Smartphones have become one of the most popular platforms for taking photos, but aside from third-party apps, there's not much in the way of hardware to get more out of your photos. The $149 Motrr Galileo is one such accessory; this dock for iPhonesand iPodscan rotate 360 degrees both horizontally and vertically, and works with several apps to let you take panoramas or even use your iOS device as a remote camera. But while it's novel, is the Galileo too niche?
The Motrr Galileo is about the size and shape of two hockey pucks stacked on top of each other. The all-white device is coated in a soft-touch finish, and the top is indented to accommodate an iPhone or iPod.
The upper third of the Galileo rotates 90 degrees vertically, from its closed horizontal position to one that's perpendicular to the base. The base itself rotates 360 degrees.
On the bottom of the Galileo is a standard tripod screw mount, as well as an LED that indicates if the device is turned on. A microUSB port along the side is used to recharge the device.
How it works
The Motrr Galileo is essentially an iPhone/iPod mount that rotates horizontally and vertically. After you dock your iOS device to the Galileo and connect the two via Bluetooth, you can use one of several apps that will take photos or video using the iPod/iPhone's camera while rotating the Galileo automatically. So, for example, you can use the Galileo to take a 360-degree panoramic photo.
On the top of the Galileo is a small cut-out section into which you can slide an iPhone 5S, 5C, 5, 4S and iPod 5. A black rubber insert ensures that your iOS device is secure; the Galileo ships with three inserts. Motrr also sells a version with a 30-pin dock, which is only compatible with the iPhone 4S, 4, 3GS and iPod 4.
If you're planning to do a lot of outdoor photography with the Galileo, we also recommend using a tripod, as it will prevent you from having to find a level base for the device.
After we launched the Motrr app on our iPhone 5s, we simply twisted the base of the Galileo, and the app asked to pair our iPhone with the Galileo via Bluetooth. Later, if we needed to re-pair our iPhone 5s to the Galileo via Bluetooth, all we had to do was twist the base of the Galileo.
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Within the Motrr app are links to 13 apps in the Apple App Store that can take advantage of the Galileo. Wristvision ($1.99), for example, lets you use a Pebble smartwatch to view video and control the Galileo over Bluetooth.
Sphere (free) lets you take 360-degree panoramic shots. IguanaLapse ($9.99) takes time-lapse photos, slightly tilting your iPhone in the process. TimeLapse Free does much the same, albeit with a much less attractive interface. Videography ($3.99) is a remote-control camera app, and AirBeam ($3.99) streams live video and audio over the Internet from whatever device is connected to the Galileo.
We tried both the Sphere and the TimeLapse Free apps, and found both worked very well. Sphere automatically turned the Galileo 360 degrees, taking pictures at regular intervals, and stitched them together into a hemisphere. Colors, highlights and shadows were even throughout, and stitching was only noticeable in a few spots, where a person was cropped in half.
You can view Spheres either by scrolling with your finger, or by turning your iPhone in your hand. Spheres can be shared via Facebook, email, Twitter, instant message and with other Sphere app users. The app will send a link to a website, which friends can open.
TimeLapse Free also took photos every few seconds while rotating the iPhone a few degrees. It then compiled the photos into a time-lapse video showing people walking through Madison Square Park and in front of the Flatiron Building. The app lets you adjust how many photos are taken per minute and how far and how much the Galileo pans and tilts.
After recording a video, we could email it, save it to our camera roll, or share it via YouTube and Dropbox. The app also lets you edit your videos, so you can change the colors, exposure and resolution, among other settings.
Those looking to do serious time-lapse photography or a do-it-yourself video monitor will want to make sure whatever device is attached to the Galileo is fully charged. That's because the charging port on your iOS device is inaccessible when docked in the Galileo. Because time-lapse photography and remote video monitoring also take a lot of time, you'll probably want to use an iPhone or an iPod that isn't your primary communication device, which creates an added expense.
The Motrr Galileo is a very niche device. For what it's designed to do--help you make better use of your iPhone or iPod touch's camera--this $149 accessory works well. However, it works with only a handful of apps, and if you're planning to take long-exposure shots or use the Galileo as a remote monitor, you'll want to invest in a second iOS device, so your iPhone isn't tied up for extended periods of time. Bottom line: The Galileo is an innovative device, but isn't going to turn the world on its head.