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Feb 3, 2009

CLIP Phanfare's Photon: The Best Photo App for the iPhone Yet?

phanfare_logo_jan09.pngPhanfare is one of the lesser known photo sharing services on the Net, but its new iPhone app is putting the company back in the spotlight. This new app, dubbed 'Photon' (iTunes link), might just be the best photo sharing app we have seen on Apple's phone. Thanks to a smart integration with the company's cloud storage and online gallery features, as well as some nice enhancements to the iPhone's own camera features, this free app looks like a clear winner to us.

In our round-up of photo sharing services last year, we wrote that Phanfare turned out to be a surprisingly good and well designed service. Photon now takes this service and puts almost all of its functionality on the iPhone.

photon_pictures.pngAt its core, Photon is the easiest way to browse through all of your photo albums on the iPhone. Thanks to the Phanfare desktop app and plugins for most of the popular desktop photo apps, you can upload all your pictures to the service. Free accounts come with 1GB of space, while unlimited accounts cost $55 a year. Phanfare also offers a wide array of photo printing services.


Photon's interface is similar to that of Apple's own Photo app for the iPhone, but Phanfare's app comes with a number of crucial new features - besides the obvious advantage of being able to access all of your pictures from the phone. The built-in camera app, for example, comes with an image stabilization feature, as well as a self timer.

In addition, you can apply effects like grayscale, sepia, or auto levels to your pictures. For slideshows, you can upload your own music to Phanfare, but you have to do so through the company's website. The app also lets you crop your pictures and add captions to your images.

Of course, you can also publish new galleries to your public Phanfare sites, and invite friends and family to view your new pictures online.

Because the app caches your images on the phone, most of Photon's features even work when you are offline. You can choose how much disk space on the phone you want to dedicate to the cache.

One feature we did miss from the app was the ability to zoom into your pictures, though Andrew Erlichson, Phanfare's CEO, tells us that this will be included in the next release of the app, which should be available within the next four weeks.


photon_camera.pngPhanfare's desktop app is also quite well thought out, though it doesn't quite match the polish of the company's iPhone app. It does, however, present the easiest way to batch-upload your photos to Phanfare. After that, you can use plugins for iPhoto, Picasa, and a number of other services to upload your pictures instead. You can also import your images from Snapfish, Shutterfly, Kodak Gallery, and SmugMug.


Phanfare's Photon is currently the best photo sharing and photo management app on the iPhone. It is important to note that Photon puts less emphasis on social feature than other services like Radar, which we reviewed last week. Instead, it concentrates mostly on giving you easy access to all of your photos, while also providing you with the option to share them with your friends.

Phanfare's CEO Andrew Erlichson strongly believes that the iPhone and other smartphones will disrupt the traditional point-and-shoot photo camera market in the long run and will allow new players like Apple to get a foot into this market. This app is Phanfare's first step in following the market in this direction by marrying the iPhone's camera feature with a very capable cloud storage and photo sharing service.

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