Video comes to the 2G/3G iPhones! (sort of…kind of…maybe…)
If, like me, you were caught in mid-contract by the iPhone 3GS release, the one thing you might have missed by not upgrading (besides the overall speed boost) is video recording. You may know that Apple relaxed control over the camera API just before Christmas, in order to approve the Ustream live video streaming app for 2G and 3G iPhones. Of course, just like magic, or like mushrooms (or maybe like magic mushrooms) a whole bunch of Video cam apps have sprung up in the App Store over the past two weeks. It is like they were all there, in the approval process somewhere behind an Apple dam, and suddenly the dam broke, and they are all loose.
Ustream was followed quickly by Qik (sorry) for the 2G/3G iPhones. Both are technically live streaming apps, tied to their respective video sharing services, but both have an off-line mode that allows shooting and saving a video to your iPhone for later upload. Since they are free apps, I tried them both.
Video on a 2G/3G iPhone is limited (so far) to 7 frames per second…so don’t expect high quality. Still, all things considered, both Ustream and Qik do a decent job of capturing and displaying short videos from your phone. The off-line mode is somewhat limited, since you have to upload before you can do much of anything with the videos, but it is there. Both allow auto posting to Twitter, Facebook, etc.
There are now quite a few 99¢ dedicated video recorders for the 2G/3G iPhone in the App store as well. iVideoCamera, iVidCam, Showtime, Camcorder, etc. It has been a moment since I looked so there are probably two more by now. Just like magic mushrooms.
Each has it’s own unique degree of functionality and quirkiness.
IVideoCamera for instance, is one of the few that will save to your Camera Roll or Photos app. Saving to Photos is important, since the Photos app has a built in video editor. iVideoCamera provides easy upload to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitter. However it only shoots 3 frames per second at 160×213. An update is promised that will shoot higher res and 10 frames per second (maybe they know something Apple does not).
iVidCam, which I bought, features a 10x, two finger, zoom, 320×427 video @ 3-7 frames per second, wifi destop transfer, and a YouTube uploader. However, you can not share the video until you upload it, and it does not save to your camera roll…so there is no way to edit the video. In my tests it also produced very choppy video…certainly nearer 3 frames than 7.
Then we have Camcorder for the iPhone, which I also bought. According to the app description, Camcorder shoots 320×426 @ an unspecified frame rate (in my tests, certainly closer to 3 than to 7 frames) and saves to camera roll. Video quality is very similar to iVidCam, and similarly disappointing. You can also email the videos, to yourself (your laptop, etc) or direct to a posting service like Posterous.
Showtime records 320×240 @ 6 fps but in avi format…not in QT. Even though you can email vids out to get them off the iPhone, avi means that you can not send your vid to another iPhone user for viewing. Also it apparently does not save to camera roll. Users are reporting difficulty deleting vids once recorded.
Since Qik Live works well, you can imagine my excitement to see a stand-alone 99¢ Qik VideoCamera app appear in the store. This has all the functionality of the Qik live-stream app in off-line mode (which means decent video and audio quality, including landscape recording), plus it has real-time encoding, really small file sizes, and will save to camera roll for editing. Sharing to Social sites and Qik is promised for a future update. Unfortunately, until Qik adds those features, there is no easy way to get your video off the iPhone, short of a complete sync, since the Photos App does not allow emailing videos, and it is not a feature of Qik. You can, I found by dint of a good deal of experimentation, copy the vid from the player within Photos, and paste it into an email in Mail (only in Mail…it does not work with GMail on Safari or Perfect Browser). I sent video it to myself and it plays fine in Quicktime Player. I have sent it directly to Posterous and it shows up there as a post, but the video plays at double speed while the audio is normal. Very strange. Emailing to self and then uploading to YouTube from the laptop also works. I have not yet got YouTube’s upload by email to work with my iPhone.
So far, both Ustream and Qik offer better video recording, playback and sharing options, albeit tied to their own sharing services. At least they work, which is, so far, a little more than I can honestly say for the stand-alone apps I have tried.
My contract runs out before Apple will release the iPhone 4G next June (if they stay true to form)…so these apps, for me, are a stop-gap anyway. 5mp camera…HD 720 HD video??? Watchawanabet? I can’t wait. But I will have to.
Take a look at these sample vids from the four apps I have on my iPhone right now. (Not the best subject or light…I will replace them when we have better weather.)
And finally a sample on the Qik Live site.