Does it still make sense to buy a digital photo frame?

And, equally important, are there any good frames left to buy?

The Ceiva Share is one of few remaining connected photo frames -- but it requires a monthly fee.
The Ceiva Share is one of few remaining connected photo frames -- but it requires a monthly fee. Ceiva

In Molly Wood's recent roundup of gadget gifts for Mother's Day , she mentions a few items you shouldn't get for Mom. Among them: a digital photo frame. Her take: "They're over. They're complicated. They're annoying. No one ever updates the pictures on them."

Say it ain't so, Molly!

I've always liked the idea of the digital photo frame, if not the execution. Most models are indeed a pain to use, requiring you to copy photos over from your PC or a memory card.

Then I got my hands on a Kodak Pulse -- first the 7-inch model, then its 10-inch successor. It was, put simply, a delight to use. Thanks to built-in Wi-Fi, it could connect not only to my PC for easy wireless photo uploading, but also to my Facebook account or Kodak Gallery.

Even better, I could choose a custom e-mail address for the frame, then share that address with friends and family members -- who could e-mail me new photos right from their smartphones, PCs, etc. Photos arrived within a few minutes, not just once per day.

Best of all, Kodak charges no extra fees for this ultraconvenient photo delivery. There's no subscription required, no monthly charge for using the frame. I liked the product so much that I bought one for my parents, then my sister, then a few other relatives. They're all equally head over heels in love with the thing.

The Kodak Pulse is, sadly, a soon-to-be-discontinued product.
The Kodak Pulse is, sadly, a soon-to-be-discontinued product. Kodak

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in January , then announced plans to phase out the unit that makes, among other things, digital picture frames. At this point it's unclear whether the company will even continue to support the Pulse; I'll be devastated if they don't.

With Kodak effectively out of the frame game, that leaves only one major player offering a "connected" photo frame: Ceiva. Yep, the company that pioneered the product category is still chugging along with two 8-inch models: the Ceiva Pro 80 and Ceiva Share.

These are nice products, with reasonable Mother's Day Sale price tags of $119.95 and $99.95, respectively. However, both frames limit you to a fixed number of new photos per day, and updates them only once per day. (Update: According to Ceiva's PR rep, you can set either frame to update as regularly as once per hour.) Also, although the Pro 80 comes with a Wi-Fi adapter, it's optional on the Share, which otherwise relies on a phone line to download new pictures. Hey, Ceiva, 2001 called and they want their antiquated dial-up technology back!

The frames have button-driven interfaces, unlike the Kodak Pulse, which has a much more convenient touch screen. But here's the part that really bugs me: although you get one year of Ceiva' PicturePlan service when you buy a frame, you'll have to pay $9.95 per month (or $6.95 per month prepaid annually) after that. I would never buy something like that for myself, let alone for a relative.

On the other hand, what options do I have left? Not many. And PicturePlan does include a lifetime warranty (as long as you remain a subscriber, that is), meaning if your frame croaks, you'll get a free replacement. There's definite value there: I've had two Pulses die on me (both under warranty, thankfully), and my uncle's went bad after just a couple months. Check Amazon and you'll see loads of similar complaints; the product obviously has some reliability issues.

All this poses the question: Do digital photo frames have a place in the world anymore? Does anybody even want one? I still think that when it's done right, it's a fantastic item to have in your home.

Kodak came closest to doing it right. I'm sad it's leaving the market, and sadder still that no company seems to be stepping up with innovation and competition in this area. Sounds like a Kickstarter project waiting to happen!

Let me hear your thoughts on digital photo frames. Like? No like? Still waiting for a killer product to emerge?

 

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