Always-on photography, or photographic memory? The Narrative Clip 2, announced at CES in Las Vegas, returns to the table with the promise of both, and a few key improvements.
The Narrative Clip offered the promise of both when it debuted after a successful Kickstarter campaign a year ago, but it was an odd little device. A square clip-on camera automatically snapped a GPS-stamped picture every 30 seconds. These collected moments, uploaded to a subscription-based cloud service, aimed to form a kind of spontaneous collected photographic memory.
It was a mixed bag though: expensive, and with a camera that wasn't as good as many smartphones. It also, oddly, couldn't be controlled with your smartphone, despite seeming like it should.
The new Narrative Clip 2 aims to fix many of these problems with a few key changes. A new wide-angle 8-megapixel camera has a wider 90-degree field of view, which makes sense for photos that you're not manually aiming or focusing. The Clip 2 also has wireless uploading to the Narrative photo-cloud service, although it still has a USB port for charging and wired syncing. Bluetooth, which connects to an Android and iOS phone app, will allow you to finally see photos and manage the camera from your phone, as you'd expect.
These are necessary adjustments in a world of selfie sticks and GoPros, and more affordable devices like the HTC Re already do it. The Narrative Clip doesn't shoot video, but it does make automatic camera adjustments, including flipping photos upright with a built-in accelerometer.
The Narrative Clip 2 has similar battery life as before -- 30 hours -- and 8GB of memory, which means you'd better find a place to dump off photos every few days or so before the capacity fills up. It's a similar design as before: a little square puck with a tiny lens, but with a new modular clip that works on a jacket, hat or a necklace.
At $199, it's a little more affordable than before, but no more or less obtrusive. UK and Australian prices weren't announced, but the US price converts to roughly £130 or AU$245. (The original Narrative Clip is still on sale too, for $149, which is about £100 or AU$185.)
The need to use Narrative's cloud service remains a possible dealbreaker: it used to cost $9 per month, which is hard to accept in a world of increasingly free and flexible cloud photo-storage options. It's now a two-tier service, including some free storage with the option to pay for more. The app has been redesigned, too, with more social features that promise to allow public sharing of photos and "voting" on the best moments.
The novelty of an always-on camera does seem less alien now than it did a year ago, and the Clip 2 at least adds some much-needed improvements, on paper, to what last year's version brought to the table (or your lapel). But it's unclear whether it's enough to compete with a growing list of competitors.