Editorial: We Need Better Photo Sharing & HTC’s Zoe Is Pushing The Envelope

Camera phones have been around for ages, so the concept of sharing photos and videos digitally is not new at all. But over the years the most popular way of sharing photos continues to be email. There is Facebook, but for times when you want share only with a select few most people choose email. Things like private albums in Flickr and Picassa exist, but that’s not exactly being intuitive.

The problem with email, and even Facebook is that you are bound by the their interface, there is no room to becoming creative. There is no real way to show your media off remotely and beautifully at the same time. Therefore when Apple launched Journals with iPhoto on the iPhone and iPad, I bought the app for that functionality alone. Essentially, all you do is select a bunch of photos, pick a theme and hit create Journal. The app automatically creates a collage which you can edit, add captions, location etc to and share. The sharing is handled via iCloud, and in the end you get a link that you can share with friends and family. Only those people with the link – can see the collage. For example, this is a collage of pictures in San Francisco that I made in less than 5 minutes.

This functionality hasn’t really gone anywhere since it first came out. I’d hoped Apple would bring it to iPhoto for the Mac, but that hasn’t happened yet. Nor is there video support.

HTC Zoe Sample

Enter HTC. They’ve finally pushed the envelope further with the Zoe functionality on the impressive HTC One. In the Zoe mode, the camera takes a 3 second HD video containing 20 images. The result is that if you open the Gallery and look at photos you’ve taken, its like you’re living in Harry Potter land where photos move. Think of it as a Vine, but without the effort. Infact, the best part about HTC’s Zoe is that it takes editing out of the equation. So at the end of a trip, your photos in the Gallery will be sorted by events and opening each event will show you a 30 second highlight reel using using the photos and video that you took at a particular location. You can the  edit this if you like, but since HTC adds the fancy transitions on its own – chances are it’ll already look quite good.

Its all very well to see great looking Zoes on the HTC One itself, but concern was as to how would HTC take this experience and make it social? Fortunately, they haven’t disappointed. You can simply share it using a brand new service called Zoe Share, which is hosted by HTC. Just like iPhoto’s journal you’ll get a link at the end that can be opened on a phone, tablet or PC.When you open the Zoe link, the video buffers and you’re shown the same 30 second highlight reel that would have been visible on the phone, after that the screen turns into a collage like the one above. The top left corner gives you information about the number of Zoe’s, videos and photos in the share and you can then look at them individually. What is also cool is that the Zoe’s keep looping (remember a Zoe’s like a 3 second video clip), making the entire page feel very modern, and lively. A far cry from zipping photos and emailing them, or looking at them in a bland Flickr or Facebook gallery.

I haven’t gone into detail about what else HTC’s Zoe implementation can do – remove unwanted object, change faces etc (similar to Smart Shoot on Nokia Lumias) or the other million things the software can do as this post is about sharing. While this Zoe Share implementation has it own set of challenges, like needing a high bandwidth, its certainly pushing the envelope further.

Here are a few sample Zoe Shares, 1, 2, 3. Let us know what you think.