Unboxing the Narrative Clip (a bit of a review)

Clip History…

Some time ago, November 2012 to be exact, I saw the Memoto camera on Kickstarter. It was a project that was interesting to me and it became my first, and to date only, kickstarter project that I’ve backed. In essence it’s a tiny camera that clips on you and takes pictures every 30 seconds. I don’t really count myself as wanting to be a life logger but being a fan or endurance sports there’s some events that I’d quite like to be able to have a unique record of and these events take some time (particularly in my case).

I imagined what it would have been like if I had it clipped to me whilst cycling from Guildford to Paris. It would’ve given me unique photos to remember the event by. Then I envisioned using it for the Berlin Marathon in September 2013 and clicked the button to be a backer.

Fast forward…fast forward some more. The honest truth is that the project was terribly delayed. But with an original estimate of February I was disappointed not to have it for an end of September marathon. To be fair these things are remarkably complicated, the company was rightly concerned to ensure that quality was up to scratch, and the communication was great.  Oh…and the name changed from Memoto to Narrative Clip.

I’m feeling poorly today. That’s part of the reason I’m writing this review – it’s something to do that doesn’t involve just watching the TV. I think the postie knew because first thing this morning – ding dong. He had a box for me.

Enter the Narrative Clip

Narrative Clip Box 1Narrative Clip Box 2

First impressions are good. The box has a real feel of quality about it. That may seem silly to say but care taken in one area often translates into care taken in other areas of the product.

Narrative Clip Box Slide 1Narrative Clip Box Slide 2

You slide off the little cover and then open the box, that appears to have some sort of magnetic or tension clasp.

Narrative Clip in Box

Inside the box is the narrative clip and a USB cable. Here’s my first gripe of this review – the USB cable is too short. It’s not a big deal as I have other cables or can use an extender. But the reality is that it’s next to impossible to plug it in with the short cable without it dangling horribly. It fits the box nicely though 🙂

The Manual

I read the manual first! This was abnormal for me. I’m not sure if this diversion from normal behaviour is because I’m poorly or because it looks a bit cartoony and like a grown up version of a children’s book 🙂

Narrative Clip Manual

The manual contains useful information, there isn’t much of it, but then again it’s a simple to use device. I confess I spent quite some time looking for the app/software installation with no success. Only to later notice that the front said: “Welcome to Narrative. Get started at: start.getnarrative.com”. That’s where you get the software. It would’ve been nice if it told us how to get the software at the end of the manual too. Just for those good people like me that actually read the manual first as we’ll have forgotten by the end 🙂

The Narrative Clip Itself

Narrative Clip Front ViewNarrative Clip Back ViewNarrative Clip Side View

The actual device itself is light and nicely finished. I’ve got the grey one – which I believe are the only colour to ship so far. If I was to nit-pick then the metal clip on it is slightly angled (and we’re talking maybe by 1mm or so I’m being overly critical. I just notice these things – like a wonky picture!). The cover for the USB port is teeny tiny. It’s one of those rubber covers. Because it’s so small I struggle to get it open without using the connector from the USB cable to prise it open. I predict my case’ll get scratched fairly soon!

The Computer Software

I have a Mac, so what follows is with regards to the Mac version:

Narrative Mac Software

Software installation was a breeze. It adds both a status notification on the menu and a settings screen. Settings are fairly basic – sync to the Narrative Library and/or save to your hard drive. Under General Settings you can restrict how much upload bandwidth your Narrative uses (useful if you have a slow internet connection and want to do other things).

Under a couple of tests the upload appears to work. Narrative’s servers try to organise the pictures into collections that they call “moments”. Whilst charging the clip for the first time the percentage charge in the software didn’t match what the lights were saying on the device. The software appeared to be a bit optimistic. Or perhaps it’s the device being negative as when I click diagnostics (under Settings) with the clip plugged in it shows me:

Battery status: 100%
Firmware version: v0.6.11

When it would be normal practice for a production release to have version 1 of firmware surely?

The App

I struggled to find the app in the app store. Finally I realised that this was because I was using an iPad and not an iPhone. I switched the search to search for iPhone apps and found it easily. I’m not sure why this isn’t a universal app, it seems strange.

Let’s start with the pictures:

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The app presents a timeline of moments. Upon selecting one you then get a timeline of photos. This is presented with a film strip style UI. Clicking the first one lets you see a slideshow or you can drag the film strip. The principle is nice but a couple of bugs have already reared their annoying heads:

Playing a sequence of photos the slideshow just stopped with a little swirly timer. Dragging the film strip backwards and forwards shows it can show all of the photos. So why?!

One film strip with three photos on it became undraggable to the last photo. Because dragging it moved the photos slower than my finger was moving across the screen.

Similar bugs exist elsewhere. For example, if you select a photo then you can delete it. If you swipe a moment left then there is a delete option. I tried that, they did go. But they mysteriously came back later and so I deleted them again.

Or in other words I find it hard to bond with the app. I’m being a bit harsh though – these things are software so it’s solvable and the reality is what matters most is how good the app is at sorting photos and highlighting the key pictures users want to see in the long term. Note again that the app version here is: 0.9.7 – not version 1! So hopefully we’ll see improvement in future versions.

Photos

I’d like to wear it for a run sometime soon to get some test shots. But as I’m poorly I’m somewhat limited to a couple of shots – one indoors shot (in todays dinghy weather – so using artificial light) and a look out of my windows.

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Summary

I’m really looking forward to trying this out and about and for an endurance event or two. It seems a well made, well designed, little camera. Overall I’m pleased. My purpose is, perhaps, different from many – so I suspect I’ll be using the save images to disk option and go through them rather than use the app in the long term.

Addendum

Used it on a quick walk to the supermarket. Here are a few shots:

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I liked the tree one so ran it through Adobe Lightroom quickly…

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