Friday, April 26, 2013

iPhone vs Android - Photos (Part 4)

I can't remember exactly when it happened, but it happened fairly quickly. I just stopped carrying my camera around. Perhaps it was a couple of years ago, it doesn't matter. But, what is important is that before that I always had my camera with me. It was just something I did. That's why I liked the small pocket size cameras with as good video as possible (I had a Sanyo which was a pistol grip, pocket size and shot HD quality when most people didn't even know what it meant).

There were a couple of things that spurred me to do this. First was the ease of sharing. No more copying photos over to the computer, organizing, editing and then uploading. One click of the button and my photos were shared with Facebook, PhotoBucket etc. Second was the fact that my phone had a built-in GPS which meant I could always see where my photo was taken - so many times before when we traveled I forgot where the photo was taken. Thirdly, it was just pure convenience. One less thing to carry. According to CNET, almost one third of all photos taken are with Smartphones, up 10% from the previous year, mostly at the expense of point-and-shoot cameras.

So what does this mean in the context of iPhone vs Android? For me it means that the way phone camera's quality, ease of use and management / sharing of photos is very important. So let's take each of these in turn.

Camera Quality

On paper, they both seem very similar. Both have an 8MP camera and shoot video at 1080p and 30 fps.   But a long time ago I learned that you can't judge a camera on paper and the same goes here. Let me share with you a photo that I took here in Goshen and you'll see what I mean.

Motorola MAX HD
iPhone5
It's hard to compare photo quality on a website since the browser distorts colors and the quality is reduced for loading times (click on each photo to download the original photo). So now we get personal as a lot of this is subjective. BUT, first of all, the Droid is widescreen, which I prefer. Secondly, the clarity seems better if you look at the clock face, but most importantly, the colors seem brighter and more vibrant. In fairness, this is done in software and can be compensated for by transferring your photos to a computer, but as I've already described, it's rare that I do that now.

Ease of Use

This is where it starts to get interesting. First of all, the iPhone5 allows quick access to your camera without having to unlock your phone. On the Droid, you have to first unlock your phone, go to the home screen if you're not already there and then go into your Camera.









Once the camera is loaded, the Droid does offer many more features such as Night Portrait and Sunset as well as prompting you to switch to HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode if needed. On the other hand, sometimes my phone says "Cannot initialize camera" and won't let me take any photos without re-booting which is REALLY annoying. Other times it decides it doesn't want to make the shutter noise or update the little photo with a picture of what it's taken. The iPhone5 is therefore much more reliable as a camera.

Photo Management

iPhone

The iPhone makes managing and sharing your photos very easy. If you have a Mac computer, you just connect your iPhone to the computer and it will bring up iPhoto to transfer, store, manage, edit and share your photos. iPhoto comes free on a Mac and works pretty well (easier to use than Picasa, but that's not a very high bar). If you have a PC, I understand that you just connect it and it mounts as a drive so you can use your program of choice to transfer the photos (or Microsoft's own if you want to live dangerously). If you don't have a computer, or just don't want the hassle of transferring your photos, you can enable iCloud (Settings / iCloud and then turn on Photo Stream. This will automatically download  all your photos with all your Apple devices (other iPhones, iPads or Macs running the latest OS). You can view these online although in my opinion, it is a little complicated and there are much better ways of doing it such as Facebook or Photobucket.

Android

The Motorola Razr Max has a microSD card on which you can store your photos, but you have to tell it to save them to that card (Camera App / Settings / Storage Location). I would recommend this for as number of reasons. First, if your camera has a melt-down, you can always pop out your card to get your photos and nothing is lost. Secondly, it makes it easy to expand your phones storage or put in a new card if you're on a trip and need more space. Thirdly, you can use the card to transfer the photos to your computer (cumbersome, but it works).

To transfer your photos physically to your computer, plug in your phone and it will mount as a drive and pull up your program of choice to transfer your files. A more elegant way is to turn on the Google+ photo share (Settings / Accounts / Google / Google+ / Instant Upload). The nice thing about this is that it will automatically upload your photos (at full resolution) to your Google+ photo account. You probably don't realize that you have one, but if you have an Android phone, trust me, you do. Any photos that get uploaded are PRIVATE. They CANNOT be seen by anyone unless you go in and share them. This makes it very easy to not only share your photos, but have them as a backup. In my opinion, this is a better solution than Apple's Photostream which can get confusing. Not that this will also work for videos, but can be data hungry so watch your plan!

The one big downside that I haven't mentioned is the speed of the camera. On my Droid, it is SO slow, especially compared to the iPhone5. In a quick experiment I was able to take 35 photos on the iPhone in 30 seconds vs 15 on my Droid. Roughly speaking, that's more than twice the speed. Not a biggie, but it can be important when trying to get the right photo for example with children or animals etc.

Summary

I'm in a quandry. I like my Droid's color balance, widescreen format, options (sunset etc), SD card, and Google+ integration, but I hate it's unreliability, speed and clumsiness. On the other hand, the iPhone is easier to use as a camera and faster, but lacks some of the Droid's features. Perhaps the Samsung Galaxy overcomes some of the Motorola's short comings. Perhaps I need a third phone? If you have a Samsung Galaxy, let me know what you think of it as a camera.

It's worth mentioning that Samsung has a phone / camera hybrid called the Samsung Galaxy Camera EK-GC100 which is like an Galaxy phone melded with a point-and-shoot camera. It has built-in connectivity via AT&T or WiFi and all the cool features of an Andoid phone including editing with apps and uploading to Facebook, Google+ etc. But then it's back to carrying a phone and a camera. Ahhhhhh!