eXtensions - Friday 14 July 2017

A Difficult Experience with a new Filters app: Pop Art - Spoiled by Details

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By Graham K. Rogers

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My congratulations to our French friends on Bastille Day, which commemorates an event that forced great changes in France and the rest of Europe. The disruptive technology and devices of iOS have caused a major (if less bloody) revolution in the ways that powerful devices are now in our hands and are almost universal. Apps have been an important part of this advance, whether free or paid. As I wrote yesterday, we expect developers to provide us with excellent tools, but many users are reluctant to pay for them. The other side of this coin is that, if we are asked to pay for an app, it should reach a certain quality.

Pop Art Welcome These days it is hard to find apps that are totally new, especially in the Photo & Video section of the App Store, but I keep digging around looking for items in my Why Haven't I seen this Before category. I thought I had found something this week - new and not at all well publicised - in Pop Cam-Image Editor with Pop Art style Filters. It is a filter-based app with camera and Photo Library access. At a price of 69 baht ($1.99) I thought it worth a look.

Unusually for me, I tried it first on the 12.9" iPad Pro. This gave me a good look at how the generous screen can be used, but there was a warning shot with the opening instructions panel.

A couple of times recently I have seen apps in which English rubric is relatively poor and, as someone else remarked in an app review not so long ago, if the developer has not made the effort to fix this, what else may be wrong. In the case of the Italian-developed DSLR Camera, not much: some of the Italian (lucci for Brightness and ombre for Shadows) gave the app a certain charm.

Earlier today, I spent an hour with the Dean of the Faculty (a former student) discussing ways in which we can avoid the release of unedited English - it takes me 3 nanoseconds to find and fix - and improve Faculty output (brochures, posters). He is aware that a poorly checked document implies that the Faculty may not be concerned on other levels.

The instructions and warnings that appeared (there were more after that initial screen) suggested that no effort had been made to check. It will do, is not good enough. I was not surprised to find problems.

The filters themselves are unusual and varied enough to be interesting, even with the price, but when I used one of them, named Vivid, it crashed the app every time. I tried on the iPhone 7 Plus in case it were a problem with the iPad Pro, but the same happened when I used it with the camera (Front or Back). When I tried with the Photo Library, it crashed 9 times out of 10. It was just not possible to use the Vivid filter, but all the others were fine.

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The app crashed intermittently with the iPhone 7 and iPhone SE when using the same Vivid filter, but (as with the other devices) was stable with the rest of the filters. Sometimes, having accessed the Vivid filter using an image from the Photo Library, entering Settings, then returning to the editing screen would also prompt a crash, but only with the Vivid filter.

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The other filters (Basic, Warhol 1, Psycho, Shadow, Mesh, Pastel, Contour, Paper, Mirrorball, Lighting, Comic, and Warhol 2) each produced an interesting version of the original image, although the Warhol filters (4 and 9 panel versions of the same image) were not to my taste. That happens with filter apps and is not a fault of the developer. A crash is something else.

Beneath the editing screen, simple control buttons gave access to the editing features, the camera and the Photo Library. The last of these, Detail, displayed a set of editing sliders, allowing adjustments to the image output. Each slider set was different, depending on the filter selected, but color and line thickness, as well as hue and saturation were the most common options.

What output I produced on the iPad Pro and iPhones was more than acceptable. The style of images produced had much potential in terms of graphic Art (the Warhol filters are a clue). Having edited an image, it was not initially clear how this might be exported: the Shutter button doubles as the control for this: not exactly clear.

With the problem filter, I sought help and this raises another problem. When I have contacted developers like Michael Hardwick (645 Pro) or Plum Amazing (iWatermark+), response times can be measured in hours. A developer like Macphun will send an initial marker email and then send the query to a staff member, but this usually takes little more than a day. I sent a message to the developer of Pop Cam and I am still waiting for a reply. That breaks another of my rules for user/developer transactions.

Pop Cam
Pop Cam image output from iPhone 7 Plus

I actually quite like the output from Pop Cam, and the (very) few times Vivid did work without crashing the app, that too produces a nice effect. Whether users want to run the risk at this time is a personal decision. At version 1.0 and having just been released (7 July) this could well be fixed soon, but with zero feedback from the developer, there is no information on when (or if) that might be.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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