A couple of weeks ago, we saw an Indiegogo campaign launch from Insta360 for an Android-only 360 camera accessory that attached to the headphone jack of the phone. As with most VR-related (and headphone jack-related) things, iPhone users were left in the cold. Today, Giroptic is introducing a camera that brings 360 photo and video capture to the iPhone, along with instant stitching that enables live streaming to YouTube and Facebook.

The use cases of 360 content haven’t always been clear, but what has been rather crystal is the fact that 360 capture is much more complicated than it needs to be. Giroptic iO is an attempt to uncomplicate the product category in a pretty major way and bring the entire process to an iPhone app that doesn’t feel terribly different from the stock camera app.

Giroptic was founded in 2014 when it launched a Kickstarter campaign for its 360cam, a $499 consumer device that in 2014 was ahead of its time and pushing the specs. In 2016, consumers have been exposed to about every form factor that cameras could come in, but they’ve largely all been pretty unwieldy. The difference in form factor between Giroptic’s first effort and version 2 is representative of where the entire 360 camera market is moving right now, aiming to approach consumers on mobile rather than building dedicated ruggedized devices that ultimately seem to get left at home in the gadget pile.

Because of the constraints placed by Apple on third-party accessory developers, Giroptic isn’t allowed to draw on the iPhone battery for power like Android accessories are, and thus this camera has a bit of added heft. This is thanks to the battery, which allows the device to live stream content for up to an hour-and-a-half — and quite a bit more time if you’re just snapping intermittent video or photos.

The device takes 4K still 360 photos and enhanced 2K video.

The form factor of the device may seem a bit odd given its asymmetry, but it’s actually perfect, especially if you’re preferring to use the phone viewfinder in landscape to capture the photos or footage. With this design there’s no need for awkward attempts to avoid covering up the lenses.

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Another great thing about the design is that it appears to work over most cases. I had no trouble with my Apple-branded leather case and I imagine you’d be fine with most others, as long as the bottom cover of the case isn’t too deep, cutting off access to the phone’s lightning port.

Giroptic’s iO definitely solves one of the main problems with 360 cameras at the moment, that being the difficult-to-find combination of polished software communicating with polished hardware. The app is incredibly simple and is entirely less janky than the usual 360 photo or video viewing apps I regularly see. Where it’s light on features like editing, it’s very upfront with sharing and capture options.

As we’ve said in the past, 360 cameras are definitely still novelty items in that no one really needs one. The devices are getting more and more portable and this is the product category’s least geeky and most approachable form factor to date.

At $249, it’s definitely competitive with other similarly specced cameras, but it’s still perhaps a bit expensive for the average consumer who is only mildly interested in capturing 360 content.

Giroptic iO is available for pre-order on the company’s website and begins shipping January 17.



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