As previously reported, HTC has put its popular automatic photo and video editing app, Zoe, on the Play Store for non-HTC devices. Currently it is in beta and runs on HTC Sense 6 devices as well as the Nexus 5, LG G2 and G2 Pro, and Galaxy S4, S5 and Note 3. Compatibility is expected to widen when the app leaves beta later in the year.
Zoe makes a wonderful first impression. The interface looks great, making full use of the condensed fonts that are a big part of HTC Sense, but maintaining full consistency with the overall Android UI.
It’s also remarkably easy to use; you can make your first Zoe—a 30 second movie containing photos and video clips shot around the same time, and cut together to music—in little more than a couple of minutes. Anyone who has been frustrated by the slow and complicated process of video editing in the past will be shocked at how fast Zoe is too, with everything happening in almost real time.
Make your first Zoe
This is how it works. When you create a new Zoe the app automatically picks your most recent photos and videos, slaps on a music track and begins playing your movie.
All of the content on your phone is displayed on the main screen, and you can add or remove each item from your Zoe simply by tapping it. The clips are used in a random fashion by default, though you can long press on a photo or video clip and set it to be either the first or last one used. It’s also possible to set your content to be used it chronological order.
A swipe to the left tab gives you a series of 12 themes to choose from. The main difference between them is the Instagram-style filters added to the content, as well as the default music track and the transitions between all the shots—hard cuts, wipes, fades and so on.
A swipe to the right-most tab lets you control the music. You get a few tracks included by default, and you can download more stock tunes from the Zoe database, or add your own from any you’ve got stored on your device. Zoes are limited to 30 seconds, so you need to pick your track wisely if you use your own.
From there you post your Zoe to zoe.com, and can also share it with a wide number of other services. All the rendering happens remotely. The content is uploaded, and will take around five or ten minutes depending on the speed of your internet connection. Shortly after you’ll receive a notification telling you that your Zoe is ready to be viewed.
Zoe.com is a fledgling social network on which you can follow others, and has a interesting feature of allowing your friends to remix your own Zoes.
Whether or not zoe.com gains any real traction remains to be seen. Until then, most users are more likely to be sharing their finished works on Twitter or Facebook in order to get people to see it.
The simplicity that runs right through Zoe is by far its biggest strength. Producing your own mini-movie is so painless that it becomes highly accessible to literally anyone.
But the app is still in beta, and while it was perfectly stable, it does feel unfinished.
For instance, there’s no way of choosing which folders the content from your phone is pulled from—we inevitably ended up with a mess of screenshots included among our photos and videos (although interestingly, it does work pretty well with screenshots, and we could imagine some developers using Zoe to create a quick promo video for their apps).
The way it handles portrait photos is not ideal, using a pillar box type effect when zooming would surely be better. And we found that we would actually have liked a bit more control over how the Zoes were made—adding more control to the editing process would defeat the object, but we’d like to be able prioritise certain content over others, such as getting more video than others.
And finally, it would be great if there were an option to make Zoes longer than 30 seconds. This limit was no doubt chosen to keep the movies to a shareable length, and for most uses it is about right. But occasionally we did find it quite limiting, especially when there was a lot of content we wanted to cram into a single Zoe.
On the whole, Zoe is a triumph. Opening it up to non-HTC users should give the social parts of the service a greater chance of success, and maybe the company should even consider an iPhone version, especially if building the brand is HTC’s main motivation in releasing it as a standalone app.
If you have a compatible device, it’s well worth trying out.
With speed and ease of use at its heart, there's no reason why Zoe shouldn't become a big success for HTC.