For today's smartphone application review, let's look at one of the official apps from Disney. This one is called Disney Memories, and for those of you who have been waiting for us to review an Android-compatible app, you're in luck; this one is available for both iOS and Android platforms.
Disney Memories is an extremely easy app to use. Some might consider this too easy, but this app is free, and easy enough for children to use.
Basically, the Disney Memories app lets you take a photo with your smartphone or camera-equipped tablet, then add some Disney touches to it by way of a frame, color tint, or object. Example frames include a small border consisting of ribbons and Mickey Mouse balloon drawings. A color tint could mean turning your photo mostly Princess pink, or an object might be a Mickey Mouse hat (which you can strategically place on a person's head in the photo).
The app also lets you load an existing photo from your photo gallery.
The main screen offers these options:
Once you are in camera mode, tap the Decorate button on the bottom corner to customize your image. The paint can allows you to add a color tint to your photo, the box allows you to add a frame, and the rubber stamp icon allows you to add images (such as a Mickey balloon) to your image.
When you are ready to share your image, click the Share button. This takes you to a screen where you can add a short caption. From there, you go to a form where you can specify how you share the image.
For the most part, the app worked as intended. One problem is a lack of Undo button. It is possible to undo an action by overwriting it with another, but this is unintuitive and not obvious to the user. There is also no Preview button, another feature one would typically expect with this kind of photo app.
In addition, some actions display pop-up messages warning you that the action you're about to take is not reversible. While this is helpful, what isn't helpful is that these actions turn out to be reversible if you play around a bit and apply other effects to your photo.
The biggest issue with this app, and one that was brought up repeatedly among our panel of app testers, was the inability to save a decorated photo as a photo on your phone. When you share your photo, you actually send a link to a Disney website, rather than the photo itself.
For iPhone users, here's a little trick for saving the decorated photo. When you finish decorating, first press and hold your Power button, then press your front Home button. You will hear the click of a camera shutter, and you will have saved a screenshot of your decorated image to your camera roll. Although you will no longer be able to change the decorations on this image, you will be able to treat it like a photo, and share it to your heart's content.
In future versions, it would be nice to see:
Mike tested the app on his Sprint Samsung Galaxy S2, and had these observations:
Overall, it's a cute little app. I can't see myself using it every day, and I don't think I would use it more or less regardless of whether I was in the park or not. It's a nifty little thing that makes me smile, but it's not an absolute must-have app. It took me about two or three minutes to figure out how to navigate through everything and use all the features. The one main drawback that stands out to me is that there is no option to use a front facing camera on phones that have them. I have one on my Galaxy S2, but the app will only allow me to use the rear facing camera, which makes it hard to take live pictures of myself within the app. It does let you play with a picture already stored on the phone, so it's not horrible, its just the only thing that I don't like about it.
There is no support for the camera used for self portraits. Or if there is, I can't figure out how to activate it.
[Editor's note: On the iPhone, there is a little icon on the top corner allowing you to flip to your self-portrait camera.]
Also, I've discovered another bit of a problem, at least from my perspective. The app is a battery hog. When I've exited out of the app, the process continues to run and is very battery use intensive. I had my phone running on battery for something like six hours, and the memories app had used something like 30% of the battery, almost as much as the Android OS. It doesn't happen every time, and I'm not sure how to re-create it but it does happen. At least on my Samsung Galaxy S2.
Since you can browse your gallery, what I did was take a picture of me using the camera program on my phone, and then import it into the memories app. What I discovered is that a picture taken in landscape mode (the phone being held sideways) it will have black bars on the top and bottom of the picture. You can rotate pictures within the app, but you cannot rotate the borders or decorations. Which kind of sucks. So really, only pictures taken in portrait mode (phone up and down) will match up with the decorations.
Another thing, there's the "Unlock The Magic" button. It lets you add hat decorations, but you have to unlock them every time you launch the program. I cannot figure out a way to save them and keep them between times. It doesn't take long to unlock them again, but it is kind of annoying to have to.
Lastly, you can't decorate your picture and then save it to your phone. You can only share it via the web. This would make it a bit troublesome to use frequently. For example: say at the end of the day you've got a lot of pictures you want to update, but you don't want to upload them to Facebook until you're done with all of them. Well, you can't. You decorate one, upload one, then move onto the next one.
[Editor's note: A screenshot app may come in handy for this app.]
John tested the app on his iPhone 4S, and had these observations:
This is a nice app for adding Disney Magic touches to your pictures. I was left wanting more magic touches. I expected an app from Disney to have additions similar to the images Photopass photographers have in the park. Mouse ears are cool, but I wanted more, same comment about frames.
I also found the interface to be a bit frustrating and not very intuitive. Maybe I was expecting more from Disney than I should have.
I want a feature to save photos to my photo stream. Why do I have to email the photo to myself to get a copy? Also, there is no way to edit photos more than once. This app is missing basic photo editing features that are expected in a photo app such as crop and zoom.
Bottom line: A nice simple app, but left me wanting more.
Christy Z. from San Diego, who used the app on a Droix X, offered these thoughts:
I downloaded the Disney Memories app on my Droid X from the Google Play store. It installed easily and loaded quickly—I was using the app less than two minutes after choosing to download. The interface was fairly easy to learn, but that may be because there isn't much to this app. Disney Memories lets you apply filters, borders, and virtual stickers to your photos and then share them through email, Facebook, or Twitter. Linking to your Facebook or Twitter account is very quick, and just requires you to enter user name and password the first time that feature is used.
Photos can be taken through the app, or existing photos on your phone can be used. Photos taken through the app did not save to the phone, so I chose to take photos with the phone and then modify them using the app most of the time so that I wasn't losing a picture I'd taken.
The altered photos are not saved as attachments. They are uploaded to a Disney server, and what you're really sharing via email/Twitter/Facebook is a link to your photo on the Disney server. While this seems fine in theory, I would mostly want to use this app at Disney parks, which proved all but impossible because of the time that the uploads were taking in the parks. Uploads went very quickly when I tried the app out at home, but at the parks where there are thousands of people utilizing their phones all at once, the uploads to the server often timed out or took extremely long (over five minutes) to upload and share.
If you upload to Facebook and then realize after leaving the photo that you also wanted to upload to Twitter, you're out of luck and need to re-create the altered image. (Or if it is possible to get images back, I couldn't figure out how to do it.) This also means that you can't look back through a "library" of photos you've created with the app, which I think would be a good addition to the app.
The app doesn't let you use more than one sticker at a time, which I think would be an easy feature to add.
The app adds that day's date into your caption, regardless of when the picture was actually taken. Most of the time this wouldn't matter, but it would be nice to be able to change/edit the date.
The Unlocked Items feature was completely unclear to me. When I tried to use these items, it would only let me use one of the seven items shown, but didn't mention how to unlock the other items. These items are also not accessible from the main decorating menus. Do you need to use the app more to unlock items? Is it based on how long you've had the app? I have no idea.
I think the app is a fun way to play with Disney photos, but I probably wouldn't use it more than once or twice per trip just because of how long the uploads take when you're at the park, and because of the fact that the app doesn't save your altered photos for later. I also don't think I'd use it on every trip because of how few features there are; it's not adding enough to motivate me to use the app and not just share the photo as is through email or social media, sans enhancements. The simplicity/lack of features isn't a bad thing because it makes it easier to use, but there isn't a whole lot to this app that would motivate me to use it too many times. I'd like this a whole lot more if the photos were being sent as actual photos and not as links to a Disney server with cookie-cutter headers/footers/dates. I'm glad this was free, because I don't think it would be worthwhile if it was a paid app.
Marshal K. from Tampa, Florida, used an iPhone 4S and offered these thoughts:
Since I wasn’t actually at or near a Disney theme park, I asked some people who eat lunch with me in my high school’s chorus/orchestra room (including the teacher!) to join in the picture fun. It turned out pretty good. I used an iPhone 4S, and for being in a room with notoriously bad reception and 3G…it loaded very well. It is very easy to use; all the buttons are self explanatory.
Now, as far as fun/useful…all the app is, is an Instagram knock-off, so if someone has a problem taking a picture without using a filter, then they will somewhat enjoy this…the main problem is the lack of options. While me (a teenager) and my fellow teenager friends were searching to see what to add to the picture, we were disappointed to see how little there was to choose from.
The main problem was that you couldn’t mix and match. For example, you couldn’t put a different border on a filter or put multiple character bubbles onto a picture (none if you use a filter). I would rather just use Instagram while at Disney. Overall, I give the app 2.5 Instagram knock-offs out of 5. It wasn’t bad, but it definitely was not good.
(Send an email to Lani Teshima)
A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company. When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ. In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).