[REVIEW] A Visit With the Vizit

In technology there are few companies who are thinking about things differently or offering a useful alternative to existing products.  The digital picture frame fad may not be as hot as it once was, but that may be because nobody is thinking about it in new and creative ways.  Enter the Vizit by Isabella Products. It’s a nice easy to use digital picture frame that may not appeal to everybody, but it certainly should be considered when looking at digital picture frames.

While the Vizit is not currently available, we are assured it will be available shortly.  We got our hands on a beta model and it performed very well.  First a brief description:  The Vizit digital picture frame has a nice, big 10.4 inch LCD screen capable of 800X600 SVGA resolution.  It has a USB port and an SD card slot to allow pictures to upload through conventional means.  It has a touch screen for basic gesture input, but no multi-touch.  These features are not overly impressive, but the cool thing is the other way you get photos on it.

The Vizit is wireless but doesn’t run on wifi; instead, the Vizit is run on AT&T’s cellular network.  Via a monthly service charge, you and friends are able to upload pictures from wherever.  Just by emailing or texting, friends and family can upload photos to the frame, and the frame will notify you when new photos are ready to be viewed.  Vizit is working on getting support for Photobucket and Flickr, which will allow two more great ways to get photos on it.

Imagine your parents have a Vizit frame and you’re on vacation.  Instead of texting or emailing these photos when you get home or when you get back to the hotel room, you can send pictures directly to their Vizit picture frame, thus assuring that the photos will make it off of your parents cell phone or computer.

Another feature of the Vizit is that it’s dead simple to use.  This is perfect for those people who just want to plug something in and have it work.  Grandparents or those less tech savvy folks out there, we’re looking at you.    All I had to do was plug it in, set up my account, and start uploading photos.  Within a few seconds I had big beautiful pictures come across the Vizit’s screen.

There were a few hang-ups with the Vizit, though, and we hope these will be addressed soon.  First, the Vizit has a touch screen, which will allow you to select photos and change some settings on the unit.  The touch screen is a pain to use, and you have to tap in it pretty hard to get the screen to accept your gestures.  Apple touch interface pretty much set the bar on how people touch to interact with products; if you like the smooth interface of an iPhone, you won’t get it here with the Vizit.  The onscreen controls are basic without a lot of polish.  But if you’re OK with banging your fingers through a few sections, it gets the job done.

Also, there is the price/service charge.  At $279.99, it’s not cheap, and you’ll be tied to choosing one of two photo plans: $5.99/month for the basic photo plan or $79.99/year for a premium photo plan with 20% more data than the basic.  I’m going to go on the record and say if there is any way I can buy a gadget and not have to sign up for some monthly charge, I’ll do it even if I have to pay more for it.  I think I’m not the only one.  If we are Vizit’s target customers, they’re going to have a tough battle to get my hard earned money.

I think Vizit should pitch this as a high-end piece of equipment and make this a whizz-bang easy to use, do it all picture frame.  To do that, though, they’ll need to really up the workmanship and up the price.  Right now the Vizit stands as a little too expensive for some and not quite awesome enough for the people who can afford it.

So here we are with a capable digital picture frame, which is thinking different about how people use and interact with it.  Is it different enough to make it stand alone as a game changer in the digital picture frame market?  Not yet, but it’s a strong start.

More information is available at vizitme.com.

Full disclosure: Isabella Products loaned the author a review Vizit unit, which was returned following the review period.

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