One great thing about Android is the fact that we have access to a slew of accessories. Accessories can offer unique enhancements that our smartphones can make great use of within our personal lives. Video recording is one of the main functions for which people like to have their phones handy, but there haven’t been many good video recording accessories in the mobile industry until LooxcieCam – one of the better accessories we saw at CES.
While there are other good alternatives, this video camera looked much more promising due to its great portability and casual nature. Most of the competition tends to be aimed at active lifestyle personalities (unlike many of us), but this is where the LooxcieCam differentiated itself from the rest: it seems to be aimed at the regular consumer. As mentioned, it offers easy portability for casual use, but it also offers more social interaction.
After spending two weeks with this product, I can say that it has been one of the most fun accessories I have used, (and we’re giving you all a chance to win a Looxcie 1 so you can see for yourselves what Looxcie has to offer). But first, let’s get into the details of the latest from Looxcie.
Form-Factor and Wearability
To summarize it in a few words, the Looxcie 2 is a portable and casual social camera that records your viewpoint. It looks much like your regular Bluetooth headset (and can also be used as one), and the f 2.8 lens video camera points directly where you are facing. When worn in a casual environment, it will look more natural than most other wearable cameras, which only look normal when snowboarding, biking, etc.
The device looks like an elongated headset with a camera at the end. It features an on/off switch on the side that faces your cheek (if worn on your ear), and also features three buttons. These consist of a recording button, a call button and an “Instant Clip” button, (the latter being for creating, saving and sharing your videos which works in conjunction with the LooxcieMoments companion app).
The device also comes with different sized earbuds and loops to have more of a universal fit for everyone. The device’s hoop works very well for its purpose. While it is not as comfortable as a standard Bluetooth headset, it has a great grip and maintains the camera facing forward. It would be a bit of an annoyance to have to keep moving it and setting it straight while shooting videos, otherwise. Plus, you get used to the different feeling after a bit. I am not used to wearing anything in my ears, so it could have just been me.
There is also an array of extra accessories available (sold separately) that you can use when it is less convenient to have it in your ear. These include mounts, straps, tripods, lenses, cases and chargers. But let’s jump more into the review and go over the main details.
Video Recording and Quality
Users can record using the camera as a stand-alone device, or by using the LooxcieCam application. When using the application, you can preview what the camera will be recording. I found the application the most useful for setting the device to record correctly (except if you wear it a bit crooked, then that can impede on the quality of the video). You can also change the lighting options and view or download the clips.
The device is able to record video at 480p (30 fps) when used as a sole recording device. If used with LooxcieMoments, there is an option to record at 360p (15 fps), as well. This happens to be one of the main complaints about the device – the fact that it does not record HD videos.
Other wearable cameras are able to record at 720p or higher, but it must be taken into account that the competing devices are also much less portable. HD recording capabilities would affect both portability and sharing functions (uploading an HD video takes much longer). Similar devices lack the social features that this camera has. Sharing videos with your friends is a breeze when using the Looxcie 2.
Even if we put the resolution aside, though, the camera is not the best compared to other DVD quality recording devices. It is good enough for what it is – a simple, portable social device. But we found that the videos tend to be grainy. And depending on what you are doing with it, the shaking can really blur and affect quality. If you consider the success of the Flip video cameras, though, maybe the convenience of the device is the more important factor when it comes to deciding if it will work for you.
Even if the camera recorded at 1080p, the grainy effect can make the experience worse than if it was a clear 480p video. Here are some samples so you can take a look at this yourself.
Bluetooth Headset capabilities
As already mentioned, the device doubles as a traditional Bluetooth headset. Being able to talk on the phone with this device definitely makes it a more enticing product. You can simply invest a bit more with Looxcie to get a wearable camera along with standard Bluetooth capabilities.
I would use it to talk on the phone for about 30 minutes (not continuous and with different people) a day. I found that the sound quality was not bad compared to other Bluetooth headsets I have used in the past. People on the other end also claimed to hear me loud and clear. The background noise is noticeable, though. This may bother some people, but I find it to be at least somewhat helpful since complete silence in between sentences makes me feel like the call dropped.
One of the features that really impressed me was the fact that you could answer calls while recording videos. The recording continues, but doesn’t capture any sound as to keep your conversation from interrupting your progress. Sound will be picked up again once you hang up.
Looxcie cameras come with two companion apps; LooxcieMoments and LooxcieLive. Both are meant for sharing, but the first works with social networks, while the other is a streaming service. There is also a desktop program that will allow you to change the settings and manage your content. Let’s take a look at them individually:
While the LooxcieCam app revolves around recording videos, LooxcieMoments provides a portal to your social life. When using this application, you can record a video (in both definitions) and then share it with the world via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and e-mail.
This application (much like the others) is very straight-forward. The app gives you a preview of what the camera is recording, and you can view and manage the videos. After setting up the application with your e-mail account and your social networks, you can share your videos with ease – simply long press on the video of your choice and share away.
It is in this application where that “Instant Clip” button becomes handy. At any point during the recording, you can press that button and share the last 30 seconds that have been recorded. This is useful for those times when you just have to share in the moment.
If the “Instant Clip” feature isn’t what you need, you can just go to the “Video” section where you can see everything that the camera has recorded during that session. After choosing the “New Clip” option in that section, you can select what part of the video to save while the rest can be discarded.
This app is still under Beta development, but I have to say that it is pretty fully functional. I found no issues while using it, but it does lack some features.
You can view and broadcast live video to friends, but only if they have the app installed. In order to access this application, users have to create a LooxcieLive account. After that, you can simply add and invite friends by inputting their e-mail addresses.
Once that is set, however, it is simple to view and share broadcasted videos with users utilizing the application (broadcasting requires a Looxcie device). The videos get saved in a server, from which they are accessible at any time, (both by yourself and your friends).
Another main issue I found with this app is that it seems impossible to download the saved clips. This is still a Beta service, though, so this feature should be available later on.
The app also features a chat messaging service, which can be used while recording. I thought a cool addition, though, would be the ability to voice chat while recording video. It seems logical – especially since the application is already able to do video recording and calls simultaneously.
Main issues with the apps
Putting aside the few features that LooxcieLive Beta lacks, the selection of apps have been great. There is a bit of a caveat, though. While all the apps are awesome, it would be preferable if there were more parallelism between them.
All three apps could be integrated into one single app. The separation of services has its purposes, but it also seems like this can greatly affect your experience. For example, I found that it doesn’t seem to be able to record stand-alone video right after using LooxcieMoments.
In order to do this, I had to open the LooxcieCam app, and then record regular video. This seems to be an issue with the settings, as they are also separated in the desktop client. You can’t choose video resolution options for both LooxcieCam and LooxcieMoment recording. While it is not much of a deal-breaker, it can become an inconvenience if you don’t have quick access to the computer (or smartphone).
It might also be important to note that all applications require Android 2.2 or higher. Fortunately, this means that most of you will be able to use them according to the latest distribution report.
Battery Life, Price and Internal Storage
Battery life is better than expected for such a compact device. It sports a 365 mAh battery, and can last up to about 4 hours of continuous recording (at 320p resolution). Of course, I never managed to record that amount of video. I found myself using the device as a Bluetooth headset more so than a camera.
Usually, I would leave it on most of the day, with some recording here and there. I always managed to get through the whole day with a single charge, except for the days when I recorded the video above, in which battery life would be a bit under 2 hours. This is recording at 480p.
There are two available versions of the Looxcie 2: one with 5 hours of video storage and another with 10 hours. The exact storage capacity is 4 GB and 8 GB, respectively. The 4 GB version goes for $149.99, but only an extra $30, (bringing your cost to $179.99), will double your storage space.
Another enticing feature is “Video Looping.” When recording on LooxcieMoments, you are able to keep recording even after the memory runs out. The new clips will replace oldest ones. This comes in handy if you know what you’re about to witness is going to happen fast, and will be far more interesting than what you’ve previously recorded.
I gave the Looxcie 2 a score of 8 due to its few downsides, but there are mostly good explanations for them. Most of my complaints about the applications are due to me being a bit nitpicky, and the lack of HD recording is easily overshadowed by its portability and sharing features. This took away one point.
The other point is due to the video quality. We certainly understand that this is not meant to take great videos – and we are ok with DVD quality – but we have certainly seen other cameras record much better 480p clips. As mentioned, it works great for what it is, but we would have really liked to see the video be a bit less grainy and have smoother sequencing.
Other than that, the Looxcie 2 would be good for those that like to share videos of their life with their friends and family – not only for its social capabilities, but because it works great when worn in your ear to record your point of view.
I personally would not find much use for it. I don’t usually record anything, and my phone’s video recording quality is more than enough for the times that I do. But some users may find it convenient, especially since you can make calls with it. I simply would not use it enough to record videos to justify its price. I also can’t justify the price for many Bluetooth headsets, though.
The Looxcie Cam isn’t exactly the cheapest, but a good quality Bluetooth headset can go for over $100. If you are already planning to get one of those, I would say the inclusion of a camera is worth the extra ~$50 bill (but if you’re looking for top-notch footage, you may need to shop around). As a wearable and discrete camera, it is very hard to beat the Looxcie 2.
Bonus: Looxcie 1 Giveaway!
If you’re interested in trying out a LooxcieCam, we have three Looxcie 1 cameras up for grabs for three lucky tweeters. It records at 460p (15 fps) or 320p (30 fps) resolution, and has an f 2.8 lens with 62-degree field of view. The battery life is said to be the same as the Looxcie 2 camera, 2-4 hours of continuous recording, as well as 6+ hours of talk time. The Looxcie 1 also has access to the apps, LooxcieMoments and LooxcieLive Beta, so the experience should be similar to what you saw in this review.
If you want to score one of these, you just have to send a tweet like the one below (or make your own). All you need to do is include mentions to both @androidandme and @LooxcieCam. Also, you don’t have to, but it might be smart to follow both @androidandme and @LooxcieCam to make sure we can send you a direct message if you win.
This contest is only available for US residents. Winners will be announced on Tuesday afternoon. Good Luck!