Eye-Fi’s Upcoming Fix for the Disconnected Camera Blues

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My Technologizer column this week is about camera phones and traditional digital cameras. I love ’em both. But I’m frustrated by the fact that conventional cameras–which still take the best photos–remain some of the least Internet-savvy gadgets around. (As I say in the piece, most people still get photos off a camera and onto the Internet in the same way they did back in the 1990s: via a USB cable or by shuffling a memory card around.)

I can’t figure out why the camera industry hasn’t moved more aggressively to bring their devices into the Internet age. But I’m grateful for the existence of Eye-Fi, the SD cards with built-in Wi-Fi. So, apparently, are camera companies: Most of the big names endorse Eye-Fi and build support into their cameras.

Eye-Fi cards can transfer your photos to your computer and photo-sharing sites over a Wi-Fi network, which is a partial fix for cameras’ general lack of networking smarts. But the company has announced an upcoming feature it calls Direct Mode, which will allow for direct connections to phones and tablets:

With Direct Mode, photos taken with your digital camera can immediately be sent to your smartphone or tablet. They can be viewed, used with myriad apps on the device, or uploaded and shared.

Absent the introduction of cameras with the built-in ability to run apps and get online via a cellular connection–hey, I’d buy one–Direct Mode could be the most expedient way to make traditional-camera photos nearly as instantly-versatile as ones you snap with a smartphone. Eye-Fi hasn’t spilled all the beans yet on the feature, including answering the all-important question: “Will this work with the iPhone and iPad?” But the company does say it intends to make the feature available on Android handsets and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet. It’ll be available as an upgrade to Eye-Fi’s current cards, the X2 line, and is set to show up later this year.

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