Flip cameras or smart phones for unions?

I’ve seen a few union organisers around the place with Flip cameras, and have had a discussion about whether they are a useful tool with Atosha.

Should unions be investing in Flip cameras?

Flip cameras, for those of you who haven’t stumbled across them yet, are small video cameras that purport to make it very easy to upload content to your computer and the internet. For organisers who aren’t that technically savvy, they make it simple to film a members meeting, or vox pop or rally, then put it on YouTube. The latest Flip cameras can shoot in High Definition and can record around an hours worth of video. They include a built in USB cable, so you don’t need to worry about accessories.

The main problem I see however is that Flip cameras just can’t compete with smartphones such as the iphone. They just aren’t as versatile or easy to use, and are expensive without the extra features of a smart phone (such as calls, email, social networking, calendars, apps, etc).

There’s a really good article over at TechCrunch about this matter, which summarises my thinking.

That’s just not something they’re going to be able to do v. the iPhone and other similar devices to come.

The new iPhone takes very good video (640 x 480). That isn’t as good as the Flip (not yet anyway, word is that it actually can shoot HD video but is being slightly crippled), but it’s still able to shoot perfectly good videos on the go (example), which is exactly what the Flip is for. And the iPhone has something that the Flip will never realistically have, cellular and wifi connectivity that lets you upload your videos immediately. No need to sync back with your base computer to edit the video and upload it. You can do basic editing right on the iPhone, and publish it to YouTube immediately. As an added bonus, that video can be geo-stamped via the phone’s GPS capability.

That makes it significantly more useful as a video device than the Flip, and worth the reduction in quality. You already have to make some quality tradeoffs with the Flip anyway, so if you are going to have a second video device after your iPhone, it may as well be a slightly bigger video camera that you keep in your bag. I just don’t see people grabbing that Flip when they run out the door.

And one last killer feature of the iPhone – live streaming video from services like Ustream and Qik are already a reality – most TechCrunch authors have been using it for months on the old iPhone. At some point soon Apple will allow those apps to launch, and iPhone users will be able to stream video in real time from their phones to the Internet.

I’ve seen a few people around the traps talking about Flips as a very valuable tool for unions to use to create multimedia content.

I’m unconvinced however. There’s been a long debate in the tech world about converged devices vs. stand alone devices (e.g. the ipod vs. the mp3 playing mobile phone) – but as far as utility for union organising and campaigning goes, there’s no doubt for me that smartphones are a far better investment.

Furthermore, the new generation of smart phones, like the HTC Desire, or the upcoming iphone 4G – with high definition videos and photos – are making devices like the Flip even more redundant.

2 responses to “Flip cameras or smart phones for unions?”

  1. Angas Avatar

    You were ahead of your time on this one. Flip has gone out of production.

    1. admin Avatar

      Yes, I read that a few months ago. Given the utility of smart phones, I’m not surprised.

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