Lauren Goode

Mobile Social Video Apps: What You Need to Know

Uploading video to YouTube or Facebook from your phone can be tedious. Thankfully, some apps aid this process, allowing you to capture video clips, add special effects and easily share them with your social networks.

But unbeknownst to their users, some of these apps have a bad habit of sharing app activity and video-viewing activity with others.

Last week, I tested three of these smartphone video apps: Socialcam, Viddy and Mobli.

I found that shooting videos using Socialcam is easy and fast, but when you watch videos, the app shares what you’re doing unless you know to turn off those functions. Viddy works similarly, though the app has a 15-second limit on the length of the video you share. Mobli’s interface was a bit more confusing, and the app is really geared toward following celebrities and discovering videos made by people you don’t know.

Here’s a breakdown of how these three apps work:

Socialcam

Socialcam is a free app, available for iPhone and Android. I tested it on my iPhone.

You can sign up for Socialcam through Facebook, Twitter or an email account. After I signed in through Facebook Connect, Socialcam said it would be sharing the videos that I watched, and I had the option to select “yes” or “no.” I opted for “yes,” to get a sense of the full sharing features of the app, though I later had some trouble turning this feature off.

There are nine filters that can be applied to your video before you begin shooting — so you don’t have to wait for the effects to render afterward. There are also some options to add text, and 11 soundtrack options.

It took somewhere between 60 and 90 seconds to process each of my short video clips, including the time it took to apply video filters. From there, I could post my video to a blogging Web site, such as Posterous, DropBox, Tumblr, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. I could also email the video, or send it via text message.

If you click on a Facebook friend’s Socialcam video post and you’ve authenticated through Facebook, your video-watching activity will appear in your feed. Socialcam says it doesn’t post your video-watching activity until you’ve watched between seven and 10 seconds of a video, but many users don’t know to change their social sharing settings within that time. On the top bar of the Web page there’s a tab for turning social mode on and off; more social settings appear underneath the actual video player.

Socialcam recently had to fix a bug related to those “sharing” settings. I experienced this with the old version of the app: I tried to turn off my social-sharing options at some point, because I realized that my Facebook friends could see what I was watching, but with each new session my social sharing would default to “on” again. When I re-downloaded the app, the issue seemed to be resolved.

Viddy

Viddy is an iPhone-only app, geared toward sharing 15-second snippets of video.

When I first downloaded Viddy onto my iPhone, I was prompted to sign in through Facebook Connect, Twitter or my email address. The app also asked to use my location, and it immediately asked whether I wanted to add Viddy activity to my Facebook Timeline, with a button leading me to “Settings” so I could adjust privacy settings.

I found and followed several Facebook and Twitter friends through the Viddy app, but my feed was still populated with videos from celebrities and brands, like Katie Couric and comedian Dane Cook. Unless I’m a huge fan of a celebrity, I’d much rather see videos from my actual friends.

Producing videos with Viddy was the most intuitive experience of all three of the apps I tried. I could choose a thumbnail for my video, apply one of 17 video effects and add one of 18 music tracks. The short video clips were accessible about a minute after I applied effects to them — from there, I could share them via email, text message, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube.

If a Facebook friend wanted to watch the video I shared, he or she would be prompted to sign in through Facebook Connect in order to watch the Viddy video. However, a friend watched my Viddy video as a “guest” of Viddy, without logging in, and her actions were still logged on her Facebook activity feed.

In my experience with Viddy, my social-sharing settings remained off once I adjusted them. These settings can be found in the upper-right section of the Viddy Web page; in the mobile app, you have to go to your own profile first, then look for the settings button in the upper-right corner.

Mobli

Mobli is a free photo and video app available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

I used Mobli on my iPhone, connected through Facebook Connect and posted a couple of fun videos from our just-concluded D10 conference. I had the option to apply one of eight filters, which are somewhat hidden behind a small “Fx” button in the lower right-hand portion of the app’s interface.

After creating a video, I could share it to Facebook, Twitter, or via email or SMS. Friends who clicked on my Mobli links on Facebook or Twitter informed me that they couldn’t watch my video without first logging into Mobli.

That didn’t stop my videos from being viewed, however. Mobli videos are distributed to different feeds, called “Channels,” within the app, in order to generate feedback. Within a couple days of posting my first video, it had been viewed 326 times by other Mobli users, with several “likes” and comments from people I didn’t know.

Mobli has multiple feeds and really highlights celebrity accounts; finding actual friends to follow was difficult. According to Mobli’s creator, in recent days the app has been suffering from a technical glitch that prevents you from following your Facebook or Twitter friends.

This meant that I was only seeing the feeds of famous people, or people I didn’t know at all. I like Leonardo DiCaprio, but there were only so many clips and photos of “The Great Gatsby” that I wanted to see.

The videos I watched on Mobli appeared in my Facebook feed by default. I had to go into the privacy settings in the app and uncheck a few items to make my viewing habits private.

Another drawback of Mobli is there is currently no way to block any other user from following you, though the company says it’s working on that.

All three of these apps are good for punching up, producing and easily sharing smartphone video clips, but the privacy-concerned consumer will want to take a hard look before using these — or before connecting them through various social networking services.


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