Friday, January 09, 2009

Someone please make me a good digital photo frame.

Happy new year! I'm back after a bit of a holiday break. And I've been thinking about digital photo frames. Actually, I've been looking to buy one, as a gift for a friend. And here's what I'm wondering: why aren't there any good ones? I did a careful count - there are 43 million different digital photo frames available. And without exception (so far as I can tell) they all fail spectacularly in one way or another. These design mistakes seem so obvious to me, am I taking crazy pills? Here's what I think a digital photo frame needs:

If you have to stick a memory card into a frame, or physically connect it to a computer, then it's an interesting technological novelty. Geek-minded folks who like messing about with gadgets (OK, I'm one of them) will buy your frame. For themselves. And that's it. In order for a digital photo frame to make the leap from technogadget to common household object, it needs to be able to connect to a WiFi network, and subscribe to a Flickr account, an RSS feed, or similar. Once it can do that, I can buy one for my parents, hang it on their wall, and send pictures to it from half a world away. They don't ever have to think about it as being a scary technological object. They can think of it as - get this - a frame. With a photo in it. A photo that changes periodically, all by itself, and keeps them apprised of what their son is pointing his camera at. (And of course, even if I'm using the frame in my own home, it's just so much easier if I can change what's on it from my laptop and not have to worry about futzing around with the thing directly.)

Aspect Ratio
4:3. That's it. I can repeat it, if that would help: 4:3. There is absolutely no reason a digital photo frame should have an aspect ratio of 16:9. With all due respect to Panasonic, most digital cameras do not shoot 16:9. Of course DSLRs shoot 3:2, so one could conceivably make an argument for that aspect ratio. But a digital photo frame is predominantly a consumer device, and the vast majority of consumer point-and-shoots have an aspect ratio of 4:3. Therefore (and I don't think this is a big leap to make), the frames which display those photos should have an aspect ratio of 4:3.

Keep your logo off of the front of the damn thing. If it's got "Sony" or "Kodak" or "ViewSonic" plastered on the front of the thing, it's out. It's a picture frame, I want it to look like a picture frame. I don't want it to look like my TV. (For that matter, I don't like the logo on my TV either.)

Of course there are a lot of other things I'd like too, but the above three things are the deal breakers. Everything else is gravy. I mean, icing. It should have good picture quality. It should be attractive (that'll obviously mean different things to different people). And if you want to throw in cleverness like a motion sensor that makes it turn on when I enter the room, and turn off when I leave, I won't say no.

There are a few out there that are close, but none that I've found that make it all the way. If any of my legions of readers (all six of you) know of a digital photo frame that they think will meet my three criteria, don't hesitate to let me know in the comments below. Thanks!