Inside the iPhone's visual charms

Apple touts the iPhone’s telephonic, musical, and Internet prowess but if you check the phone’s Home screen, you’ll find it holds even greater riches. Icons 3 through 5 are dedicated to the device’s visual charms—Photos, Camera, and YouTube. What is the iPhone capable of in regard to these items? Let’s take a look.

Photos

Much like an iPod with a color display, the iPhone can show pictures you’ve synced to it with iTunes. Unlike with these iPods, the iPhone can also generate images of its own via the phone’s built-in camera. All these images are available in the Photo Albums screen that’s revealed when you tap the Photos icon on the iPhone’s Home screen.

The first entry in this screen is Camera Roll. If you’ve taken no pictures (or deleted any you have taken), you’ll see a generic camera icon to the left and the expected > symbol to the right, indicating there’s a screen to follow when you tap the Camera Roll entry. If you’ve taken pictures with the built-in camera, the icon will change to a thumbnail image of the last picture you took. Tap Camera Roll to see thumbnail images of the pictures you’ve taken with the iPhone’s camera.

The next entry in the Photos Album screen is Photo Library. This contains thumbnails of all the synced images on your iPhone.

Any entries that follow in the Photo Albums screen are specific photo albums that you’ve chosen to sync with your iPhone. This choosing and syncing is done in iTunes and it works this way:

When you tether your activated iPhone to your computer it will appear in iTunes Source list. Select it and, in the resulting iPhone window, click the Photos tab. In this window click the Sync Photos From pop-up menu and you’ll discover that on your Mac you can sync photos from iPhoto, Aperture (if you have a copy), a folder of your choosing, and your user’s Pictures folder. Beneath this pop-up menu are options for syncing all photos (followed by the number of photos you’re asking iTunes to sync) or syncing selected albums (or sub-folders, if you’ve chosen a specific folder or your Pictures folder). As iTunes tells you at the bottom of this window, you can drag entries in the list of albums or folders to change their order.

Once you’ve chosen how you’d like to sync your photos, click the Apply button. iTunes will tell you that it’s optimizing the images for your iPhone. The iPhone doesn’t copy the images in their original form to the iPhone; instead, it formats the image to the right size and resolution for best display on your phone. This takes very little time—perhaps a couple of minutes for a thousand images. Once iTunes has optimized an image for the iPhone, it won’t again, so future syncs will skip this step for already optimized images.

Syncing the optimized photos to the iPhone is even faster. Note that if you change the way you sync photos—you choose to sync just a couple of albums rather than all your photos, for example—images on the iPhone that aren’t part of the current sync will be deleted. iTunes won’t merge new photos with old.

Viewing photos

Full-screen photo views on the iPhone

Looking at the pictures on your iPhone is simple. Tap the Camera Roll, Photo Library, or an album entry to be taken to a page of thumbnail images for that group of pictures. You can view a full-sized version of a particular image by tapping once on it. In this full-screen mode you can move to the next or previous image by simply swiping your finger to the left or right, respectively.

To enlarge the image you have two options. The first is to double-tap it. The second is to use the expanding pinch gesture̬place your thumb and index finger next to each other on the screen and pry them apart to watch the image grow. Once the image is expanded you can move it around by placing your finger on the screen and dragging. In this expanded view you can't move to the next picture using the swipe gesture. You must either contract the image by double-tapping it or “pinching” the image with your thumb and index finger.

You can, however, move to the next image from an expanded view by using the on-screen controls. These controls include Options, Previous, Play, and Next buttons.

When you tap the options button, an overlay appears that includes four options—Use As Wallpaper, Email Photo, Assign To Contact, and Cancel. These commands are self-explanatory (but I’ll explain them anyway).

Tap Use As Wallpaper, and you’re offered the chance to Move and Scale the image. You do this with the usual swipe and pinch gestures. Once you have the image at the size and location you desire, tap Set Wallpaper. The image will now appear on your phone’s face when it’s locked. Click Cancel on this same screen to back out of the process.

Tap Email Photo and the image is placed in a blank e-mail message. Just fill in the To field, add a subject, and type in a bit of text if you like. Press Send and your image is on the way. Tap Cancel to, well, cancel the operation.

When you tap Assign To Contact you can use the current picture as the thumbnail image for one of your iPhone’s contacts. The Contacts screen appears, you tap a contact, and, once again, you’re afforded the opportunity to move and scale the picture. When you’re content, tap Set Photo. (Or cancel if you think better of the idea.)

The next three controls are for viewing your images. Previous performs the same function as swiping your finger to the right—it wipes to the previous image. Tapping play initiates a slideshow (the settings for which I’ll explain in a moment). And tapping the Next icon moves you to the next image in the sequence.

These controls will disappear after a short time so that you can see your pictures without a lot of clutter. To make them reappear, simply tap the iPhone’s face one time. A single tap will also stop a slideshow as will swiping your finger to the left or right to view the next or previous image.

Although you can view images in landscape view, these controls don’t shift with the view—they’re always displayed in portrait orientation.

The only way to delete synced images from the iPhone is through iTunes—you can’t delete these images through an on-screen control. This isn’t the case with images you’ve capture with the iPhone’s camera. To get rid of an ill-conceived picture, just tap it to view the full-sized image and then tap the Trash icon in the bottom right corner of the screen. An overlay will appear offering you the options to Delete Photo or Cancel.

Setting photo preferences

Configure a slideshow on the Settings screen.

Just as with iPod preferences, you configure the phone’s photos preferences in the Settings screen. Just tap Settings on the main screen, and, in the resulting Settings screen, tap Photos. You’ll find options for configuring the time between images in a slideshow—2, 3, 5, 10, and 20 seconds; transitions (Cube, Dissolve, Ripple, Wipe Across, and Wipe Down); Repeat (On or Off);and Shuffle (On or Off). Unlike with iPhoto, you can’t vary the time each slide is displayed—set it for 3 seconds and all images will display for that long—nor can you mix up the transitions. Choose Ripple, and they all ripple.

While you’re in the Settings screen, tap Wallpaper. On the Wallpaper screen, you’ll find that you can choose an image from Apple’s bundled patterns, your camera roll, photo library, or album for your iPhone’s wallpaper.

Camera

After the long explanation of all the goodness built into the Photos area, the simplicity of the camera may seem a little disappointing. To work the camera, tap the Camera icon and point the back of the iPhone at whatever you’d like to take a picture of. The display will show what the camera sees. To take a picture, just tap the Camera icon at the bottom of the screen. You’ll hear a “picture-taking” sound effect, and the image will be captured. Within a second the camera is ready to take the next shot. The 2-megapixel camera takes images at 1,200-by-1,600-pixel resolution

To be transported to thumbnails of the images you’ve captured with your camera, tap the Images icon at the bottom left corner of the display. In the resulting Camera Roll screen, tap a thumbnail to enlarge it. This takes you into photo play mode where you can swipe or tap through your images, enlarge them with a pinch, access the wallpaper, e-mail, and contact options I mentioned earlier; to delete images by tapping the Trash icon. Unlike with the regular Camera Roll screen, this one includes a small camera icon in the upper right corner. To return to the camera, just tap this icon.

My colleague Jim Dalrymple tried out the built-in camera this past weekend.

YouTube

The last of the iPhone’s applications to be announced by Apple, the YouTube component allows you to watch H.264-encoded YouTube content on your phone. Its setup looks similar to what you find in the iPhone’s iPod component.

As in the iPhone’s iPod component, you’ll find some icons arrayed across the bottom of the screen—Featured, Most Viewed, Bookmarks, Search, and More. They shake out this way:

The Most Viewed videos in YouTube

Featured includes a list of 25 YouTube videos featured by the service. At the bottom of the list you’ll see a Load 8 More entry. Tap this to view eight additional featured YouTube videos. Tap the picture of the video or its description, and the YouTube play screen appears in Landscape mode. The video begins streaming to your iPhone and starts playing when the iPhone believes it has enough video to play it without interruption. To see a longer description of the video, tap the blue button to the right of the description. Here you can view such information as the date when the video was added, its category (Music or Comedy, for example), and its tags.

This screen also features Bookmark and Share buttons. Tap Bookmark, and the video is added to your list of YouTube bookmarks. Tap Share, and a new e-mail message opens that includes the tile of title of the video in the subject line and the words “Check out this video on YouTube: followed by the video’s URL. Fill in the message’s To field, and tap Send and the message is on its way.

The description screen also includes a Related Videos area. If YouTube has videos it believes are related to the one you’ve chosen, it will list them here.

Tap the Most Viewed icon, and you’ll see a list of the 25 most viewed YouTube videos. At the bottom of the list is a Load 25 More entry. At the top of the screen are All, Today, and This Week buttons. Tap them to view the most viewed YouTube videos within that time period. The description screen that appears when you tap the blue button has the same functionality as the one I described earlier.

When you tap the Bookmarks icon, you’ll see a list of all the YouTube videos you’ve bookmarked. To remove entries from this list, tap the Edit button in the top right corner of the screen, tap the red minus icon at the left of an entry, and tap Delete. Tab done to return to the Bookmarks screen.

Tap the Search icon to produce a Search field. Tap within this field and the iPhone’s keyboard appears. Enter a search term and tap Search. Up to 25 videos will appear in the screen below. If more than 25 videos match your search, a Load 25 More entry appears at the bottom of the list.

Note that YouTube’s entire catalog is not available. In the past, YouTube encoded its videos with Flash. Flash playback is not supported by the iPhone. YouTube is in the process of converting its content to the H.264 format, which will be playable on the iPhone and Apple TV. YouTube hopes to complete the conversion by this fall.

The More icon offers three additional choices on its screen. Most Recent displays a list of the 25 most recent videos YouTube has added to its iPhone-compatible catalog. (Yes, the bottom of this screen has a Load 25 More entry too).

Top Rated lists 25 top rated videos with the usual 25 More entry. And History lists all the videos you’ve accessed. You needn’t have watched these videos. All you need to do is attempt to stream them, and they appear in the list. To clear this list, tap the red Clear button at the top right of the screen. Note that, as with bookmarked YouTube videos, these videos aren’t stored on your iPhone. If you choose one, it will have to stream once again to your iPhone to play.

YouTube play screen

The YouTube play screen looks much like the video screen in the iPhone’s iPod area. It includes Rewind, Play/Pause and Fast-Forward buttons; a volume slider, and a timeline with the silver playhead that you can drag to a new position in the video. At the left of the timeline is a time indicator detailing how far along in the video you are. To the right, the remaining time. The Widescreen/Standard screen button appears in the upper right corner of the landscape display.

Playing back a YouTube video on the iPhone

The main difference between this screen and the iPod’s screen is the two buttons on either side of the play controls. Tap the Bookmarks button and the currently playing video is added to your bookmarks. This is done without interrupting the video. Tap the Share icon (the one that looks like an envelope) to the right of the play controls and you’re presented with the e-mail message that includes the video’s title in the subject heading and a link to the video in the message body. When you Send or Cancel the message, you return to the video. It begins playing from where it left off when you tapped the Share icon. When the video finishes playing, you’re taken to the description screen for that video.

[ Senior editor Christopher Breen is the author of The iPod and iTunes Pocket Guide, second edition (Peachpit Press, 2007). ]

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