Loop Digital Frame: Review

Loop Digital Picture Frame

The Basics

Product name: Loop 

Manufacturer / Distributor: California Labs

Compilation: April 2021

 

  • TEL Discount: 15%
  • Code: TechenhancedLoop

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This page contains our California Labs | Loop review.

 

 

Analyst Summary: California Labs | Loop

The Loop digital picture frame is designed with one specific goal in mind: to create greater engagement with a person who lives at a distance — by means of sharing and viewing photos and videos.

The idea is that the person at a distance (for example your parent) has a Loop digital picture frame in some suitable part of their house or apartment where they see it frequently. Then other family members (eg the adult children) can send pictures when they wish to the Loop frame (using an app on their smartphone), and have them appear on the frame in the "parent's" house.

Both the parent and the family members can add comments and likes to the photos.

This is far from a "new" idea. But the company has spent energy trying to make the whole user experience smooth, and especially suited to "older adults".

One of our explorers had exactly this scenario in mind, and bought the product and tried it out. The overall experience was positive, and the explorer "likes" the product.

Here are the details.

 

What We Did. And What We Did Not Do.

This is not the only product that works as a digital picture frame to which you can upload pictures, but it caught our attention due to its focus on the specific use case of a parent or a grandparent with whom you want to interact at a distance.

One of our explorers liked the look of the product based on the online description, and bought it and tried it out. It worked well for the purpose the explorer had in mind, and so we are reviewing it.

However, we did NOT try and do a comparative evaluation of this product with others like it, or with the universe of "digital picture frames".

To see more about the specific use case we had in mind:

To see some discussion of other related products that also might be relevant:

 

Disclosures:

  • The vendor (Loop) did not sponsor this review, nor did it provide free equipment.
  • Tech-enhanced Life has negotiated a "discount" for its readers.
  • We benefit financially if you use the links on this page to purchase the product. This does not affect the price you pay.

 

 

Pluses.

Here are some key things we see as positives. (See sections below for discussions of each of these).

  • Easy to use.
  • Right "controls".
  • Looks attractive (like a photo frame).
  • Decent quality display.
  • Looks like photo frame.
  • Can show video and photos.
  • Social engagement. Multiple "Channels".
  • Source photos from variety of places.
  • WiFi set up.

 

Easy to Use.

This is perhaps the most important feature. It has three aspects.

  • For the older adult, the device needs to work without requiring any inputs at all.
  • And, it needs to allow the older adult to adjust things if they wish, using a fairly simple user interface.
  • And, the user interface for the family member needs to be sufficiently convenient that they are motivated to add photos regularly.

This product accomplishes all these goals, based on our initial exploration. As our explorer uses this product more, we will update as appropriate.

See next sections for more detail about ease of use.

 

Right "Controls".

Products like this often fail because the designers fail to achieve the right balance between allowing the older adult to have control, but at the same time avoiding it becoming so complex it does not get used.

We think the designers of this product got the control balance about right.

  1. Pretty much everything can be controlled from the app, which means the remote family member can control things on the display. This includes details like how long it takes to switch from one photo to the next; whether or not the photos just appear on the display, or need to be "accepted"; and which photos exactly should be on the display.
     
  2. The older adult / parent can also control all these things. However they do not "have to". 
     
  3. The older adult does not need to have a smartphone or an app at all. Although if they wish to upload their own photos, then they would need both a smartphone and the app.

 

Looks Attractive.

This product needs to live in a prominent place in the house of the person using it. Where everyone can see it all the time.

So, it needs to look "nice". And it needs to fit in a variety of decors.

This product looks like a black picture frame, and we think this is pretty much ideal in terms of "fitting in most places".

We worried it might look "cheap" or "electronic", but it does not. It looks attractive and modern.

You can see how the frame looks in the picture at the top of the page. Below is the "side view".

Loop frame sideview

 

Decent Quality Display.

The image quality is pretty good (1280x800 in a display with a 10 inch diagonal). There are modern displays with higher resolution, but this seemed "adequate". And the pictures looked quite good.

To put it in perspective, in 2021 a modern iPad comes with a display of 2160x1620 on a 10 inch diagonal. And an Echo Show 10 has a 10 inch diagonal display with resolution of 1280x800.

 

Can Show Video and Photos.

The frame is designed to sit in some suitable location and display a rotating series of photos. The family members can determine which photos are on it, how fast the display "rotates" the images, and a number of other details.

We mostly wanted it to display photos, which it does.

It also lets you send a video, which will also appear on the photo frame and be displayed there. We did not test this feature and it requires a paid subscription. It seems like it could well be a good idea (think videos of the grandkids).

 

Social Engagement. Multiple "Channels".

The product is designed to allow multiple "channels". 

The idea is that you can set things up so multiple family members can send photos to a given "Loop". You can have it so that all family members' photos appear in one channel, or have a separate channel for each person.

On the Loop itself, the channels show up as "albums" (confusing). You can decide whether all channels will appear simulataneously on the Loop, or just some of them. Either the "older adult" or the "family member in charge" can make this adjustment.

We are still experimenting with this aspect of the product. At present, it lets us keep the contributions from different family members in different channels/albums. This seems useful, but we are still exploring the extent to which this makes it "better".

There are other social engagement features. People can add comments and like the photos, for example.

See more discussion of these features under "More Details" below.

 

Source Photos from Variety of Places.

One of the issues that bedevil some other products we have evaluated in this category is the question of where the photos can come from and how they are stored / maintained.

We wanted to use our Apple photo app as the base place where we keep all our photos, and to be able to select some photos from that app to be included in the Loop "channel" and appear on the Loop device.

This worked quite well. We had a few areas where we thought it was not quite "perfect". But it was definitely easy enough for routine use.

We liked that it did NOT force us to use photo sharing on Google or Facebook or Amazon.

However, for those who do like to keep photos on those apps, it does allow you to upload images from either Facebook or Instagram. We did not test this capability.

 

WiFi Set Up.

This is an Internet connected device. It needs to connect via WiFi.

It's critical with devices like this that WiFi is easy to set up. Here is what we found.

  1. We first set this up in the house of the explorer (the "adult child"). It was easy to find the WiFi setup controls. They worked first time and connected easily to our home WiFi network.
     
  2. We then set out to "pre set it up" to work in the house of the explorer's "parent". The idea was to set it up in advance and mail it to the explorers parent and see just how easy it was to get working "remotely". See below for more.

 

Remote WiFi set up.

The Loop has a way in which you can use the App on your smartphone to preset the WiFi for your parent's house, before you send it to your parent.

This is a great idea, but some of the details are important to mention.

  • This works when your smartphone is in bluetooth range of the Loop digital frame. In other words, if you set it up somewhere were you are near the Loop, it works fine. But you need to do this before you send it to your parent's house, not after.
     
  • In the case of our explorer, while he knew the WiFi password for his mother, he was not exactly sure of the "name" of her WiFi network. And this detail needs to be correct. So, in the end we did not try out this feature of remotely preconfiguring the WiFi.

If any readers test out this feature, please leave a comment. We think it is a very valuable feature.

 

Minuses

Here are some things that might be negatives for some people (although not for the explorer that evaluated the product).

  • No video calls.
  • Some minor "bugs" in the app.
  • Larger display would be "nice".
  • Apple integration not "perfect".
  • WiFi only.

 

No Video Calls.

A previous model of this product also allowed video calls between the person with the Loop App and the person with the Loop display.

In the latest version, this capability has been discontinued. If you wanted a product that can do both photo sharing and video calls, then this product is not the right one at present, although this capability may well be in future releases.

In fact, for our use case this was not a problem at all. The reason is that the "parent" we wanted to use it with does video calls in a quite different location than where she wants the pictures to be. And, if you think about it, that is likely to often be the case. 

So, we are actually fans of the idea that you ideally use two separate devices: one for video calls and one for "photo viewing".

 

Some Minor "Bugs" in the App.

We did uncover a few (minor) bugs in the App and the Manual. This is a "new" product, and still evolving.

We did not find the bugs major, and we suspect these bugs will shortly be fixed. But we wanted to mention them for those who only want a "perfect" product.

Also, to the extent there were bugs, they were solely relevant to the user experience of the "adult child" and the App. They did not impact the "older adult" experience.

 

Larger Display Would be "Nice". Large-ish Bezel.

There is always a tradeoff between a display that is too small to see from a distance, and a device that is too bulky to fit where you want it.

Overall, this product gets that balance about right. Some of the people who viewed the product would have liked a somewhat larger screen.

Note that it is the same size as the display on an Echo Show 10, so (assuming Amazon did their homework) likely this is a display size that appeals to a large subset of customers.

One of the explorers to whom we showed the product felt the bezel around the display was a bit "large".

 

Apple Integration: Good but not "Perfect".

It was extremely important to us that we could use this product with the Apple Photos app, since that is where all our photos live, and we did not want to have to move them.

Overall, this aspect worked acceptably.

There were a few things we would have liked to see done differently, mostly relating to the number of times you have to click through Apple privacy warnings. There are also some subtleties of how the Loop App works with Apple shared albums and regular albums we wish were slightly different.

But our bottom line was "we can use this".

Also, note that these issues relate solely to using the "App". They did not impact the "older adult" experience.

 

WiFi Only.

At present the digital frame only works if it can connect to the internet via WiFi. So your parent needs to have WiFi.

 

 

More Details

Here are some extra details.

 

Setup.

Here is a picture of what you receive.

 

Loop Unboxed

 

To set it up, you:

  • Plug it in;
  • Download the App to your smartphone;
  • Make sure the smartphone is within bluetooth range of the frame;
  • Follow some simple instructions to use the App to set the WiFi settings for the frame;
  • Adjust various settings using either the App, or the frame's touchscreen.

Key Point: You do need a smartphone in proximity to the frame for the initial set up.

Our approach: set it up in the home of the "adult child", then mail the whole thing to the "parent".

 

Social and Channels.

A key value proposition for this product compared to "other digital picture frames", according to the company, is the attention they have paid to creating social engagement between family members. 

We have not used the product long enough to comment on how effective these approaches are. But we see the ability to comment and like things as being potentially useful for encouraging engagement.

The explorer evaluating the product felt enthusiastic enough about this to spend money on the product. Hopefully we will update this with more as it gets used. Feel free to add your comments at the bottom.

A setting we really liked: you can adjust whether new photos "stay on the screen until noticed" or just get added to the screenshow. We think this is an important adjustable setting to have.

 

Safety & Security

As with all connected devices, it is worth thinking about safety and security.

With any connected picture viewer, you need to be aware that the pictures will end up in the "cloud". And thus can potentially be "seen" by others. 

The Loop is designed to prevent this. And it is not like Facebook, for example — where the images are public unless you make an effort to keep them private. With Loop, there is in theory no way that anyone would see your images other than people you have invited to the App, or people viewing the digital frame.

However, like all devices, there is always the possibility something will be hacked.

As with all modern gadgets, one needs to decide whether the benefits of the device outweigh any potential security negatives. In the case of our explorer, he thought that the benefits outweighed any potential "risks".

 

Costs.

For specific pricing details, see the vendor's website (link at top of page and also at bottom of the review).

The list price for Loop when we bought it was $165. In addition you choose either a "free" subscription, or a "premium" subscription. We chose the free one, but the premium subscription has some additional features, and cost $3 / month at the time of this review in Q2, 2021.

 

Discount for Tech-enhanced Life Community

Tech-enhanced Life readers can get 15% off the price of this product if they use this code: TechenhancedLoop.

 

 

 

  • TEL Discount: 15%
  • Code: TechenhancedLoop

[affiliate relationship]*


 

* Disclosure: If you use these links when you buy products we write about, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate or other affiliate program participant. This does not affect the price you pay. See How we Fund our Work.

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated: April 15, 2021.