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Sharing Photos on Portable Devices (6/2009)
by Douglas Dixon
Got pics in your pocket? You don't need to carry snapshots in your wallet anymore, much less a photo album in your bag -- That's so last decade!
Today's portable electronic devices can make great photo viewers, some with slideshows and background music. Just add a memory card to your mobile phone, or sync to your iPod, or download to your portable game system, and you can be sharing your wonderful photos (and even videos) with friends and family. And with wireless in some of these devices, you also can browse and share photos online.
Our most accessible device, of course, is the mobile phone. There are some 2 1/2 billion mobile phones worldwide, including at least one in your pocket right now. Your phone probably already has a camera, and can shoot photos (and even videos), albeit at relatively low resolution.
For example, the Verizon Wireless Samsung Flipshot (SCH-u900) is a 3 MP camera phone with a with 180-degree rotating display to fold closed into a traditional digital camera form, with the lens on one side and the display on the back ($149/$99 with service plan).
See Manifest Tech blog - www.manifest-tech.com/blog/2009/04/samsung_flipshot_-_camera_phon.php
Yet while you can send around picture messages from a mobile phone (and upload to photo sharing sites like Flickr via email), it can be painful to move a collection of photos on or off a cell phone.
A better alternative is to take advantage of the memory card slot that is becoming more common on new mobile phones.
The microSD card format is ridiculously small -- the size of a (little) fingernail -- so it can fit onto even miniaturized phones (SD Card Association, www.sdcard.org).
These cards often are packaged with a small USB adaptor, so it's easy to insert them into your computer, drag and drop your favorite images, and then plug into your phone to show off your pictures at your leisure.
And today's cards cram a couple GBs of storage onto a microSD card for under $10, and up to 16 GB for under $100. That's a lot of room for a photo collection.
See Manifest Tech blog - www.manifest-tech.com/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/ddixon/managed-mt/mt-search.cgi?tag=SanDisk
While navigating through large photo collections on a cell phone can be something of a pain, with a small screen and cramped keyboard, more powerful smartphone devices are better equipped to browse and display pictures and slideshows.
For example, there are some 30 million Apple iPhone and iPod touch devices on the market, which can access the Web over the cellular network and/or via a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Whatever device you're packing, including iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, or Windows Mobile smartphones, you can synch photo collections from your desktop, and then display them nicely with the larger screen sizes, often with animated slideshows and background music. With wireless, you also can access online photos at sharing and social media websites, often through a mobile version of the site.
Plus, you can add on third-party applications for more sophisticated photo handling and sharing.
The next most likely device for you to be carrying is probably an Apple iPod or other portable media player. With expanding screen sizes, re-doubling storage capacity, and the processing power to play videos, today's media players can provide a great interface for sharing a photo collection.
See Manifest Tech blog - www.manifest-tech.com/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/ddixon/managed-mt/mt-search.cgi?tag=Players
Unfortunately, media player applications like Apple iTunes and Microsoft Media Player (www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia) are typically focused on organizing and syncing your collections of music and video, and therefore deal with photos somewhat halfheartedly.
Media player applications may have a mechanism to select photos to sync, but you then need to organize and view the collection separately -- as in consumer photo tools like Apple iPhoto (www.apple.com/ilife/iphoto) or Adobe Photoshop Elements (www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel).
One work-around is to directly explore the media player's contents as a mounted disk. On some non-iPod devices your pictures may be stored as plain JPEG files in a "Photo" directory, and you then can drag and drop, organize, and view them directly.
Another alternate approach to portable media players is the E-book reader. Devices like the Amazon Kindle 2 (around $245, ) and Sony Reader Digital Book (around $349, ) can display books and other document files, play audiobooks and music, and display illustrations and photographs -- although not in color, or with motion video. And with built-in cellular data service, the Kindle even has a basic Web browser.
See Manifest Tech blog - www.manifest-tech.com/blog/2009/02/the_amazon_kindle_as_a_mobile.php
You may not have noticed if you're not in the target demographic, but handheld gaming systems have been quite successful. Sony has sold some 50 million of its Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) systems, and Nintendo has sold over 96 million of its Nintendo DS family.
The Sony PSP is a multimedia powerhouse, with a large widescreen display (4.3 inch, 480 x 272), and the ability to buy both games and feature films on Sony's UMD mini-sized (2.4 inch) disc format (www.us.playstation.com/PSP). Or add a Sony Memory Stick card to store and play music, video, and photos. You can adjust images on the PSP, and then play a slideshow with music, on that nice large display that multiple people can actually watch at once.
The new Sony PSP-3000, released late last year at around $199, has an enhanced display and adds a built-in microphone for games with voice input, and for making Skype phone calls. The PSP also supports Wi-Fi wireless networking, so you can browse photo sites directly, enjoy Internet Radio and RSS feeds, share content with your home PlayStation 3, and even watch TV by connecting though a Sony LocationFree Base Station.
Then there's the Nintendo DS line, a very different product concept using a clamshell design with two displays (the bottom is a touch screen). The DS is a game system, with stereo speakers and a built-in microphone, plus built-in Wi-Fi to interact with nearby players and to go online to connect and download new applications.
The new Nintendo DSi, released in April at around $149 (www.nintendodsi.com), has a slightly larger 3.2 inch screen, and adds a SD card expansion slot and two VGA cameras, one facing in for self-portraits.
But the DSi not only for viewing or even sharing your media collections -- It's also about getting creative, adding your own photos, and having fun with them too. You can edit and apply effects to your photos before swapping wirelessly, and play with your music and voice recordings, adjusting speed and pitch and applying filters.
Speaking of portable devices, don't forget your digital camera. With bigger displays and expanding storage capacity (with memory cards up to 32 GB), you can save lots of photos to browse and view on the road. And new cameras make sharing even better.
For better viewing outdoors, the new Samsung TL320 Digital Camera features a 3-inch OLED screen, which is brighter and has more contrast than a traditional LCD display so you can view it even in direct sunlight ($379).
Cameras also are beginning to go wireless. The Sony DSC G3 Cyber-shot Digital Camera has integrated Wi-Fi to upload to photo sharing sites, and an integrated browser to display online galleries on the camera ($499, www.sonystyle.com).
See Manifest Tech blog - www.manifest-tech.com/blog/2009/02/sony_dscg3_wifi_digital_camera.php
Beyond pocket devices, but less than a full-up notebook, is the "Netbook," a new category of devices that looks to be taking off this year. These are basically light and inexpensive notebooks (like 2 to 3 pounds and $300 to $500), which are designed for getting online to communicate, browse, and have fun -- including sharing photos and other media.
The reach these goals, netbooks make some big trade-offs, sacrificing screen size (9- or 10-inch displays), scrunching the keyboard ("92%"), and performance (Intel Atom processor, 1 GB memory, less storage). But they still can play YouTube videos.
But there are a wide range of alternatives within the netbook category, to get you a very portable device that's not much more expensive than a high-end smartphone (and now even are available with discounts from cellular carriers).
For example, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 with a 9 inch (1024 x 600) display is 9.1 x 6.8 x 1.3 inches and weighs only 2.3 pounds, and starts at $279 with 4 to 16 GB of storage on a flash-based solid state drive (SSD).
And the bigger ASUS Eee PC 1000HE has a larger 10 inch display (at the same resolution), and weighs 3.2 pounds, for $389. But it includes a 1.3 MP camera, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, plus a serious 160 GB hard disk drive. And, with aggressive power saving, it's speced to run on the battery for 9 1/2 hours.
These netbooks typically run good old Windows XP, and / or Linux, so you can still work in your familiar environment, albeit sometimes a bit sluggishly, as long as you aren't trying to do serious video editing or the like.
See Manifest Tech blog - www.manifest-tech.com/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/ddixon/managed-mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=netbook
With so many options for displaying your photos and other media on portable devices, the remaining issue is how to convert your files to best match your specific devices. Yes, most devices can display JPEG images, but it makes sense to shrink your original 10 MP photos down to better match the tiny display on your cell phone, so they transfer faster and take less storage. And with big video files, you really need to downsize to a lower resolution, and then not only convert to a supported format (such as MPEG-4), but the required options within that format.
The trick, then, is to understand what formats are supported by your particular devices. You can use your photo editing software to resize your images for the device, and many video editing tools have built-in presets to export videos in compatible formats for devices like the iPods and the PSP. For example, the Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 and Adobe Premiere Elements 7 applications can push photos and clips to online storage on Photoshop.com, to share and access over the Web, and use Photoshop Mobile to upload, view, and share photos from your mobile phone.
See Manifest Tech blog - www.manifest-tech.com/blog/2008/09/summary_adobe_premiere_element_1.php
Some media player applications can convert formats as required by the specific device (iTunes has an option to Create iPod Version, and Windows Media Player can convert while syncing some devices), and some products come with company-specific media software such as Creative Centrale (www.creative.com/getstarted/zenmozaic) and Samsung EmoDio (www.emodio.com).
Or check out Nero Move it, which has built-in support for mobile phones, PDAs, media players, game systems, and even digital cameras and camcorders. It not only can covert your media files to the appropriate formats, but it also transfers the files to the device, and to online communities ($29 download).
See Manifest Tech blog - www.manifest-tech.com/blog/2008/10/nero_move_it_convert_and_trans.php
So choose your device, and have fun sharing your photos and other clips on the go.
Just be kind to your audience and please try to stifle the desire to actually show off all of your thousands of photos at one time...