The holidays are an ideal time to use your iPhone’s video capability to catch your nephew freaking out over a Wolverine Electronic Battle Claw — or maybe some bad behavior at the office Christmas party. But don’t expect to live stream any of this footage unless your iPhone’s jailbroken.
For non-jailbroken phones, true live streaming remains in App-Store limbo — a potential source of major Android envy, since Android phones, including Motorola’s new Droid phone, don’t have the same barrier. But if you are on a non-jailbroken iPhone, there are a couple of services available to help you share video quickly.
Qik for iPhone: Dead Simple
Qik provides a dead-simple user experience to shoot, upload, and share video. Setting it up requires a tiny amount of effort: via the phone you can register and instantly shoot and share video that will be immediately viewable at the Qik site. You must log in via the website to enable Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sharing.
Beyond these initial set-up tasks, design minimalism rules this superb, simple app. Once you shoot video, the upload to the Qik site happens immediately — a nice piece of by-the-horns automation that eliminates hand-wringing as to whether you have time for the upload.
Then Qik offers a simple push-button interface to publish to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, which posts a link to the video hosted at the Qik site. Additional features use GPS tracking to show where the video was shot.
iPhone, Ustream, WeLike
Hot on the heels of Qik is a robust Ustream Recorder app that reproduces many of the same features, albeit without the elegant interface. After a quick in-phone registration, which requires a birth date, users can shoot video and upload to the Ustream site, as with Qik. As with Qik, enabling Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter sharing again requires set up via the mother website.
Ustream lacks Qik’s pick-and-choose interface, in which users can elect to share video on one platform but not another. Instead, Ustream automatically uploads everything immediately to pre-chosen destinations. Some users might miss Qik’s ability to control their audience — say, sharing a video just with friends on Facebook without broadcasting a link publicly on Twitter. But bulk users looking for a near-live experience will be happy to shoot and upload without finicky extra options.
Ustream’s Recorder is complemented by a Viewer app, that gives you the ability to view content from the company’s well-known live-streaming website.
Christmas: Red and Green with Android Envy
The above apps allow for a near live, shoot-and-share experience. And that’s well and good — until you see live broadcasting apps from both companies, available on jailbroken iPhones, as well as Android and Nokia devices. As broadcasting-enabled devices like the Droid gain market share, expect iPhone owners’ lower lips to drop in the biggest case of phone envy since Google’s free Android-only GPS.
With the amazing Ustream Broadcaster, currently in private beta, iPhone and Android users can initiate a live broadcast, see ongoing viewer chat, and even initiate live polls for chat-room members. See Ty of tysiphonehelp.com offer a demo of the app. For Qik, you may want to check out Steve Garfield shocking an ABC News crew by doing everything they do with just his phone (or just check out Kevin Rose enthusiastically demoing the pre-release app).
Unsurprisingly, both apps remain in App Store purgatory. If AT&T trembled at MMS on the iPhone, it’s unlikely to give the nod soon to broadcasting, the ultimate bandwidth hog.
However both Qik and Ustream do offer broadcaster apps on Android Market, as well as for several Nokia devices. Hard-core broadcasters may want to check out a head-to-head smackdown with a pair of Nokia N95s, in which Ustream got the jump on Qik in minimizing lagtime between shooting video and seeing it live on the web. For jailbroken iPhones there’s also Bambuser and longtime player Flixwagon.
Knocking, Fring, and WiFi to the Rescue?
Knocking — a brand-new and App Store-approved entrant — has made big steps to overcoming live 3G broadcasting hurdles by offering a peer-to-peer service that transmits live video from one iPhone to another. While this technically makes Knocking a calling app, as opposed to a sharing one, I assume it’d be possible to build out broader broadcasting functionality.
Of course, another approach is just to compromise, circumventing a weak 3G network and allow live broadcasting strictly via WiFi connections instead. Curiously, no apps yet offer this soluton, and app designers I spoke to declined to comment on why, citing it as an App Store process issue.
However, this week all-around communications utility Fring brought a ray of hope to the problem by adding capability to receive live video calls from Skype, as in this demo. A WiFi-only solution, Fring shows that live broadcasting could circumvent the 3G network and provide a compromise alternative in the near future.
Despite the company’s enterprise focus, Kyte offers a Producer app that doubles as an excellent shoot-and-share product for consumers. The bare-bones app rivals Qik in ease and simplicity and requires no set-up trips to the Kyte website. Advanced users will moan that the application currently lacks the ability to share via Facebook, YouTube or Twitter — but intelligently Kyte emphasizes the one sharing tool that all users will understand, e-mail. An Android Producer app is expected soon.
Kyte’s Producer app integrates into its intricate video platform, which has long offered customizable video players for corporate customers like ESPN and Armani Exchange. The unified platform offers additional broadcasting controls that would keep an employee from tarnishing the brand with inappropriate content.
A video counterpart to the 146-character brevity of Twitter, 12Seconds allows for shooting and sharing videos limited to (yes) 12 seconds. Most will want to avoid the original “12Seconds” bare-bones app — a simple early release while the App Store dithered on approving other video products. This original app only allows for the uploading of images and recorded sound, providing a kind of video slide show.
Instead you’ll want the 12Mail Video Messenger, which sends video messages to Facebook and Twitter contacts much like you’d send texts to a friend. A 12UP app simply uploads video to the 12Seconds site, posting a Twitter link at the same time.
Both well-designed apps are functional and provide a potentially superior alternative to MMS. However new users will need time getting used to shooting in very short bursts — trickier than it sounds. Those looking to shoot a two-hour holiday documentary will have to go elsewhere.
Other Players: Follow or Wait?
Major players yet to enter the iPhone video space face the uncomfortable dilemma of spending to establish a presence with yet another shoot-and-share app — or waiting for the gates to open for live broadcasting, which doesn’t promise to happen anytime soon. Searches for recorders for Livestream, Brightcove, Magnify, Kaltura, Stickam, and Ooyala on Apple’s App Store turned up nothing (although Qik users can publish to many of these platforms). Seesmic is offering Android and Blackberry viewing-only apps at press time.
Long a staple in the desktop broadcast-yourself category, Justin.tv has yet to unveil either a sanctioned or jailbroken broadcasting iPhone app, although VP of Marketing Evan Solomon reports that a viewing app is in development. Solomon points out a key problem for broadcasting sites — while non-live clips are a mainstay at YouTube and Facebook, they constitute a tiny percentage of views on live-oriented sites like Justin.tv. As such, the shoot-and-share approach of current sanctioned apps provides marginal benefit to Justin.tv users.
Of course, an ideal app for video sharing on Facebook might be the Facebook app itself. With Facebook video growing like mad, we expect broadcasting to be integrated into the Facebook app as the network issues sort themselves out.
Conquering the Natives
Until then, sanctioned app developers like Qik, Ustream, Kyte and 12Seconds face one last daunting challenge — winning casual users away from the iPhone’s already-installed native application. All of the above apps require registration before shooting video, not to mention the web-site-only step of setting up additional platforms. Conversely Apple’s native iPhone suite lets users shoot, register, and publish to YouTube with a new phone out of the box.
While advanced users will quickly be converted, general consumers will not. Much like MMS, shoot-and-share video remains a specialty application, whipped out for parties, sporting events, or for showing your wife that lawn-chair you’re about to buy at Home Depot. Until usage spikes dramatically — and native-app limitations prompt users to look elsewhere — one expects Apple’s standard package to dominate.
But things will definitely get interesting once Qik or Ustream escape App Store limbo — even if it’s only with a WiFi-compromise solution. The initial introduction of the 3G S triggered a 400% increase of uploaded cell video at YouTube. A WiFi compromise might well trigger a second hockey-stick moment, as live broadcasting at last graduates from its current specialty existence.
[Image credit: www.telegraph.co.uk]
Don’t miss MobileBeat 2010, VentureBeat’s conference on the future of mobile. The theme: “The year of the superphone and who will profit.” Now expanded to two days, MobileBeat 2010 will take place on July 12-13 at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Early-bird pricing is available until May 15. For complete conference details, or to apply for the MobileBeat Startup Competition, click here.