Review: Joby Gorillamobile for iPhone 3G / 3GS, iPod touch
As Joby specializes in making flexible camera mounts for cameras -- "Gorillapods," they're generally called -- there was a certain inevitability to the release of a version for the iPhone, albeit of course under a different and less Apple Legal-provoking name. Thus, we have Gorillamobile, now sold in separate $40 versions for the iPhone 3G/3GS and iPod touch, each bundling an all-black plastic and rubber tripod, a soft touch rubber-coated device-specific plastic shell, and three alternate plastic tab mounts together.
In each package, the general idea is the same: the real reason to buy it is the tripod, which has legs that can be contorted to wrap around pipes or other objects, enabling you to position your device’s screen and/or camera in places that might otherwise not be reachable. The company’s web site shows the tripod wrapped around a stroller handle, an umbrella, and the top of an airplane seat as examples of how it can be used to snap pictures or display on-screen content at unusual angles, in each case being used with a device that uses the included plastic shell as a holder.
Joby’s iPod touch and iPhone shells do fit their respective devices, but offer only token protection, with generous spaces to expose the buttons and ports on each device, and no screen protection in either package. The shells thus appear to be there solely to serve as mounts for the iPhone and iPod touch, not as full-time cases, which is our primary issue with the design: it largely assumes that the user isn’t using a case. If you want to use Gorillamobile with a third-party-encased device, you can attach one of the adhesive and plastic tabs to the rear of your preferred case—a solution that works only to the extent that you want to keep that tab on there for a while, which we wouldn’t. The third tabbed mount in each package also has a screw in the bottom that will fit most digital cameras, a boon for those who have better-than-iPhone photographic gear to use with the tripod.
Considered solely on the strength of the items in each package, Gorillamobile would only be of modest interest to most iPhone and iPod touch users. The touch version was apparently conceived amidst rumors that Apple was planning to add a video camera to that device, but a last-minute part problem stopped that from happening, and thus the only value this version has is as an unusual-angled screen or desk mount. By contrast, the more clearly useful iPhone version normally would be a challenge to actually handle, as iPhone cameras have no timers and require manual shutter depression—thus, even if you could place the iPhone someplace interesting with the Gorillamobile mount, you’d need to actually press the button yourself to take a picture there.
Joby solves this problem with a free iPhone-only application called Gorillacam, which was just updated this month to respond to user complaints regarding usage analytics tracking—the app no longer does this. Gorillacam adds a variety of different and generally positive features to the iPhone 3G and 3GS still cameras, enabling them to have 3- to 90-second countdown timers, a sliding digital zoom, an on-screen bubble level that works in portrait or landscape modes, a grid, and other features.
The current version of the app also includes support for either 3GS tap-to-focus or a “press anywhere” shutter button, anti-shake assistance, a working time-lapse feature, and a three-shot burst mode. It can save photos at the 3GS’s maximum 3-Megapixel resolution, the 3G’s 1600x1200 resolution, or at a smaller 800x600 resolution. There aren’t any video-specific features in the application, however; those interested in shooting 3GS videos can position the camera, turn it on, and then edit down the footage.
Video support aside, Joby’s additional still camera features are so useful that they literally justify the iPhone 3G and 3GS version of Gorillamobile—the app is worth downloading even if you’re not going to use it with the tripod. On the other hand, the accessory is considerably less useful without the application, and at $40 feels overpriced as a mere desk stand or stroller holder, the reason the iPod touch version rates significantly lower than the otherwise very similar iPhone one. We offer a general recommendation of the iPhone 3G/3GS version to users who are interested in the unique functionality of this camera mount and are willing to either use Joby’s iPhone shell as necessary or attach the adhesive tabs to their case of choice. If there was a full and well-designed case in each package, we’d be more enthusiastic in using and recommending both products.