Picturelife — backing up and organising my iPhoneography

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Recently I decided it was time (after three years) to backup my mobile phone photographs. I only started taking mobile photography seriously after getting my Note 3 and that enthusiasm swelled with my iPhone 6 Plus. In all I had about 1,300 photographs made since I got my iPhone — just the photographs I wanted to save, the total number of photographs is greater. And I looked around for an ideal backup and storage solution with which I could maintain my photographs.

The first option a lot of people suggested to me was Loom, but that is not available where I live. (Loom happens to be US-only.) And then there was Everpix — was — which was free and shut down as fast as it became popular. In all honesty, Everpix was an excellent solution, but faced the biggest problem with cloud storage solutions: they shut down, mostly because they run out of money trying to give storage free. Lesson: never opt for free cloud storage.

Then I tried Picturelife about three months ago and still love it for a lot of reasons. Some readers asked me to talk about my experience with the product and how I went about moving my photographs to the cloud, so this is it.

Update: After this article was published and discussed around the web, Picturelife got in touch with me and offered a generous 20GB of additional free storage for life. Thank you. And here’s to Picturelife for being one of the top cloud storage solutions for all of us.

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15 things I wish somebody had told me when I first switched to iPhone and iOS

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When iPhone 6 Plus came out last year, I bought it without a second thought. I had an iPad, so I had experienced the new iOS 8, and when the phablet-sized device came out, my last complaint against  Apple went out the window (tiny screen sizes). iPhones are extremely capable, user-friendly devices and this means a lot coming from someone who once swore by Android until Google’s ugly material UI took over.

However, there were some things I wish I had known when I first switched to iPhone that I thought would be helpful to other new users. Not all of these may take you by surprise — some might — but all of them are definitely helpful and will improve your already stellar user experience with your shiny new phone.

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The (not so) minimal iPhone setup, or simply “what’s on my iPhone 6 Plus?”

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A lot of people have been going on about a minimal iPhone lately. Most of that has something to do with stripping down the apps you use, having just one home screen and then sitting around and justifying it because you paid a small fortune for the phone and now you talk of using it as minimally as possible.

None of that makes sense. The iPhone has probably already replaced a lot of other things you use and thereby made your lifestyle a lot more minimal, if that is what you were going for. It likely replaced everything from desk calendars to USBs in cars to cinema and plane tickets and — for some people — laptops.

I am not one among them, so my iPhone setup is not what I would call minimal. I do however follow a certain practice where I try to reduce the apps I use in some ways I have not seen a lot of others adopt. That is one reason I wrote this article — the other was because people wanted to know what was on my iPhone.

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Making “The Game” — an iPhone 6 Plus short film

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It started as an offhand idea, so we began with literally zero preparation. Half a basketball court, a ball and an iPhone in hand, I do not recall just when the idea struck me, but the four of us who were together had soon decided to make a short film.

The story, as I often like it in all of my films, was simple and open to interpretation. Two guys, a basketball: it does not matter whether they had the court or — quite literally — what was blocking their way, they would still play their game.

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Review: Pro HDR X for iOS 8

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Dynamic range has always been the Achilles’ heel of smartphone photography. It is the one aspect where dSLRs shine and simply cannot be outdone by our phones. (There also used to be auto-focusing on this list, but with phase detection AF on iPhone 6 Plus, Apple has raised the bar really high.)

Among several additions to iOS 8 comes burst mode capability — click and hold for several shots in quick succession. My iPhone 6 Plus shoots 10 frames per second which is almost twice the speed of my Nikon D600, which shoots 5.5 frames per second. Of course, the fact that the sensor is bigger, more memory needs to be written and other such factors come into play here.

The biggest advantage of this burst mode feature means making HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos with iPhones is no longer a software-only affair spewing out fake HDR/grunge images, but actual multiple bracketed exposures combined into one HDR photo.

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Why I moved from the Galaxy Note 3 to iPhone 6 Plus

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After I recently bought a silver iPhone 6 Plus, I received several e-mails asking me about my jump to iOS, why I bought a silver/white device as opposed to my customary black and a few other comments. I decided to address them in a brief article here instead of answering several mails. (And before we go ahead, please know that I still own and use my Note 3, and still think of it as an extremely capable, future-proof device — and recommend it.)

After Apple’s iPhone 3GS came out in 2009, Google replied with the first of its now-successful Nexus lineup, the Nexus One. Android was customisable, seemingly the tech of the future, thanks to its fearless attempt at everything from NFC to underwater phones to wireless charging. With the iPhone 6/6 Plus, two things changed for me: Apple seemed to awaken and see the smartphone scene from a different perspective, and my own smartphone usage changed in certain ways.

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Google Keep vs Evernote vs Springpad vs OneNote

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WHEN IT COMES TO note-taking apps, speaking of Google Keep vs Evernote vs SpringPad and so on, you quickly realise there are two kinds: apps on a grand prix run with a million features we would all like but never use, and stripped down apps that help us take notes and do little else.

Both are hard to get right: you risk either over-stuffing your turkey or leaving it hollow. But if any four apps get the formula right, these four have to be it.

What we are looking for

Here are some important, must-have features we looked for in note-taking apps:

  • Speed and a light weight application
  • Syncing options
  • Widget for quick access
  • Security/encryption

 

And here are some extras we would enjoy:

  • Cross platform presence and syncing
  • Cross-device presence
  • Good design
  • Array of note types
  • Organising features
  • Sharing features

 

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Disclaimer

Neither this website nor anybody associated with it are being paid in any form to write for or against any app. These reviews are based on experience and are subjective but give a very accurate idea of the product and have been written from a neutral standpoint.

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Google Keep

Google’s silent entry into the note-taking world

 

Google began by turning users away by closing one product after another, often unannounced, and finally gave the public no good incentive to use their latest brainchild, Keep. If they tried, nobody knows about it. So then why is Keep on this list? It is because Keep —

  • is light weight, fast to save and syncs just as seamlessly
  • has a slick widget that offers scrolling previews and ability to start taking notes from your home screen
  • offers text, checklist, voice and photo notes
  • has presence on both desktops (via chrome,) phones (Android, iOS)

 

And what’s special about Keep?

  • Keep automatically transcribes voice notes (US english only, right now)
  • Keep saves using your 25GB space on your Google Drive
  • Keep allows text note to checklist conversion even after creating a text note
  • Keep uses color coding (limited to eight — and five really distinguishable — colours)

 

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The bottomline

If you take extensive vocal reminders and messages, Keep’s automatic transcribing may prove useful even if not 100% accurate. If you used Catch Notes before it was shut down, you will find Keep a pleasing alternative.

In other words, if you like to take quick notes and get done with it, Keep is just the app for you. And Keep works beautifully offline too.

Looking for a little extra muscle, though, or some charm or fun? Throw Keep out the window and head on to our next competitor.

[/sws_yellow_box] [sws_button_icon_ui label=”Download Google Keep from the Play Store” href=”https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.keep” ui_theme=”ui-smoothness” icon=”ui-icon-circle-arrow-s” target=”_blank”] [/sws_button_icon_ui]

Evernote

Does the veteran app still have what it takes?

 

If you came here just looking for an answer to that question just above, then you’ll be happy to know that yes, it does. But other apps are not exactly what you might consider stagnant.

Evernote satisfies the basic needs of any user, at any level, any profession, any use you can think of. Here are some of its most advantageous features:

  • Neat suite of apps including web clippers and readers
  • Excellent integration with third-party apps
  • Searches inside images
  • Perfect solution for long notes or long hours of note taking
  • Good cross-browser, cross-device presence

 

But there are some things that hold us back here too,

  • Way too many features: UI appears cluttered if you do not use them all
  • Free account gets you <50MB a month, but a $45/month paid option exists
  • Poor security (if you are really paranoid)
  • Overall, not a very intuitive or quick solution for note-taking

 

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The bottomline

Evernote is best for taking down college lecture notes, (or speeches and lectures in general,) interviews, creatives jotting down long ideas, shooting textual documents to use as notes and so on. It’s basically a lengthy note-taking process, but a perfect solution if you are looking at tonnes of crisp, formatted, heavily organised notes to maintain for a long time.

If all you want is to use an app as a digital edition of your post-it notes, get back to Google Keep, not Evernote. But if you have a huge notes collection you would rather hold on to for a long time, Evernote is perfect. And again, if you’re photo- (and generally media-) happy, try our next contender, SpringPad.

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SpringPad

The Pintrest of note-taking

[NB: Review carried over from our previous edition.]

I think Springpad was here before Pintrest, but people seem to compare  how similar it looks to the newer product, especially after the recent re-design. This is, in fact, the simplest definition of Springpad. It has a gorgeous interface laid out like pinboards and makes it a very visual task to manage your notes.

Springpad’s biggest plus still remains across-the-web, link, media and group sharing. And little else. But Springpad mostly makes things fun. Here’s what you’ll like:

  • Note-taking by categories such as movies, restaurants etc.
  • Great sharing capabilities for collaboration
  • Springpad boasts its own social network for its users
  • Tailored for media sharing and cataloguing

 

And, as always,

  • Works poorly for quick note-taking
  • Still shows only select tags on note pages
  • Nothing attractive, but a lot of useless features for text-heavy note-takers

 

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The bottomline

Springpad is for people who like to handle media, especially pictures, and bookmark stuff they come across on the web: you get the point, using Springpad is like having your very own Pintrest. With your very own Springpad social network.

If you want quick, or lots of text, Springpad is a poor option; if text is a once-in-a-while thing and pictures are your everyday style of usage, pick Springpad. In short, Springpad is for people with a flare for media, bookmarking, and group sharing, all without heavy emphasis on text.

But for uber serious note-takers who rarely use lot of media and neither prefer Keep’s simplicity or Evernote’s complication, but rather a mixture of the two, look at Microsoft’s very own One Note.

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OneNote

Microsoft got it right this time. Almost.

OneNote

I want you take a good look at the screenshots above. Take your time. What do you see? You see a little Microsoft Word.

Microsoft’s biggest strength is, arguably, its Office suite. And with OneNote, the tech giant has made a fine decision to use formatting and document creation to their advantage. And it’s one huge advantage, believe you me. Here are some things you’ll like:

  • Formatting. Formatting. Formatting.
  • Two-level organisation like Evernote’s notebooks and stacks
  • Autosync for SkyDrive Pro users (Office 365 or SharePoint)
  • Interesting Catch-like colour coding (not editable, though)

 

But OneNote has some drawbacks:

  • Not quick, not intuitive
  • Sync is slow at best, even with a pretty good Wifi connection
  • No handwriting features like the once-famous OneNote for PC

 

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The bottomline

OneNote users love a physical keyboard: Microsoft removed support for it in their latest update. That speaks volumes by itself. Also, that says OneNote is extensive enough in its “toolbar-equivalents” that it warrants the use of a physical keyboard.

But OneNote, surprisingly enough, serves as a fine quick note-taking app as well. Sort of like Keep. And the huge notes, formatted to perfection reflect a little Evernote. OneNote is cross between Keep’s simplicity and Evernote’s organisation with Microsoft’s rich text formatting thrown in for good measure. The best of both worlds? Yes, but at a price.

OneNote is laggy. It is slow. OneNote syncs poorly, sometimes not at all, but notes do not exactly go missing, so you’re safe there; they just hesitate to sync every now and then. What is good, though, is Microsoft’s track record in updating OneNote. It has been consistently pleasing and shows good signs of improvement.

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In conclusion

So which is the right note-taking app? Consider this to help you decide: which words best describe your usage and style of note-taking?

  1. Elaborate, extensive, well organised, multiple devices and OSes, liesurely
  2. Media, group sharing, social networking, browsing, bookmarking, heavy tablet usage
  3. Elaborate, organised, formatting, tables, charts etc., multiple devices and OSes
  4. Quick, simple, voice reminders, checklists, write and delete, multiple devices

 

If you picked 1, pick Evernote; 2, try Springpad; 3, OneNote; and 4 Keep.

That should help you choose. If you came here because Catch Notes was discontinued, you’ll enjoy Keep just as much, or you might also like the added advantages OneNote gives you.

So which app did you decide to use?

Share it with us in the comments below.

 Cover image: Taiwan Evernote users meet-up — Flickr/othree