App Review: SignMYiby Lani Teshima, staff writer
[Update November 5, 2012: The app has been updated to work with iOS 6.]
Have you wished that there was a more convenient—or modern—way to obtain autographs from the characters you meet at the Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort, or do you wind up having to buy a new autograph book each time you go to the parks? An alternative to the autograph book is a new iOS smartphone application called SignMYi, which captures both autographs and snapshots of those characters you meet in the parks.
The interface for SignMYi is extremely simple. When you first start the app, it immediately takes you to a blank summary page. The interface is intuitive, and tapping the plus symbol on the upper-right corner takes you to the Add Signature page. You don't actually add the signature on this page, but add the name of the person or character in an empty field. This creates a record, which then shows up on the list in your summary page.
The SignMYi app automatically takes you to the list of signatures stored in your app. Names with a camera icon next to them indicate that you have a photo associated with the signature. Note that you cannot sort this list, and the oldest appears on the top of the list.
Add the name and tap Done, and you are taken back to the summary list page. In order to add a signature for your newly created entry, you then have to tap the name from this page. A pop-up message asks you if you want to take a photo first so you can have a snapshot onto which to add an autograph. Tap No, and you see a blank screen, where the person can write their autograph directly onto their screen. Tap Yes, and you are instead taken to your phone's camera.
Once you take a photo, you see a preview of the picture, and can choose whether to use it or retake another. Tapping Use records the snapshot into your app—be warned, however, that this process can take as much as 15 seconds. Once the photo is saved, the interface changes slightly. The app still shows the photo, but now you see two buttons on top: Clear and Save. It is at this point that you can "write" directly onto the screen over the photo—this is not particularly intuitive, and the writing is in black, meaning if you take a dark photo, the autograph will not be very visible. Tapping Clear simply removes the autograph layer, and does not let you cancel the photo itself. Should you wish to take another photo, you must first save the one you have, and take another.
If you don't have a chance to take a snapshot first, you can add a photo. However, if you already captured a signature, the photo and signature become saved as two separate files, and there is no way to lay the signature over the photo. In addition, should you wish to add a photo later on, you must take the photo from within the app; you do not have the ability to select a photo from your camera roll.
After you take a photo of your subject, the app automatically takes you to the signing screen, however this is not obvious, as this screen is not labeled as such. Your only indication is that you can either tap Clear to clear off the signature, or Save to save the signature laid over the photo.
Once you have saved your autographed snapshot, you can share it on Twitter or share it via email. Photos saved this way in the app are not saved to your camera roll.
One challenge for the signer is to keep the signature within a very small block of space. When signing over a photo, the character has even less space than the full size of the iPhone screen. Also, notice the black "ink" blends in with darker portions of the photo.
SignMYi is very easy to use and relatively intuitive, but has some limits that may make it inconvenient for some. One major disadvantage for those considering using this at a Disney theme park is that the writing surface is only as large as the phone's screen, making it smaller than the space in most autograph books. The biggest problem, however, is that signing requires a finger; a gloved finger cannot interact with the screen. To make matters worse, there are very few stylus models on the market that are large and thick enough for a gloved character to hold comfortably, making signing an autograph all but impossible for Mickey and his fellow gloved friends.
If you can keep a large stylus with you, and use this app on the second or third-generation iPad, this may alleviate some of the major issues with using this in a Disney theme park. Typically when a character signs your autograph book, though, they take the book from you in order to be able to see the writing surface through their limited vision—it's up to you whether you are willing to hand your expensive iPad to a character with limited vision who is wearing gloves, however. Whose fault does it become if they slip and break your iPad?
App Tester Observations
We asked our panel of volunteer app testers what they thought about SignMYi:
Although app tester Tiffany has an iPad and an iPhone, she only tried it on her iPhone because her first-generation iPad has no camera. However, after trying the app with her daughter at home, she decided it was not worth taking to the park. Tiffany said, "I did not take it to the park because I felt that it took way too much time to open the app get a picture, then wait for the picture to do its thing before you could get an autograph. I also felt unless you carried a stylus around a character would not be able to sign, and even then, I do not think someone like Mickey could sign in the small space!"
App tester John L. tested the app on his iPhone 4, his newer iPhone 4S, and first-generation iPad. Testing the app on his iPad, which lacks a camera, he noted a software bug: "One bad thing about the iPad—clicking the camera icon caused an abort and the app exited. But what else could it do since there is no camera on this device?" John experienced a few crashes on his iPhone 4 as well, and also noticed that the app was noticeably slower on the iPhone 4 than on the iPhone 4S. John's conclusion: "I will keep the app on my iPhone 4s and probably use it the next time I'm in a Disney Park. I may use it if I ever run into someone who I want their autograph, or even for making notes on pictures for future reference such as an accident scene, issue at work, or to report something out of order. Could be used for more than just autograph hounds."
Officer Blue poses for a photo on Buena Vista Street. Two of our volunteer app testers noted that signatures collected using the app tended to have skips and breaks, as seen in this autograph. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
App tester Andrew K. felt that this app could use a bit more refinement, since there are other similar applications that are free. Specifically, he wondered why creating a new entry led you back to the summary page when it should be clear that creating a new entry meant you wanted to go to the signature screen right away: "I didn’t understand why it did this, clearly I want to add a new signature if I’m pressing the plus button so why add an extra step? Especially if I’m in a hurry! After you select the new name from the menu it asks if you would like to take a photo that the new autograph can be placed upon. It’s a cool idea but it really takes way too long to do, after the in-app camera launches and you’ve clicked the shutter it took a good 15-30 seconds to process the photo which could be troublesome if you’ve just ran into a celebrity who’s in a hurry or you’re meeting Mickey Mouse at Disneyland."
Andrew felt that the most glaring error in the app was that it did not work in landscape orientation, since portrait orientation makes it really difficult to fit any signature: "An iPhone is not very wide when held in portrait mode but would be perfectly acceptable in landscape. Sure the app is universal and works on both iPhone and larger iPad so the lack of landscape on the iPad isn’t as big of a deal, but it is when you realize that you don’t carry your iPad everywhere with you in your pocket."
As with Tiffany and John, Andrew noted that the heat-sensitive touch display would prevent any gloved characters from being able to use the app without a stylus. His conclusion: "This is no replacement for the still valid autograph book but with some improvements in future versions, it very well could give the old fashioned paper a run for it’s money."
One tester turned this Cars Land photo into a postcard using SignMyi, but noted that it would have been useful to be able to make the lines thicker or a different color to increase the contrast against the photo. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Unlike our other panelists, our own Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix had a chance to use SignMYi on her iPad 2, which gives you a slightly different experience than on an iPhone. The iPad 2 has a built-in camera, so Adrienne did not encounter any issues with the app crashing. She also found the interface easy to use, although she found the app a bit clunky and limited. She also noted the inconvenience of getting an entry set up before trying to get a character signature on a photo. Adrienne agrees that a stylus is necessary for gloved characters, but in her opinion, even "face" characters might find the app tricky. While Adrienne thought it was easier to collect signatures on an iPad screen than on an iPhone screen, she added, "That also means you need an iPad with a camera, and be willing to lug the thing around." On the day she went to the parks to collect signatures using SignMYi, she took her iPad 2 with a stylus. She noted that, even with the stylus, signatures skipped and hiccupped, and that characters had to take their time in order for all the letters to register correctly.
Mickey Mouse poses for a photo to add to the SignMYi app, taken on an iPad 2 camera. Note the lack of contrast between the signature and the background means the signature is hard to read. The default message when you tweet this is "You won't believe it! I just got ______'s signature," with the information filled out with the name you chose for your file. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Adrienne recommends the app as a novelty app, but suggests the following improvements:
- Ability to add a signature to an existing photo on the device, in the camera roll (and not necessarily just saved in the app).
- Ability to add a photo after collecting a signature, and have the signature lay over the photo.
- Ability to move the signature to a better spot on the photo.
- Ability to change the "ink" color to provide better contrast (such as white, against a darker background).
- Ability to change the thickness of the ink lines.
- Ability to post to Facebook.
- Ability to just open to a blank collection screen without first having to create a file, so you can grab an autograph quickly on the fly.
I agree with Adrienne and our other panelists; this app offers a good idea, but the limitations in its current version keep SignMYi purely in the novelty category.
App at a Glance
- App name: SignMYi
- Developed by: MazTouch
- Platforms: iOS 5+ (iPhone and iPad), available from iTunes
- Cost: 99 cents
- Version reviewed: 1.6
- Size: 0.7MB
- Pros: Shareable via Twitter and email; ability to keep all autographs in one location; no need to carry your autograph book with you everywhere.
- Cons: Crashes on devices with no camera; slow on older devices; unusable without stylus for gloved characters; iPhone surface may be too small for costumed characters to handle.
- Lani's rating: 3 out of 5.
If you are a developer with an application you think Disney theme park visitors would like, please contact us for consideration in a future review.