Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Announcing SnapSync

I am pleased to announce the SnapSync public beta. SnapSync synchronizes your photos across all your mobile devices. You can access them on the web, and on your computer.

SnapSync is our attempt at creating the camera of the future. The camera of the future allows you to take photos and have those photos float up to the cloud without your intervention. The camera of the future always shows you every photo you have ever taken.

On Android, SnapSync runs in the background, moving your photos up to the service as you shoot them. On iOS, due to limitations in what Apple allows, SnapSync requires you to run it to synchronize your roll. Hopefully that will change in the future.

We also have a SnapSync desktop client. That client creates a SnapSync directory on your computer that mirrors your mobile roll. When you shoot on your phone, the photos show up in your SnapSync directory. If you put a photo in your directory, it moves to your phone.

You can add multiple devices to your SnapSync account. For example, you can shoot with and Android phone and have those photos show up on your iPad.

SnapSync is free and is in beta today. It does not integrate with Phanfare yet, but that may change in the future depending on what users tell us they want.

You can signup for free at SnapSync.com. You will also be able to download and create an account from the Android and iOS apps when the latest version of those hit the respective app stores. Until then, start on the web and then download the mobile apps.

As always, tell us what you think of SnapSync.

Link Kodak in My Thoughts

The news of Kodak’s impending bankruptcy has stirred up thoughts of my own photographic journey. The first camera I used was my family’s Kodak Instamatic 100. It took 126 cartridges and produced square images that look a lot like Instagram images.

When we visited the national parks in the late 70s, the Instamatic pretty much became my camera. By 5th grade, I was shooting with a Vivitar camera that took 110 cartridges. I did not like the image quality that camera produced with its small little negatives and moved back to using the Instamatic after a while.

I found an old Kodak Brownie deep in my dad’s closet somewhere around 6th grade and was surprised to find out it had some film in it. I believe we had the model F. I used the rest of the film and developed it and got some awesome old family photos from the earlier shots. It was probably my dad’s camera from his childhood. The images on the camera were about eight years old.

I did not own an SLR until high school at Stuyvesant, when I purchased the Pentax K-1000. I shot pretty much exclusively Kodak film, using Tri-X black and white for every day use and Kodachrome slide film on vacation. I tried to get into Fuji Velvia but never could quite do it. I still have boxes and boxes of Kodak carousels filled with photos. And yes, I own a slide projector.

My junior year I became photo editor of my high school newspaper, the Spectator. That gave me the needed excuse to carry a camera every day to school. I also had a darkroom at home and spent many, many hours developing and printing images. Finally senior year I upgraded to a Nikon FG. It was 1985.

I took the ferry every day from Staten Island to Manhattan. The commute was about two hours each way. That provided me with ample photographic opportunities. I was never comfortable taking photos of strangers (street photography), so most of my photos outside of friends were of landscapes.

At Dartmouth I got a part time job shooting sorority formals. My main take-away from that experience is that photos of sorority sisters together without their dates sold a lot better than those with the dates in them.

When I went to Stanford for graduate school in 1989, I took fewer photos initially. But then Kodak started returning CDs of scanned images from film, allowing me to create a website. One of the first every digital photos of me was this one, taken with a Kodak digital camera that Jerry Yang had.

Once I sold my first company in 2000, I bought the camera system of my dreams including a film-based EOS 1v and a bunch of really big Canon lenses. But by then, digital was mainstream and I spent most of my time shooting with a Canon D30 that I bought around the same time. By 2002 I sold my Canon 1v, having probably shot less than 500 photos with it.

In graduate school Mark Heinrich and I used to maintain our own websites of photos so it seemed natural to us that everyone else would want to too. I also worried about losing my digital photos. Hence, Phanfare was born, a combination of archive and presentation system. We started working on Phanfare in early 2003, before facebook was born.

Phanfare reflected my relationship with photography. I had always taken images for myself and to share with a small group of friends and family. I had never considered photography to be art. I think the art comes in the story telling, editing, and compilation of images. Sure a few news photos are incredibly emotional, but still it feels that the photographer witnessed the moment; he did not create it.

I pretty much knew Kodak was going to zero in 2000. I shorted the stock that year, but eventually removed the short because I was afraid they might have some short term success (they didn’t).

As I look back, I ask what Kodak could have done differently. The obvious answer is that they could have become facebook, which is the largest photosharing site in the world. But we all know that was never going to happen. It was not in Kodak’s DNA. Kodak was always about the photos and the photographic technology, not about the people. And Facebook is about the people. The photos are just collateral to help those people tell stories to each other.

Maybe Kodak could have become Canon. Kodak invented the digital camera. Had they plowed all their energy into learning how to do beautiful industrial design, I think that was fully possible. Of course, Canon might have its own troubles in the future with smartphones taking over in the point and shoot space. But they are much healthier today than Kodak.

I just got back from a big trip tot the Galapagos Islands. After slogging it out eight years with Phanfare, trying to create a sustainable service that is both high quality and customer centric, there are days when I don’t really feel like taking photos at all. I took the big camera to the Galapagos because it seemed like too much of an opportunity to not take it. But I also took a little Canon S95 and was perfectly content to shoot with it much of the time.

Of the 1284 photos and videos we took last week, this was probably one of my favorites. My son is developing the photography bug. Happy new year to all.

Link Quick Review of Samsung Charge and Moto Bionic

Since we write mobile software and need to test on a variety of hardware we buy a lot of phones. And I often carry two phones around, an Android device and my iPhone. Sometimes I forward my main number, which is associated with my Verizon iPhone, to my Android device. Alas, I can’t forward the texts.

I am a Verizon customer and typically only carry Verizon phones. I used ATT for three or so years when that was the only way to get an iPhone in the US, but returned to Verizon when I could. Verizon is not perfect and it’s expensive, but they offer by far the best service in the US. Being on Verizon limits me to their Android handsets.

Friends and family who are verizon customers often ask me what phone they should get to replace their aging handset. Short answer today: none. Wait. There are better options coming.

I carried the Samsung Droid Charge for about six weeks before passing it on to someone else at the company. The LTE network was fast, but the phone itself was dog slow. It was slow enough that I had to train myself to pause after taking actions or I would take the same action twice.

Speed was the number one problem on the Charge. People look at me funny when I say that because it’s an LTE phone and we all know that LTE is fast. Yes, LTE is fast, and if you enjoy running speedtest.net on the phone all day to confirm the speed of your local 4G network, then this phone is for you. But if you are hoping to do more than that, say, maybe, read email or browse the web, then you will be disappointed.

Battery life is the second issue on the Charge. It won’t last a day on medium usage. It’s a 3pm phone. That’s a non-starter when I am traveling.

People also rave about the contrast, saturation and viewing angle of the OLED display on the Charge. Yes, those things are all there, but what they forget to mention is the terrible color accuracy and overblown reds that detract from looking at photos on the device.

The weight of the Charge is manageable. Officially it’s 5.0 oz. By contrast, the iPhone 4.8 oz. The size of the phone is significantly larger than the iPhone and not completely comfortable in the hand. It’s hard to reach for some of the bottom buttons. But overall, the Charge has pretty good ergonomics.

Other nice features: you can take a screenshot with the Charge (samsung addition); there is a pretty nice dock that turns the phone into a bedside alarm clock and charges a second battery (which you will need). Samsung puts controls for wifi and bluetooth in the notification bar.

I downloaded and paid for a clean copy of the Android 2.3 keyboard because the 2.2 keyboard that Samsung ships is not great and the phone has not yet been updated to 2.3.

The Droid Bionic I have only had for a few days. It’s heavier than the Charge, coming in at 5.6 oz. The screen has better color rendition, although you can see some pixelation. Viewing angle is inferior.

But the big news with the Bionic is that the phone itself is fast, more than fast enough that I don’t think about the speed.

Moto’s customization of the Android UI is not attractive to me and the phones ships with lot’s of crapware. You can’t remove the crapware unless you root the phone, which I have not done. I downloaded Go Launcher to change the home screen. That made me marginally happier. Battery life is still under review by me but my guess is that it will be a 5pm phone.

The phone feels less plasticy in the hand than the Charge, but the ergonomics are no better and possibly worse with a power button that is on the top left.

Neither of these phones are anywhere near as polished as the iPhone 4 in terms of the physical hardware. We also are running iOS 5 on our iPhones (we are developers) and although we can’t review or talk about any specific features until Apple releases that, Apple is working through the list of shortcomings of the iPhone versus Android that I outlined about one year go.

So as a Verizon customer right now, my recommendation would be to wait. If you love iOS and the iPhone, then the rumors say the iPhone 5 is imminent. If you are a lover of the Robot then wait for the rumored Nexus Prime. I don’t think LTE is worth the sacrifice in battery life, weight and size that it requires today. The rumor is that Apple is not putting LTE into the iPhone 5 and given the battery life, size and weight of the first generation of LTE phones, I think that was a smart decision on their part.

Finally, some will be asking Android vs iOS? What’s better? My feeling is that Apple has the better product. The main deficiency today is the lack of turn by turn navigation, which you can solve by buying a third party GPS app for the iPhone (I bought the TomTom app, which works adequately if not brilliantly;traffic is an added yearly subscription; TomTom customer support, if you have the misfortune to contact them, is HORRIBLE).

Android is also very strong if you are a Google Apps user. The integration with Google Apps makes it an attractive option for those users. If you are a Google apps user on the iPhone, make sure you configure your account as an Exchange account against m.google.com versus setting your account up as a Gmail account. You will get contact synchronization that way.

Link Phanfare Android App Now Includes Musical Slideshows

I am pleased to announce the immediate availability of a new version of the Phanfare Android app that adds album browsing to the mix of features. You can view your albums and browse through photos and videos and play musical slideshows.

The Phanfare Android app also adds a sharing feature to the default photo gallery on Android so that you can push photos and videos to Phanfare.

Please let us know what you think in the comments and let us know if you have any problems. Unlike iOS, Android is fairly fragmented so it’s hard to do a perfect job checking the app on every conceivable device.

Link Announcing Phanfare for Roku

We are pleased to announce that you can now display your Phanfare photos and videos on your TV via a Roku box. Phanfare appears as a channel on your Roku and you can add the channel at no cost.

Roku

On the Phanfare Roku channel, you can browse your photos and play Phanfare musical slideshows.

You don’t need to have a Phanfare account to add the Phanfare Roku channel. Any Phanfare site can be added, provided you know any needed site passwords. Hence, you can setup the Phanfare Roku channel on a friend or family member’s Roku box.

Roku is not the only way to display your Phanfare collection on your living room TV. You can also use Apple TV along with the Phanfare app running on an iOS device.

Displaying a Phanfare photo and video collection on a living room TV always ranks highly in our customer surveys and we are happy to be able to provide another conduit.

Have a Roku box? Let us know what you think of the new Phanfare channel.

Link The Robot Gets Some Love – Announcing Phanfare for Android

We are pleased to announce Phanfare for Android, available immediately in the Android Market.

The Phanfare Android App will allow you to upload photos and videos directly to your Phanfare account from your Android smartphone.

We took a different design approach with our Android App versus our iOS App. Because Android allows tighter integration, we were able to extend the sharing feature built directly into the Android Gallery App to include Phanfare as a destination.

We plan to continue to improve the Phanfare Android App. This first version is just an uploader. We plan to add viewing and controlling of your Phanfare account and eventually will bring the App to parity with the Phanfare iOS App.

Because Android has no review process and we can fix problems much more responsively, you can expect more frequent updates and a little more risk taking on our part in terms of the stability of any given release and potential bugs, especially early on.

Thanks for your patience with us on Android. We heard loud and clear from our customers that it was time to give the green robot some love after focusing exclusively on iOS for nearly three years on the mobile side.

We would love to hear your feedback both in the comments and directly in reviews in the Android Market store.

Link Announcing fbTV, Display Your Facebook Photos via Apple TV

We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of a new Phanfare iOS app, fbTV, which will enable you to show musical slideshows of your Facebook photos on your TV through an Apple TV device.

Here is how it works. You need an Apple TV attached to your TV. Purchase the fbTV app for your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad for $0.99. Using the app, you can browse your Facebook photos and the Facebook photos of all your friends and start musical slideshows on your TV.

You choose the music from the built in music collection on your iPod. The photos appear on the TV and the music comes directly from the TV, all via Air Play.

The app also makes a great little photo viewer for your Facebook photos, even if you don’t have an Apple TV device. It’s a universal app, so you can buy it once and it works on all your iOS devices.

Link Turn on Social Juice Within Your Phanfare Albums

Social Juice
You can now add Facebook Like and Twitter Tweet buttons to your Phanfare site and albums. Your viewers can click on them to share your albums through Facebook and Twitter.

The social links sends the viewer to a particular album, not a particular photo.

All Phanfare security measures stay in place. Hence, if you allow tweeting of your password-protected Phanfare site, you might frustrate anonymous users who click on the link and are then asked for your site password.

Here is how you enable tweeting and liking of your albums (Screenshot for Premium and Pro only, but all accounts have access to the feature).

Link Announcing Feed Mom – Your Mom Will Finally See Your Facebook Photos

Here’s the problem. Your mom is not a facebook user but you are. You upload photos to facebook but she will never see them because even if you create a facebook account for your mom, she is not going to login regularly.

The solution: Feed Mom, a new service from Phanfare that will automatically email your Mom daily with the photos you upload to Facebook. It can also email the photos you are tagged into, with a small delay to let you remove any photos mom should not see.

Feed Mom is free for one email address. You can buy additional email addresses for as little as $0.50 each.

Feed Mom is not really designed for the core Phanfare subscriber, who tends to do his sharing with Mom directly through Phanfare, but instead for all the folks out there who use only Facebook for sharing photos.

Give it a try and tell us what you think.

Link Phanfare Now Available for $29/year

We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of a new tier of Phanfare service priced at $29/year. This level of service, which we just call Phanfare, offers the same great photo and video hosting with musical slideshows, your own URL at phanfare.com and awesome mobile support.

The difference is that the $29/year version does not retain fullsize originals. We have spoken to many customers since we raised our prices last June who tell us that they love Phanfare hosting, but they don’t need us to be a backup of originals.

Good design is about keeping a product as simple as possible while still fulfilling the vision. When we set out to design this new level of service, we thought about what was essentially needed to allow our customers to beautifully tell their story through photos and videos.

To that end, we have removed cnames, album sections, dropbox and multiple subsites. While all these features are cool (and remain in Phanfare Premium and Pro), they complicate the product. We want the $29/year version to be drop dead simple for our customers to use and enjoy. We want to lower the cognitive load of being being a Phanfare customer.

To the eye, the new $29 Phanfare level of service looks nearly the same on the web as the $99 Premium and $199 pro version. The difference is that we don’t store your originals. Also, video is standard def versus HD, but the reality is that many viewers don’t have sufficient bandwidth to stream HD video over the web anyway.

However, we do store your images and videos at Amazon S3, ultra reliable online storage. And although we don’t retain originals, we keep high resolution images that should display well on the web.

We hope you like this new more affordable version of Phanfare. It should make the Phanfare experience accessible to a wider audience.

A note to our existing customers: we did not build a path to downgrade from Phanfare premium to this new $29/year level of service. It’s not a trivial to build. The downgrade would involve removing your originals and removing some features from your account. Let us know if you want to downgrade to the new $29 version. If enough people want it, we will build the conduit.

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