I'm a big fan of recording video, so when I learned that TechRepublic was going to review the Looxcie wearable camcorder, I raised my hand for the assignment and was eager to try it out. Since Looxcie currently only works with Android smartphones, version 2.0 and higher (BlackBerry and iPhone compatibility is expected later this year), part of my experience included trying to navigate and work with the HTC Nexus One. The phone was, by far, the most frustrating part of testing the product, but my review focuses mostly on the hardware (Looxcie camcorder) rather than the medium (Nexus One smartphone).
- Weighs less than 28g
- HVGA video resolution
- 4 GB storage
- f 2.8 lens
- Auto high color and light correction
- 4+ hours of record time
- 5+ hours of video storage
- MP4 video files
- Bluetooth Class 2
- Bluetooth V2.1 + EDR
- Hands Free Profile (HFP 1.5)
- Dual silicon MEMS microphones
- DSP-based noise cancellation
- 6+ hours of talk time
- Range to 33 feet
- Micro-USB Connector
- USB 2.0 mass storage compatibility
- Fast-charging 365mAh lithium polymer battery
- UL/CSA-approved power supply
What I like
- It's original: There are a ton of gadgets and devices on the market for recording and sending video, but Looxcie isn't like any of the others you'll find. The ability to be hands-free is extremely appealing, so why not make a hands-free camcorder? Looxcie did. The device looks and feels like a Bluetooth headset – and it does have that functionality as well – but instead of a microphone jutting out from the ear piece, Looxcie features a nice compact camera for recording video. One cool feature is that you can answer a call (using Looxcie as a Bluetooth headset) while still recording video (using Looxcie as a camcorder). Simply mute the audio so that the video doesn't also record the phone conversation.
- Keeping it real: People are accustomed to seeing Bluetooth devices, and so who would even think that there was a camera hooked around your ear and that they were being recorded? Now, this can have some negative drawbacks, especially if you live in a state that prohibits the recording of video without both parties' consent, but the benefit is that you can capture your family and friends actually being natural instead of them acting shy or hamming it up for a camera.
- Easy to share: I'm a Facebook addict, and I have a couple of YouTube channels for uploading videos, so I can really appreciate the ability to quickly and easily share video snippets with my friends and family. The Looxcie app makes it very easy for you to share video via email, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. You can click the Instant Clip button on the bottom of the camera boom to save and send the last 30 seconds of video, or you can view all of the video footage and clip /send a segment of your choosing.
What I don't like
- It didn't fit: You can bend and twist the earloop of the Looxcie device so that it's comfortable and doesn't move when you shake your head – that is, unless you have really small ears like I do. I pinched and pulled the earloop until my ear was hot and red, but I still couldn't get a snug fit. I also kept hitting the record button, which is on top of the earloop – turning it on and off, on and off – in my unsuccessful attempts to mold the Looxcie around my ear. I tried both ears and had the same results. However, I'm not convinced that this is a design problem. People with normal sized ears may have an easier time getting the device to fit properly.
- Less visual control: I'm used to looking through a video device to see the subject that I'm recording. I know exactly what I'm taking in and what I want the camera to capture. With Looxcie, you don't really know what all is being captured by the camera unless you look at the Viewfinder screen on your Android smartphone. However, if you look down at the phone, the camera will tilt down, so you have to hold the smartphone up at eye level to get a true idea of what you're recording. I know that Looxcie was created to capture and share fun, spontaneous moments, but how priceless are those 30 second clips if you unknowingly end up recording only half of someone's face (or a fraction of whatever it is that you're trying to record)?
- Android phone / app difficulties: As I mentioned in the beginning, Looxcie currently only works with Android smartphones, version 2.0 and higher. Most of my frustration was due to these difficulties that I experienced with the HTC Nexus One:
- The touch screen didn't respond to my fingers.
- The keypad was way too small, and I kept hitting the wrong buttons.
- I couldn't get the Looxcie app to load for a long time (I had to fully charge the battery).
- I had a hard time saving clips from the Video menu (again, the touch screen didn't like me).
- I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to enter my email, Facebook, and YouTube credentials, but I still wasn't able to share video from work. I tried again from home and was successful, so the difficulty was probably due to a poor Wi-Fi or mobile network connection.
Geek bottom line
Despite the difficulties, the Looxcie wearable camcorder is a pretty cool device, especially for the target audience, which includes parents (kids do the darndest things), nomads (but not in really remote places where you can't get a signal), and digerati. There are other compact video recorders on the market for less money (Looxcie is available for $199) and in HD format (Looxcie currently only offers HVGA video resolution), but Looxcie's ability to record and then instantly share video with social networks sets it apart from the rest.
Geek gift score (out of 5)
- Fun factor: ***
- Geek factor: *****
- Value: ****
- Overall: ****
Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.
Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the several blogs.