Using Google’s Motion Stills with Live Photos

image03Earlier this week, Google released Motion Stills, a free iPhone app that exports the video from Apple’s Live Photos — with or without sound — as a GIF or brief MOV file. The result can be added to your iPhone’s Camera Roll or shared via certain social media channels. The app is dead-simple to use, with image stabilization tech that can tame even the most erratic clip.

I’ve had a great time exporting and sharing MOV files, but lots of trouble with GIFs. I think the latter is an issue with the platforms I’m trying to share to, however. More on that later. First, a few words on Live Photos.

The problems with Live Photos


When Apple demonstrated in 2015 I went nuts. Just press and hold to have images of my perfect little snowflake children come alive whenever I want? Oh, the proud poppa moments just entered ANOTHER LEVEL, BABY. I couldn’t wait to foist these on people.

The trouble has been in sharing them with your friends and family members who don’t have an iPhone running the latest iOS 9, as well as on social media.

You could take the DIY approach, which involves connecting your iPhone to your computer, launching Image Capture, sorting by kind and then importing all of the MOV files to your computer.


If you want to do this on a Windows computer, navigate to your iOS device in File Explorer and give your machine permission to browse the internal storage. From there, you should be able to see everything in the DCIM folder on your iOS device.

Not the slickest process.

Eventually, iOS apps began to offer support, including Lively (free with in-app purchase), Live Studio ($0.99) and PicPlayPost (free, with a $2.99 in-app-purchase to remove a watermark).

Services got on board as well, and now Tumblr and Google Photos officially support the technology. Facebook does too, but only for those using the official iOS app on a phone running the latest version of iOS 9 (sorry, Paper users).

While you can get Live Photos off of your device and out to the world, the best experience is still on a compatible Apple gadget.

A blurry mess

Whenever Apple shows off a new photo technology or app, I have two simultaneous thoughts:

  1. Wow, I can’t wait to try that.
  2. My photography skills are garbage.

Grace in her New York Football Club hat. Either that, or she just saw that video from The Ring.
Grace in her New York Football Club hat. Either that, or she just saw that video from The Ring.

Consider this demo of Live Photos that Phil Schiller gave in 2015. Water ripples before a completely static background. A hiker raises his arms triumphantly before a waterfall. These are terrific Live Photos. Meanwhile, I get this type of thing at the end of my clips, as I tend to lower the phone at the end of a clip.

Google’s image stabilization lets me get results that are very close to Apple’s demo images. How does it work? From Google:

“Our algorithm uses linear programming to compute a virtual camera path that is optimized to recast videos and bursts as if they were filmed using stabilization equipment, yielding a still background or creating cinematic pans to remove shakiness.”

It works very well and has allowed me to get demo-ready results.

Using Motion Stills

To share you first GIF or video, follow these steps:

Launch the app and scroll to the image you want to share. Next, tap the image to bring up the editor:


There are four simple buttons (from left to right):

  1. Turn the stabilization effect on or off
  2. Turn sound on or off
  3. Export your clip
  4. Close the editor and return to the image library

Pay attention the sound option. In my experience, it’s best to turn off, or else you get three seconds of a sentence or other repeating background noise that becomes annoying very quickly. Also, hit the stabilization button a couple of times to see the difference.

When you’re ready to share, hit the share button to reveal two options: Send GIF and Share Clip:


Tap GIF and the image is created and the Share Sheet appears, ready to go. Hit Share Clip and the same thing happens. In testing this out, I noticed a few little quirks.

GIF issues

This may be the fault of the platforms I’m trying to share GIFs to, but they do not animate. I tried Twitter across various platforms and apps, as well as Facebook and Instagram. Bummer. I did find one little workaround, though.

If you opt to export a MOV and post it to Instagram, you can then share that link to Twitter and view the file that way. Cheap, but there it is.

Unlike my GIF woes, the MOV file worked perfectly. It’s great fun to share a great-looking little clip to Instagram and Facebook with almost zero effort.

This is a fun app that largely does what it’s supposed to do. Give it a try and liberate your Live Photos. As long as they’re not GIFs.

Google Motion Stills

Today must be bizarro day as Google has mastered Apple’s live photos. Motion Stills (free) is a new iOS app that extracts the little videos that are created when you take a live photo, applies some very effective image stabilization and lets  you export the result — with or without sound — as a GIF or a brief .MOV clip. Like this (click to watch):

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 5.27.24 PM

It’s super cool and finally gets those clips off of your phone. I did a little experimentation today and I’ll have a good look at this app tomorrow. Until then, grab it, play around and explore #motionstill on Instagram for inspiration.

[Via The Loop]

Using your iPhone is easier with these great apps

A new feature isn’t necessarily a great feature

Apple introduced 3D Touch with the iPhone 6 in September, 2014. The feature offers two new gestures, “Peek” and “Pop,” which are triggered by the amount of pressure applied to an iPhone’s screen. You can see 3D Touch in action here. It’s pretty neat and can save time, if used properly.

The usefulness of new features like 3D Touch is variable. There are plenty of “Me, too” implementations in the App Store that don’t make your iPhone easier to use, which is the ultimate goal. In the following examples, 3D Touch makes an app significantly better.

Best implementation: Workflow

workflow_3dtouchHands down, Workflow for iPhone and iPad ($2.99) features the best implementation of Apple’s 3D Touch that I’ve seen. It lets you choose what appears in the resulting pop-up menu (up to four items), ensuring that it’s as useful for you as possible. Here’s how to set it up.

  1. Tap My Workflows on the app’s main screen.
  2. Scroll to the bottom and tap Settings.
  3. Tap 3D Touch Shortcuts

From there you’ll see a list of your workflows. Now, just tap the four you’d like to appear in the 3D Touch menu.

Workflow lets you create, download and share automated, multi-step tasks for your iPhone to perform. Have your phone do anything from order a pizza to move files to services like Dropbox. The 3D Touch implementation here is so helpful that it puts an already useful app way over the top. Save serious amounts of time each day with Workflow and 3D Touch.



sparkWhile Workflow is my top pick for useful 3D Touch, it’s not the only app that’s making good use of Apple’s fun tech. Readdle’s Spark (, a recent “Best of the App Store” selection, does a stellar job by featuring the app’s most common functions: calendar, attachments, search and compose a new message. Simply select any one to jump right to it.

The iconography here is nice and clear as well, and each task is blazing fast. Browsing attachment is especially useful, as they’re presented as a nice list, which is significantly faster than scrolling through a bursting inbox. Spark is a great app and is use of 3D Touch makes it even better.


As we saw with Spark, Instagram for iPhone (free) put the most useful tasks front-and-center. I use Search and Post several times per day. But there’s much more here.

Nearly every link in the app offers Peek and Pop. Press-and-hold on a hashtag to see relevant photos. Do the same to a username for a preview of their latest posts. While holding that preview, swipe up for options like unfollow, enable notifications or share as a message. As with the other apps in this list, Instagram is made easier to use via 3D Touch. Very well done.


cmraplsOne last selection: Camera+ ($2.99). The long-standing camera app by Tap Tap Tap lets you jump right to taking a photo, as well as the proper setting for getting a selfie or a macro shot. This saves so much time previously spend fiddling around with exposure and focus, especially when taking a macro shot.

All of these apps use Apple’s 3D Touch to make using your iPhone faster and easier. That’s just what technology like this should do. Try them out and see for yourself.

iPhone app keeps sleepy road trippers awake

A few years ago I spent 12 hours driving from Pennsylvania to Virginia with a few friends. It was a horribly long trip and none of us would have stayed awake on our own. Drowsy driving is dangerous and Café Amazon Drive Awake app (free) is here to help.

This clever little app uses eye detection to monitor your state while driving. To use it, let it find your eyes (creepy), mount it on the windshield of your car (mounting apparatus not included) and begin driving. If the app catches you nodding off (eyes closed for more than a few seconds), it emits a horrific screeching parrot noise that will absolutely wake you up and and maybe cause you to soil yourself.

Drive Awake is a little gimmicky in that, after rousing you, it pops up driving directions to the nearest Café Amazon, a popular coffee shop in Thailand. I don’t know what happens if you’re outside Thailand.

Even without the caffeinated pick-me-up, and despite the nerve-shredding parrot, Drive Awake could save your life. And please, people. I know road trips are fun, but being dead isn’t. Pull over and go to sleep.

!Emergency! for iPhone: when trouble strikes abroad

Johnny Jet’s travel app of the week is !Emergency! ($0.99). As Johnny notes, not everyone realizes that “911” isn’t the emergency call number in many countries outside of the US. !Emergency! lists them all, and puts them just a tap away. Not only that, it can automatically detect the country you’re in, so you don’t have to spend precious time searching when something is really wrong. That’s a pretty handy app.

iPhone Traveler Pt. 4 – Home screen and alerts

iphonepasspordThe iPhone apps you use while on vacation will be different from those you use while at work or during typical home life. At least I hope so. Keeping our focus on convenience and ease, I’ll suggest that you make adjustments to the the apps on your home screen, the alerts your iPhone delivers and more before departing for a trip. Here are the changes I make to my iPhone while preparing to spend time away.

Re-organize Applications

Your iPhone 5 can display 24 application icons per screen. Folders hold 16 apps each. That means you can have well over 200 applications on your home screen. I don’t recommend doing that, but it suggests that having a lot of apps installed doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of swiping between screens. It also means that things can get crowded quickly, making it hard to find what you’re after.

With this in mind, I consider which apps I’ll use during my trip, and move them to the home screen. The rest are pushed to subsequent screens, reducing visual clutter and saving me from playing “hide and go seek” with my iPhone. I typically have these apps on my home screen during a trip:

  1. Mail
  2. Phone
  3. Safari
  4. Maps
  5. Messages
  6. Camera
  7. Evernote
  8. Kayak
  9. Motion-X GPS Drive
  10. Path
  11. Rego
  12. Rdio
  13. Any destination-specific apps

I’ll discuss my favorite travel apps later this month, but this is my core group. Each has a specific job.

Most of these apps have obvious functions: phone calls, a web browser, Maps, text messages, music and the camera for shooting photos and video. The others have specific duties.

Evernote is my database for everything. It lets me create and browse a fast, lightweight and searchable repository of all the specifics I’ll need. Hotel information, airport details, parking locations, confirmation numbers and so much more are all a tap away. In fact, my “everything database” has all but eliminated paper from my travel materials.

  • Motion-X GPS Drive is my preferred turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone. It’s reliable, inexpensive and easy to use. Advanced features like saved searches and synthetic voices that are genuinely easy to understand make it a winner.
  • Path is a social networking application with an interesting premise. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which invite users to broadcast their comings and goings to whoever will listen, Path asks you to invite a handful of family and friends to share your favorite moments. I often use it with my family, most of whom also do a fair amount of traveling.
  • Rego lets me maintain a record of all the interesting places I’ve visited, which I enjoy reviewing. I can also note places I’d like to visit and create an on-the-go itinerary that sorts itself by proximity.

Finally, I’ll add any destination-specific apps I find. For instance, there are several great apps available for navigating Walt Disney World Resort. In 2011, Macy’s released an official Thanksgiving Day Parade app. Search the App Store for apps related to your destination. I bet you’re successful most of the time.

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Rego for iPhone stores your favorite places

regoforiphoneBig thanks to Rego for iPhone (free for the first 10 places, $2.99 for unlimited use) for sponsoring the site this week. I’ve been using Rego since launch day and it’s earned a spot on my iPhone’s home screen. It lets me create a record of my favorite places, both those I have seen and those I hope to visit someday. With a few taps I can mark it on a map, write some notes, take photos and add useful, searchable categories.

Rego is like a contacts app, but for locations. It has become the place where I store the places I care about. But Rego is more than storage. Before your trip begins, create a new collection and add all the places you want to visit — either by positioning pins on a map, or by searching on names or addresses. Rego searches Apple and Foursquare location databases, and your Contacts. Plan your itinerary by re-centering the map on any pin. For example, set your hotel as the “Active Location” and watch all your places sort by distance to that pin.

While traveling, use Rego to visit the places you planned, and add new places you discover along the way. Rego uses the iPhone’s GPS, so you don’t need Internet coverage to capture new places. Also, in most cases, your maps will have been cached during your planning, so they’ll still be available when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Rego is private by default, but you can selectively choose to share places. This creates a web page for your place on the Rego server, that you can show the world. Other Rego users can directly add that place to their Rego, by visiting the page. I actually like keeping it private, as I use Rego is my personal travel log and wish list.

Don’t take my word for it, Apple loved Rego so much they featured it in the New & Noteworthy list on the App Store home page in 127 countries, and gave it a big banner in the Travel section. It’s truly one of my favorite travel apps.

Here’s how you can sponsor the site. It’s a great month those with travel apps.

The iPhone Traveler Pt. 2 – Back up, pack and get tickets


A good vacation, like so many other things in life, will be more successful with ample planning. Your iPhone is more than up to the task! In this section, I’ll explain how to back up important information before you leave (and retrieve it if disaster strikes), pack your things in an orderly way and finally find tickets for a plane, a train and a hotel.

Why use an iPhone for these tasks? There are several reasons. My favorite is the wealth of beautiful, useful and convenient apps that are available. The travel industry has embraced Apple’s pocket-sized computer and we, the travelers, benefit. It’s so very easy to find a hotel, flight or bus when it’s convenient for us. Don’t want to pay a lot? Finding bargains with an app is easy, too. Plus, dedicated apps are so much easier to use than starting from scratch with Google.

Also, skipping email and printed tickets means less “stuff” to carry, loose and accidentally rip or destroy. There’s no fishing for “which pocket or case did I put that in” when the answer is, “It’s just here on my phone.” It’s a tremendous convenience. So, let’s get started by performing a good, reliable backup.

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easyJet for iPhone offers mobile boarding passes, Passbook support

jeteasyappscrnshtThe UK’s discount airline easyJet has added support for Apple’s Passbook and mobile boarding passes to its free iPhone app, easyJet Mobile. This update is a part of the airline’s larger initiative to replace all in-person check-in options with online methods.

For now, six airports — Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nice, London Stansted and Southend — are taking part in a trial. If all goes well, you can expect additional airports to accept iPhone-based checkins from easyJet.

I’ve used the United iPhone app (free) several times to board in Boston’s Logan airport as well as Orlando and Tampa. Pulling out an iPhone is much faster that using a paper boarding pass, not to mention it eliminates one more thing to tear or lose.

I hope this goes well for easyJet and its customers. If you’re in the UK and you’ve tried it, let me know how it goes. Digital boarding passes and check-in is a real time-saver.

Smart pajamas read to your kids at night

CNET on Smart PJs, “The world’s first and only interactive pajamas”:

“Smart PJs, called the world’s ‘first and only interactive pajamas,’ require downloading a free app for iOS or Android and scanning one of dozens of codes from the Smart PJs with a smartphone or tablet. The device then reads aloud a story, sings a lullaby, or broadcasts pictures of animals or other bedtime-appropriate cuteness.”

Horrible. Awful. Why read to your children when you can toss an iDevice at them? In fact, you don’t even have to pick out the story anymore. Jr’s PJs will do that for you! There’s more:

“‘Now your child will be excited to go to bed,’ says a promotional video for the product.”

Yeah, nothing helps a toddler fall asleep faster than excitement. Sign me up.