It’s not often I find myself wishing I could yank the lens from my smartphone and tape it to my shirt collar or brim of a favorite baseball cap. And yet, the folks at iON have long been envisioning exactly that, and are sporting the fruits of their labor in the form of a tiny, incredibly lightweight wearable camera called the iON SnapCam. Will the SnapCam snap under the weight of expectation when pitted against the likes of flagship smartphone heavy-hitters? Maybe. But dismissing it for that reason misses the goal of the product entirely.
When I say the SnapCam is small, I’m probably underselling it — the thing is tiny, and would feel right at home alongside an iPod Nano or similarly micro-sized technological device. At just an inch-and-a-half tall and wide and less than a third-of-an-inch thin, the feathery 1 oz. SnapCam really can be clipped on anywhere. The folks at iON’s CES booth mentioned that it snaps well to shirt pockets and baseball caps, but I can totally picture people getting more creative. Why not clip two of these bad boys to your bike handles and merge the image while simultaneous live-streaming it? Yes those are great ideas, and yes, the SnapCam allows for each of them. You can’t yet clip a dozen ‘cams and merge the images into one mega-sized patchwork quilt of a video just yet, but hey, what are firmware updates for?
The SnapCam may seem like just another wearable we’re not yet sure we actually need, but consider for a moment its immense potential. As iON repeatedly pointed out, activating your smartphone’s camera app isn’t exactly the quickest of mobile processes. Equipped with tap controls and an activation time of less than a quarter of a second, the SnapCam can quite literally stand at ready on your shirt-seam for days, waiting to capture a shot the moment your finger prods it to do so. Video is a bit tougher without a viewfinder or screen, but the corresponding iOS and Android apps should have you covered when precise SnapCam cinematography is needed. Firmware updates may not be able to bring my 12-camera image-stitch to life, but they’re certainly more than capable of improving the usability of SnapCam via the phone app over time. The promise of a product that gets better with age is a compelling one, and that holds especially true for anything camera-related.
I’m still leery about the performance of real world live-streaming (it requires both a local hotspot-based connection between the SnapCam and your phone, as well as a cellular signal capable of transmitting HD video data on the fly), and the device’s 720p resolution isn’t exactly ideal when there are existing handsets capable of shooting (admittedly sketchy) 4K. Still, when you pair the SnapCam’s modest $149 asking price with its unique ability to snag priceless moments on the fly, suddenly the package begins to sound like something so crazy that it just might work. I’m not convinced I’d take anything remotely close to a well-framed shot in the early stages of owning one, but I can hardly blame iON for what will surely be a (hopefully short-lived) case of user error and learning curve.
There’s a lite version of the SnapCam in the works for $79, but I can’t think of a feature I’d be willing to part with just to secure a sub-$100 sales receipt in exchange. Both versions are scheduled to release in the latter half of 2015, so if the idea of a wearable that isn’t a smartwatch or shameless Fitbit knockoff excites you, then you may want to clear a space for iON’s latest in your wardrobe.