T-Mobile Cameo Digital Picture Frame.
Seldom do we [at thinkmore] encounter a modern electronic device that makes us smile. Modern electronic devices are a breed unto themselves – tripping over each other to do everything. A laptop is a phone and fax machine and media center, a phone is an organizer and movie player, a GPS device is all of the above and a heartrate monitor combined, a cup of coffee is also a USB charger – you get the idea. Not many of these devices work well, and even fewer are worthy of being produced, let alone purchased.
Looking around my room, I see a lot of electronic devices – most of which work well enough, so they can be labelled functional [with slight and infrequent hiccups], but none of them have that ultimate resolution and polish that would make them a real pleasure to own and to use. Examples of thoroughly well-considered objects are few and far between, and the T-Mobile Cameo is not one of them – but it is special and worthy of mention.
When first announced late last year, it seemed like a moderately interesting product. Picture frames were getting to be somewhat popular – as companions to the compact digital camera, but not quite. In terms of picture quality alone, these frames left a lot to be desired. Most displays used in these frames were not able to present images in true photographic quality – as such, not worth the $100+ asking price. We were not able to see true usefulness in these devices – a screensaver on a laptop could present pictures just as well, without one having to transfer images to yet another device. Digital cameras themselves had large enough displays for an impromptu slideshow.
The Cameo tried to change all that – this was a frame with its own cellular account [a phone number / SIM card] and email address. Send a picture to this number or address from a phone or computer – the Cameo would add it to its library within minutes, and insert it into a slideshow. Travellers could send back snapshots of their travels on the fly, grandparents could see how their grandchildren were coming along – all without a computer or any fiddling whatsoever. Essentially, if given as a gift, it could be plugged into a wall outlet and left alone. Enjoy the new images that show up automatically, do nothing.
The barrier to entry was the price – $100 for the frame and $120 annually for the service. This has since been rectified – $40 for the device and $24 annually for the service. Having purchased one since this change, I can safely say that this is a truly useful product and fun to use.
Here are the details :
The picture looks smaller with the broad fake leather frame attached – unless you’re fascinated by and attracted to fake leather, relegate it immediately to your recycling bin [for plastics]. If you must have a decorative frame, commission one from your child – crayon and cardboard can work wonders in the right hands.
The Cameo needs a bit of polish to be great – the user interface, the icons, the casework, etc. are perfectly functional, but that’s about it. The hardware works, the network connection works. Obviously, resolved functionality and solid engineering are good things. The role of the ‘designer’, unfortunately, has been limited to that of a cover stylist. The device is just fine without that covering, in an ‘industrial’ / workmanlike sort of way. Sans cover, one may notice that the locations of the screw holes are not symmetrical – perfectly in keeping with the rough-hewn nature of the device. That is how it has been photographed and presented in this post – for glamour shots, please proceed to this address.
This is a perfect for keeping friends / family informed and connected.
Setup is painless. Truly painless [this is a big deal, as any of us who have tried to navigate ‘simple’ setup menus know all too well]. The Cameo is plug and play – literally. It was ready to go right out of the box – all that was needed was a slight lowering of brightness. The brightness controls work in rather large steps – finer gradations would be better.
It is really cool to see a new image pop up by itself, unannounced.
A little green ‘new image’ icon that appears next to new additions.
One cannot send multiple images in one email message – this was a source of some anxiety at first when the images did not appear on the frame, but the issue quickly became apparent.
In terms of time taken for a new image to appear, the frame / wireless service is sensitive to the size of the sent image. Resize before sending [this is easy enough for users of Apple Mail, with resizing on the fly available right in the message window].
For better picture quality, one does need to make sure, again, that the sent pictures are the right size [720X480] or very close – automatic resizing by the frame or by T-Mobile is not great and the drop in quality is readily apparent.
Time taken for new image to show up on frame : 2 minutes [of course, the recipient does not know when it was sent, so does not wait for it].
An ambient light sensor automatically turns the clock on at night – straightforward white numbers on black background. Clock has automatic time setting straight from cell network. Again, painless.
And it’s only $40, with monthly service the same price as one cup of coffee. T-Mobile probably has a reasonable return policy – it couldn’t hurt to try it. Once you do, more likely than not, you’ll keep it.
PS : It’s interesting that so many words needed to be used to describe a good, yet not quite there device. The Cameo is good enough that a case can be made for it, but it is not quite able to speak for itself. In this blog at least, the quality of a product may be judged by the length of the accompanying writing [some good ones here].