The Apple Watch Will Ship in April

During Apple's 2015 Q1 earnings call, CEO Tim Cook announced that the company's latest project, the Apple Watch, will begin shipping in April of this year. Here's an excerpt from Cook's prepared statement:

Development for Apple Watch is right on schedule, and we expect to be shipping in April. Developers are hard at work on apps, notifications, and information summaries that we call Glances, all designed specifically for the watch’s user interface. The creativity and software innovation going on around Apple Watch is incredibly exciting, and we can’t wait for our customers to experience them when Apple Watch becomes available.

The watch drops just two months before my birthday, so...

Six Pop Country Songs Mashed into One

Musician Gregory Todd (a.k.a. Sir Mashalot) noticed that there is a serious lack of creativity in today's Country music, so he took six popular songs and mashed them up into one to prove the point. Todd is careful to point out Pop Country is hardly the only genre guilty of this:

I just want to be clear that this Mashup is all in good fun. I am not bashing these songs. I understand and even appreciate why the “formula” continues to dominate the airwaves- not only in country music, but in pop and other genres as well.

I'm not a fan of Country music as-is, but it is pretty mind-blowing that these six songs could be made to sound so much like one.

McDonald's “Archenemies” is Advertising Gold

This caught my eye during an NFL Playoffs commercial break. McDonald's latest TV spot, titled "Archenemies", features a number of iconic adversaries playing nice to the ebullient tune "Love is Endless" by Mozella. The spot's light-hearted tone, clear message, and smart pop culture references are topped off by its modern aesthetic style.

I'm lovin' it.

A Losing War is Being Waged on Apple Pay

Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a consortium of retailers responsible for blocking Apple Pay from stores like CVS, BestBuy, and Wal-Mart, is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. 

currentc-820x420.jpg

MCX is blocking Apple Pay in favor of its own payment system, CurrentC (goofiest name ever), which isn't set to launch until some time next year. Despite its pre-launch status, the system has already been hacked, leaking email addresses of beta testers. 

If that wasn't bad enough, CurrentC's iOS app has been hijacked by fans of Apple Pay. At the time I'm writing this, the app has been rated 3079 times with 3047 of those being 1-star reviews.

currentc_appstore

This week, Wal-Mart released a statement, trying (and failing) to explain the disabling of Apple Pay. However, as many of pointed out: this "war" against Apple Pay is one they won't win.

Wal-Mart (Poorly) Explains Apple Pay Ban

Wal-Mart gives Business Insider an explanation for disabling Apple Pay:

Ultimately, what matters is that consumers have a payment option that is widely accepted, secure, and developed with their best interests in mind.

Because nothing says "best interests" like banning your customers' preferred method of payment.

Mini Cooper Mk VII

My latest set from LEGO, the Mini Cooper MK VII, is a gorgeous replica of the classic Mk VII, from the racing stripes, the detailed interior, and the iconic white roof and mirrors. The 1077 piece set comes with a spare tire (tucked away in the trunk) and a picnic basket, complete with wine, cheese, baguette, and checkered picnic blanket. Click on the thumbnails to get a closer look.

Into The Storm

A few nights ago, our area was hit by a monster storm. Featuring over sixty minutes of incredible, strobing lightening, deafening thunder claps, wind, rain, and hail, the storm was a truly spectacular show unlike anything I'd seen before.

So, naturally, I grabbed my iPhone and began to shoot. Throw in some eerie, atmospheric music, some strategic editing, and you get this short film lazily titled, The Storm.

Why I Love Picturelife

I have spent many hours (and dollars) in a multi-year journey, searching for a photo storage solution that was well designed, affordable, private, and jam-packed with features. I came very close once or twice, believing I'd found the answer, the golden cup of cloud-based photo storage applications, only to be disappointed. 

A Brief History

These days, the "cloud" is a household term, but my photo-storage journey began around the time a little company called Dropbox launched, offering cloud storage at a fair price, that would sync seamlessly across my devices. Dropbox's unique business made me aware of a need that I never knew I had: the need to backup and organize my photos online.

I realized quickly that, as good as Dropbox was for storing files, it really didn't work for photos. The cost-per-gigabyte was too high, and there were too few organization options.

Then there was Everpix. A service, developed by ex-Apple employees, that gave me (most) of what I was looking for. Unfortunately, Everpix was abruptly shut down, leaving many of its users without an online home for their photos, again.

In the wake of losing Everpix, I continued my search for the elusive photo storage solution. I tried a few more services, but they all fell short in some way or another.

That was when I found Picturelife.

picturelife1.png

What I Love about Picturelife

Pricing & Storage Capacity

When I started using Picturelife, the pricing model was fair. With a free tier that offered 5GB of storage, a $7/mo. for 100GB option, and a $15/mo. for 300GB option, the pricing and storage capacity weren't a deterrent, but they weren't really a selling point either.

Pricing is difficult because I, as a consumer, am stuck somewhere between wanting to get as much as I can for as little as possible and wanting to support developers that make great software so the software doesn't go away (see Everpix).

Recently, however, Picturelife announced new pricing plans, offering 8GB for free as well as a 25GB solo plan and 100GB family plan. The kicker, though, was an all new unlimited plan for just $15/mo., the same dollar amount I'd been paying for 300GB. As part of the new pricing model, the user can now add up to 5 fully-functional, individual "family" accounts under one umbrella Picturelife account that all share the unlimited plan. That was huge. I knew that if Picturelife was to become a legitimate long-term option for me, there needed to be massive storage potential at an affordable cost.

Now pricing is one of Picturelife's most attractive features (and that's saying a lot).

RAW File Support

I am a DSLR owner and I like to shoot in RAW format. Not only does Picturelife allow RAW files to be uploaded and stored, but it adds a handy little “RAW” icon to image thumbnails. I haven't found a practical problem that this feature solved for me, but being able to differentiate between RAW and other formats feeds my obsessive compulsive attitude toward photo organization. 

Image Editing

I don't use Picturelife's built-in photo editing feature often (mostly due to the fact that I've invested heavily in Lightroom and the Nik Collection of photo filters), but it is a great feature to hang their hat on (and market the product with), harnessing the fantastic web editing tools by Aviary.

Sharing

Picturelife clearly made sharing a high-priority, allowing users to share photos in many different ways. There's the obvious ability to post to a social network through the application, as well as the ability to add contacts and organize them as friends, family, etc., then share albums or individual photos by group, or individual. Pictures can be favorited and commented on by people with whom the images are shared, which adds a small, effective social aspect to the service.

Photo Organization

One of my biggest complains about Everpix was a lack of granular organization options. Everpix offered a lot of innovative “smart” sorting, but very few manual organization options. This was a big deal for me. Picturelife offers "smart" sorting features, but also allows me to create albums, add descriptions and captions to individual photos as well as groups, add tags to images, and even view one gigantic list of "All Photos" or the most "Recent Photos" that have been added. 

Robust organization features were a key part of whether a photo-storage service could be considered a long-term investment for me; Picturelife fills that need.

Memories

One of the smart-sort options that Picturelife offers is the “Memories” section, an overview page that shows photos of “people that need to be tagged”, or from “Spring 2014”, or “Disney Last Summer”. The best part os "Memories" is that it changes every time you reload, so there's always something new to look at.

The iOS app also gives you a fun “this day in history” review of older images, which I've found is one of the easiest ways to "sell" the service to friends and family. It's a delightful feature.

memories.png

Mobile!

Speaking of iOS: An application may be great on the web or on the desktop, but if they don't have an equally impressive mobile presence, I can't see myself buying in for the long-term.

Picturelife, who has had great iOS apps since I've been a user, recently released a new pair of native apps for iOS, built from the ground up, that offer a faster, more streamlined experience. Now I have access to my entire library of photos and video without filling up my iPhone or iPad's disk space.

Seamless Syncing

Picturelife makes syncing images a seamless experience. Whether using the auto-upload feature on iOS to make sure every shot I snap on my iPhone is backed up, uploading a large folder of RAW photos via the lightweight Picturelife Mac app, or importing photos added to social networks into Picturelife, the application makes backing up your photos to one place, seamless.

Awesome Support

Whether due to feature-requests or bug reports, I've needed to contact Picturelife support on a number of occasions. Each time, I've encountered a responsive, and friendly, support rep who obviously enjoys their job.

Story time: Once, I responded to a short survey asking my thoughts on Picturelife. I didn't have much time to expound, so I simply wrote “<3 Picturelife”, thinking nothing of it, and especially not expecting a response. Less than 24 hours later, however, I received an email in response to the survey feedback from Nate Westheimer, Picturelife's CEO, which read:

“Picturelife <3 Jon”

Though the message probably took no thought and less that 5 seconds to write, that small gesture, from someone with many more important things to do than email me, was a delightful experience.

Robust Search

Another killer feature is Picturelife's search functionality. Search by date, location, tag, name, or any number of criteria and get an accurate page of photo results. This has come in handy on many occasions and I couldn't live without it.

Video Support

If Picturelife was only a photo-storage service, it would be a fantastic product; but they didn't stop with just still images.

Picturelife also fully supports HD video, allowing you to not only capture a moment in time, but many moments all at once at 30fps. This feature makes the new unlimited plan even more valuable.

picturelife_videos.png

What I Don't Love

For as much as I love Picturelife, it isn't perfect (at least not yet). The rest of the list is fairly nit-picky; either bugs I hope Picturelife will soon fix or features I hope they'll soon add.

Metadata Editing

I have a lot of old photos in Picturelife that were scanned into digital format. Unfortunately, without correct metadata, Picturelife's “smart” sorting is incorrect, telling me that a photo of me as a 3-year-old is from 10 years ago (I'm 30). I wish there was a way edit basic photo data like location, time, and date; an ability to edit deeper Exif data wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

“Photos with people who need to be tagged”

One issue that I haven't quite been able to resolve, even after contacting support a couple times, involves the “people who need to be tagged” smart sort in the "Memories" tab. This worked great, until recently, when it seems to have gotten stuck on a group of images, all of which have been properly tagged. Nothing seems to be able to reset the section, allowing for a new set of photos that need to be tagged (of which there are many in my library). I currently have an outstanding request to Picturelife to look further into the problem and I'll update this post as we make progress.

Friend & Family Streams

Now I'm just nit-picking: As part of Picturelife's strong focus on sharing, a Friend Stream and Family Stream are displayed prominently on the web app, displaying any photos that contacts marked as either friends or family have shared. Unfortunately, none of my contacts have shared anything, so the "stream" options take up space in the navigation, but have no role (or value) to me as a user. I'd love it if Picturelife would auto-hide the streams if no images are present.

Duplicate Detection

Picturelife's de-dup feature works, and is helpful, but it isn't perfect. There have been a number of times that the same image has been uploaded more than once, and the de-dup simply doesn't catch it. This, I'm sure, is something they're always improving on. 

Conclusion

I've used many cloud storage tools in my search for a long-term photo storage solution, so I've experience them all. Though Picturelife isn't without flaws, a bevy of great features, a well-designed UI (on the web and mobile), and fast, friendly support, gives me confidence that Picturelife will serve my photo storage needs for a long time. 

There are many more features that set Picturelife apart that I didn't have time to list here. If you want to learn more about this product, or if you're looking for a photo storage solution and haven't yet found the right one, give Picturelife a try.

I think you'll like it.