Vine (for Android) review

Android fans have had to wait for Vine, the six-second video maker, but this first offering for Google Play feels half baked.
Photo of Vine (for Android)

For about six months, Android users have waited patiently for Vine—the Twitter-associated video creation and sharing app—to come to Google Play. After millions of teasing tweets with Vine URLs from iPhone users, Vine has finally arrived (free, Google Play). But eager Android users will probably be disappointed that after so long a wait: Vine for Android needs more time to ripen on the, uh, vine.

Six Second Film Maker
The best way to think of Vine is sort of like an animated GIF maker/Twitter hybrid. Vine videos are limited to six seconds, similar to Twitter’s 140-character limit. They also loop, like many animated GIFs (with a soft “g,” by the way). Despite Vine often being compared to Instagram, new users should note that there aren’t any filters or, really, tools of any kind in Vine.

Some Vine makers do remarkable things with these limitations, producing highly compact stories or even tiny animations. Most people just use it to post slice-of-life videos, which are less interesting but definitely a different animal from other forms of online expression.

The app also connects you to Vine’s huge user base, which has been pumping out videos—both transcendent and dull—for months.The first time you log in, some of the service’s most popular videos will automatically populate your Feed. Once you find some friends to follow, their contributions will take over. If you’ve logged in via Twitter, you’ll have no trouble finding which of your friends are already on Vine—though some Google Play commenters complained that Facebook integration wasn’t functioning.

The Explore tab gives you fast access to popular videos, curated videos from Vine, and popular hashtags. Weirdly, there’s no search function, so if you want to see a particular famous Vine (like any of Will Sasso’s amazing lemon series) then you’re out of luck. Perhaps that’s for the best, since there’s probably more bad than good on Vine.

To start a new recording, tap the camera icon in the upper right of the screen. Once you touch the screen, Vine starts recording until you release your finger, so you can string together a few quick scenes or even produce a stop-motion effect. Similar to the iOS version, Vine doesn’t include editing tools, so you’ll have to plan and execute each shot carefully if you want your Vine to be at all compelling. Think back to the days of making overly elaborate home movies with camcorders and you get the idea.

The lack of video-editing tools is in keeping with the service’s minimalist, Twitter-esque approach, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Really great Vines take a lot of planning and time, especially because if you flub one scene you’ll have to start over from the beginning. It feels like Vine wants to keep things spontaneous and quick, putting fast production and sharing ahead of quality. That approach has merit, but I think Vine could find a way to give users the choice between fast  videocreation and more options. For instance, the new Android Flickr app comes with a slew of photo editing tools that are hidden unless you want them.

That’s not stopping Vine’s fans from uploading tons of videos, but it does put hurdles between users and their creativity.

Quirks and Bugs
You’ll quickly notice that Vine begins playing whatever video is currently on the screen, automatically pausing it as you scroll past it. I like this experience when I am moving through my feed, but I really dislike the autoplaying videos when I first come into the app, or come back from a screen without videos. It feels like an assault—particularly when I just want to shoot my own video. I’d like to see Vine reworked so the top video only starts playing when you either tap it, or start scrolling, giving me a little more control. Thankfully, you can tap any video to pause to re-start it.

Also in the quirkycategory is the fact that Vine currently doesn’t allow you to switch between front- and rear-facing cameras. This is particularly annoying since you can toggle between cameras in the iOS version of the app, no doubt after requests by frustrated users. Why the same feature wasn’t pushed out for Android on day one is a complete mystery.

Beyond quirks, there are some outright bugs. In the Settings menu, the Attribution and Feedback buttons don’t work on my Samsung Galaxy S III . More annoying is that changes to your profile—such as your bio—won’t save. If you log in via Twitter (which you probably will), Vine will copy your Twitter user information like your name and bio, so at least you’ll have something.

I also noticed that the audio and video were not in sync in my Vines. There I was talking, but the sound came out like a poorly dubbed Japanese film (in fact, I might take advantage of this with a six second kaiju film later). This seems limited to specific devices or versions of Android. I noticed the problem using my S III, running Android 4.1.1. My colleague with an identical phone on T-Mobile and running version 4.2.1 had no such issue, neither did my Nexus 7 running Android 4.2.2. Regardless of the cause, it was hugely disappointing that this core function wasn’t working properly on a popular device.

Too Buggy, Too Late
It’s disappointing that six months after the iPhone app’s world premiere, Vine’sproduct for the leading mobile OS  needs polish. It certainly underlines the difficulties of developing for the fractured, treacherous world of Google Play, but most Android users aren’t going to care about that. They’re just going to notice that they, once again, aren’t getting the same high-quality experience that iPhone users enjoy.

Vine can be a lot of fun, and it’s faster and easier than YouTube for sharing quick videos of the world around you. In general, I’d like to see Vine add more editing capabilities so more people can make more high quality videos. However, Vine clearly has its hands full with Android, so right now I’d settle for a fully functional app.

Specifications
Type Personal
Free Yes

Verdict
Android fans have had to wait for Vine, the six-second video maker, but this first offering for Google Play feels half baked.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc