Confession: I was wrong about the iPad and Cameras


When I bought my iPad, I boldly declared that I didn’t need a camera–front or rear–as such a thing was unnecessary. I was wrong, certainly about the front camera, and probably about the rear camera.

Since the release of the iPhone 4, there are at least four iPhone 4s in my extended family. I’ve used the iPhone 4 to video conference home to my wife and two-year old son on those nights I’m stuck at school and can’t come home to tuck him in to bed and say our prayers together. As a dad, that is a significant and irreplaceable piece of technology. My only gripe is that it doesn’t work (officially) over 3G, so if I’m somewhere without wi-fi (such as at our Solo and Ensemble Contest last night), I can’t place a video call home.

We’re also using FaceTime to call home to my parents, who also have an iPhone 4. As they live nearly 300 miles away, it is significant for them to see our children at those special moments. Again, an irreplaceable piece of technology. As the MasterCard commercials say, “Priceless.”

Video conferencing isn’t a new concept. When I taught in the Dominican Republic in 1996-1997, my parents and I communicated using QuickCam devices and QuickCam servers. Video and audio wasn’t great, but it was a start. And things have improved over the years, to the point that Oprah uses Skype on a regular basis. The iPhone 4 brings it to the next step…you don’t have to be tied to a computer to make a video call. Sure, other companies are doing the same thing, and you can even use other apps on the iPhone to make video calls. But FaceTime is a part of the operating system, and it’s pretty painless to use. Not perfect, of course, but pretty darn acceptable.

I used to think, “How are you going to aim a fixed camera on an iPad for video conferencing?” Now I’m not worried about it. And FaceTime makes just as much sense on an iPad as it does on an iPhone or iPod Touch. For my parents, and for my mom, it makes even more sense, as she’ll see a much larger picture of her grandchildren.

As for that back camera…iMovie changes my thought process completely. No, a 1.2 pound device isn’t going to be great to hold for a long period of time to shoot a video…neither is my iPhone 4 (I’ve done it, by the way). But I’m expecting resourceful people like the gentlemen who created the Glif for the iPhone 4 (a great device, which I carry with my computer bag a at all times) to create a Glif for the iPad, too. That will resolve shooting issues (with a tripod, of course), and people will record movies right into their iPad, and then begin editing. And don’t forget about FaceTime, either, as you can flip from front to back camera as necessary. If you have kids, sometimes you need to flip a lot as you show their grandparents what they are up to.

So, will the iPad become the default video camera of the next generation? Not necessarily. But video editing is going to make it pretty desirable to use for many occasions. It’s another thing that the iPad can do well that doesn’t require the separate purchase of other technology to achieve. That’s been true in many music apps as well(e.g. Symphony Pro has an embedded piano keyboard, so you don’t need to buy an external keyboard like an M-Audio keyboard to enter notes).

It’s going to be fun to see what people can do on the iPad 2, and what other apps will make it even better.

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