aNewDomain — Selfie sticks are distracting. They cause accidents. And they’re annoying. This is why they are banned at more and more public places.
But what if you could take selfies from a distance without the stick? What if your camera could actually fly?
It’s not science fiction. I spent some time recently with AirSelfie, the pocket-sized flying camera drone that’s launching today and available for preorder over on Kickstarter.
Its maker claims this $300 gizmo is a superior way to take selfies. But is it really? What are the drawbacks here?
And at that price, can it really be any good?
That’s what I wanted to know. So I took a long, hard look at AirSelfie. Here’s my hands-on review.
The first thing you notice about the AirSelfie drone is its tiny size. It’s smaller in dimension than a smartphone, and it weighs in at 52 grams.
It’s so small, actually, that you can easily fit it into the same pocket where you stash your smartphone.
It’s compatible with a number of popular smartphones right out the gate, AirSelfie Holdings’ founder Edoardo Stroppiana told me, listing models like the Huawei P9, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 among them.
The main idea, he said, it that AirSelfie lets you take selfies from the air — from up to 66 feet above you. It works both indoors and outdoors — and the videos and photos flow out smoothly considering they are coming from a relatively cheap little drone..
It’s easy to see how this kind of functionality might be handy for monitoring people and places, he added.
Connect it to a power source, and it can capture photos or videos. It works in time-lapse mode, too, of course. It might even fit the bill for corporate use.
If AirSelfie works as promised, I can also imagine it as a very cool work tool for, I imagine, capturing photo and video from company events at some awfully cool angles.
Stroppiana took the covers off AirSelfie for my hands-on review in San Francisco recently. He insisted AirSelfie isn’t just for your garden-variety drone geek. Rather, the company is going for that millennial buyer, aged 17 to 40, and “not just for those enthusiastic about the technology of drones,” he said.
The gadget is really targeted at people who love to take selfies, he adds.
“What it is,” he told me, is the “the evolution of the selfie stick.”
Out of the Box
The packaging is similar to what Apple delivers with its iPhone. Its stylish logo is emblazoned on the cover of its beautifully, crafted white box.
But the real elegance here lies in how lightweight the drone is and how sleek it looks. It’s aluminum, weighs just 52 grams and measures 3.72 x 2.65 x 0.42 inches. That’s tiny, as you can see from my image, above.
I noticed right away that it comes equipped with a 4GB micro SD card and a 260mAh 7.4v battery. That enables a maximum of about four minutes of flight time.
I couldn’t wait to take it for a test flight.
Ready for takeoff
As soon as your charged little drone is out of the case and powered up, it’s ready for takeoff. You will hear a beep and then some whirring — that’s its four propellers talking. Then it launches. You control its movements with your smartphone, via free apps for Android and Apple iOS.
Another nice feature: The AirSelfie drone connected with Apple iPhone automatically, thanks to its self-generated WiFi (2.4GHz) network. You can select among three unique flight modes, which are preset to control the device’ movements. You can also roll your own.
The money question: How’s the camera?
The main thing I wanted to focus on was, of course, what kind of quality this flying camera’s photos and videos come in at. I mean, it’s a whizzy little drone that comes in at just $300, sure.
But a flying camera that takes crappy photos might be fun for a minute, but in the long haul it’s just a curiosity.
But I found the AirSelfie drone’s five megapixel camera to be pretty decent. Producing quality images while flying around is no-small feat, I know, but I ended up impressed with how stable and clear its photos and videos looked.
The whole flow looked great. Chock that up to its on-board vibration absorber system and altimeter get the credit for that.
And this thing can fly up to 66 feet vertically. To control a shot, you just use your smartphone controls. I was able to tilt it at up to seven inches to achieve optimal angles.
This is the kind of hands-on demo I sure don’t get everyday.
Using the “selfie delay timer” function, I found I could take timed photos, while let everyone get up to 10 seconds to get into position and hide their phones before it takes the shot. It allowed me to take up to eight consecutive shots.
As you might expect, it’s integrated with social media. Like any modern camera, it lets you easily take the photos and videos it captures and post them onto all the usual social nets.
To bring it back down, you just return it to its departure point either manually or automatically. A simple way to do this is to just hit the button in the app that’s labeled “slide to land.” That makes the AirSelfie drone descend and turn off.
There is no need to worry about touching the device, which is great.
That limits injury risk.
If there’s a catch, it’s battery life …
The device attaches to your smartphone via a custom cover it ships for your iPhone 6/7 or your Galaxy S7 Edge. But what if you have a different model phone? For those, you have to purchase an external power bank from the company.
You might want one anyway. The battery that comes with the AirSelfie recharges it in about 30 minutes. And the little drone, fully charged, will only fly for about three to five minutes.
There’s an external battery, available separately, guarantees up to 20 full charges. I didn’t get to review that peripheral, though. Battery life is going to be the big obstacle this company needs to cross, but hey. It’s a flying camera.
You can pre-order the AirSelfie starting today (Nov. 17) via the Airs Selfie Kickstarter campaign page.
If you get there early enough, you might be able to score its “ambassador” price of $199, which is a pretty extraordinary price tag considering all the flying coolness you are getting here.
But to get that discount, you have to be among the first 1,000 purchasers, AirSelfie reps told me. Good luck with that.
The normal price for everyone else: $300.
The Bottom Line
If there’s a catch with AirSelfie, it’s that you only get three or four minutes of flying after 30 minutes of charging. That will annoy some people. Also, there’s no flash.
But even given those drawbacks, early adopter types and selfie-hounds are going to think AirSelfie is pretty wonderful. And at $300, the price is right.
If you hold back, stay tuned for my long-term review, which will do more analysis on battery life, the extra battery option for purchase and how this little drone holds up after multiple uses.
I’ve got to say I was impressed overall, and I’m not easily impressed by such things.
At any rate, stay tuned.