current download status, offers further Slideshow settings, allows for album changing, and allows the user to set the maximum number of photos (25-100) to appear in an album. In the Slideshow settings, users can select the theme, set the duration of time (3 to 20 seconds) to show each photo, and use a toggle switch to turn the shuffling of photos on and off. Adding albums is a fairly straightforward process, with the app giving you the choice of loading any Flickr user’s entire photostream, or just a particular set of photos.
The app’s main screen, when not obscured by an annoying splash overlay that appears every time you start up Fotomatic, shows photos from the currently selected album in a thumbnail view, similar to the iPhone’s own Photos app. At the bottom of the screen are a play button, which starts the slideshow, a gear icon that opens the Settings menu, and a book icon, which opens a scrolling list of albums you’ve downloaded. Interestingly, the app actually does download the albums you select, allowing you to view them even when a network connection is not available.
Once a slideshow has begun, the bottom menu shows the same gear icon, followed by play/pause controls, an “x” icon to exit the slideshow, and a film icon, which brings up a scrollable list of available slide effects and transitions. The effects range from pedestrian to truly impressive; the more exciting ones could serve as a nice demonstration of the iPhone OS’s Core Animation features. Unfortunately, that’s all it does. As pretty as Fotomatic may be, its core functionality is extremely limited, especially for an application priced at $5. What could have been an exciting feature in a more robust browsing app ends up feeling too much like a tech demo, which is sad given the developers’ obvious ability. iLounge Rating: C+.
Klick (Free) is a full-featured Flickr client with some big ideas that are held back by navigation problems and other issues. Once the app is authorized with Flickr, users are presented with a page showing their photos in a list, with each picture displayed alongside information on title, author, how long ago it was posted, and how many views it’s had. At the bottom is a navigation bar with an Action button, a globe button—if you have geotagged photos in your stream—which leads to the app’s map view, and a play button for starting a bare-bones slideshow. A camera button in the upper right hand corner provides instant access to the camera and photo source menu no matter where you are in the app.
Confusingly, the action button in the lower left corner, commonly used to bring up menus that allow the user to send, move, or do something with the content in some way, is also used for navigation throughout the app. Once tapped, it allows the user to view a friend feed, see photos taken nearby, explore interesting photos, view pics they’ve tagged as favorites, or view a list of friends for viewing a specific contact’s photos. The limitations imposed by Klick’s non-standard use of the action button are a large part of the app’s problems: with room for only a few choices, users have a limited amount of content to view and an equally limited way in which to sort that content.
Klick’s map view, available in any photostream where photos have been geotagged and powered by Google Maps, is arguably its killer feature. Red indicators sprout up from the locations where photos were taken; tapping on one opens a small preview window, complete with title, author, and time/date information, along with a count of how many times the photo has been viewed or favorited, and the number of comments. In our testing, however, this part of Klick’s interface caused the app to crash on several occasions, and because it doesn’t offer any way to sort the results (particularly in Nearby), users in urban areas could see the screen become so crowded that it becomes unusable, while others may end up seeing the same photos numerous times. The standard photo slideshow/viewing interface is slick if not exactly standard, with quick shortcuts for viewing/adding comments, a one-tap button for favoriting, and the ability to flick through photos a la the Photos app, something not offered in the majority of its competitors.
Uploading is slightly buggy, and caused the app to crash on occasion, along with one complete restart. Otherwise, the uploading interface is straightforward; the user is given a preview image above the title, description, and tag entry areas, something that is currently unique to Klick and we feel should be added to all Flickr uploading programs. Below the text entry areas is the Location option, which lets you move a marker to provide more accurate geotagging information — in our testing with an iPhone 3G, the app was off by a couple blocks when indoors and a few hundred feet outdoors without changing this setting; older iPhone and iPod touch users may find greater discrepancies. Photos taken with the camera are uploaded at full resolution. Outside the app, Klick also has a menu in the iPhone’s general Settings menu, which allows users to remember tags and auto-rotate photos; this setting is off by default, something we feel should be changed.
Overall, Klick’s neat map view feature and slick photo viewing interface are offset by its lack of browsing options, which is the result of a poor interface decision. That aside, the app does work fairly well; it has only minimal bugs, offers solid uploading features, and sports one of the coolest features we found in any Flickr iPhone app. With its free price tag, it’s definitely worth checking out, but without an overhaul to its navigation interface, it will remain the second-best full-featured Flickr app, at least until something better comes along. iLounge Rating: B+.
Mobile Fotos ($3) from XK72 is another full-featured Flickr client that attempts to offer a nearly complete Flickr browsing experience on the iPhone, with the added ability to upload photos taken with the camera or stored in the Camera Roll. Once the app is authorized through Flickr, users are dropped at the main screen of the program, a list offering access to your photos, the camera, Camera Roll uploading, contacts, groups, an area to explore photos on Flickr, nearby photos, and search.
Each of these options has its own small, nice-looking icon, a convention that is carried throughout the app’s interface. Under “You” sit options for your photos, photo sets, favorites, tags, contacts, and groups. A similar screen is available for each of your contacts, and a Nearby feature offers a real-time location accuracy readout, along with options for setting how far to search, how to sort the photos, and how recent the photos should be. The bottom line is that this app lets you browse what you want, how you want.
When browsing a set or stream of photos, including those nearby, or in Flickr’s “interesting” category, images are presented on screen in a thumbnail view nearly identical to that of the iPhone’s built-in Photos application. Viewing an individual photo brings up a bottom menu bar with navigation buttons, and an action button that offers the ability to view the picture’s details, including title, author, views, location, time/date, and tags, as well the option to view and add comments. Other options available from the action menu include adding it to favorites, saving the photo to the iPhone’s Camera Roll, or assigning the photo to a contact.
Uploading is similarly straightforward. Once a picture has been taken or selected from the Camera Roll, the user is presented with a screen for entry of title, description, and tag information, along with the ability to turn geotagging on and off — again, with a real-time accuracy readout — and add the photo to a set. As the screen notes, photos taken with the camera are uploaded in full resolution. One current limitation of Mobile Fotos is its inability to auto-rotate photos; the developer recommends turning on the feature in the user’s Flickr settings; like Klick, we would prefer the app simply handle this on its own.
Despite its minor flaws, such as the lack of a preview photo on the upload setting screen and its demand that users turn on Flickr’s auto-rotate feature, Mobile Fotos is currently the best full-featured iPhone Flickr application available. Its well-designed interface feels more like a standard iPhone app than any of its peers, and its robust browsing options are best-in-class. Small shortcomings aside, it’s worthy of the $3 asking price and our high recommendation. iLounge Rating: A-.
MoPhoTo by Flektor (Free) is a basic photo browser and slideshow viewer for Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, and MySpace. Once pointed at a Flickr username, it downloads the names of that user’s sets, letting you view each individually, but not all of one user’s photos at once. Photos are presented thumbnail-style on a black background, and the individual photo screen offers a play/pause button for starting and stopping the slideshow, along with a download button to save the photo to your iPhone’s Camera Roll, and basic forward and backward navigation buttons.
Unfortunately, that’s it: there are no other browsing options, no uploading features, and no nearby features — the app simply shows photos, grouped into sets, from specific usernames. Unlike Fotomatic, MoPhoTo does not download the albums for offline viewing. MoPhoTo is free, and doesn’t claim to do more than it does, but its abilities are few in number, and with more complete applications such as Klick available for free, it falls short of even our limited recommendation. iLounge Rating: C.
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