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GoPro WiFi BacPac, remote, app

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Note: Use of the GoPro app requires a GoPro Hero2 camera plus the WiFi BacPac and remote combo.

A while back we promised a full review of the new GoPro WiFi BacPac, but we were waiting for the corresponding app to be released so we could take a look at its full functionality.  Well the app has finally been released (almost a full year after it was first promised!) so here we go:

The bad:

Let’s get the negative stuff out of they way first. GoPro completely messed up by saying this hardware and app would be released almost a year ago when they clearly weren’t yet ready to offer it, but the remote and BacPac combo was finally released this summer and now we have the app, sort of.  The app was originally supposed to offer full control of your GoPro camera via your smartphone, including settings changes, video preview, on/off, and more, as well as the ability to view recorded photo and video playback, and possibly coolest (if least useful in most circumstances) of all the ability to stream live to the internet.

One out of three ain’t bad. Well, it’s sorta bad. The app in its current form does allow you full control of your camera, including the ability to view what you are about to film or take a picture of, and what you are actually filming in real time. More about that in the “good section” further down.  Unfortunately, the ability to view photos and videos that have already been taken is now said to be available in future app updates, and the ability to stream over the internet is no longer even being mentioned on GoPro’s site, though at least one GoPro rep, when asked via twitter, said internet streaming is still coming at some point.  None the less, considering all of this functionality was supposed to be available over a year ago it’s astounding that much of it still isn’t here.

Also, though it would be reasonable to think that the app works with the Hero, as well as the Hero2 cameras, it would be incorrect.  The BacPac and remote work with the original Hero, but the app only works when the BacPac is plugged into the Hero2. Thanks for only telling us that when the app was finally released.

The “bad section” also deserves a dishonourable mention: Downloading and installing the new firmware that’s required every time GoPro offers a hardware or software update is never as easy as described, and the process involved always seems to be slightly different than the detailed instructions listed on GoPro’s site.  We always eventually get things working, but set aside more time than you think you should need to do so, go buy yourself a large latte, grab a cozy chair, and practice your relaxation techniques in front of the computer screen as you figure it all out.

It’s also worth mentioning that the app is currently only available for Apple products (iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone, iOS 4 or newer).  It should also be available for Android in the next few weeks.  If you have a BlackBerry you’re out luck, but you likely already knew that 🙂

The good:

Pretty much everything else.  Though only part of the functionality promised has arrived so far, what we do now have works very, very well.  Changing camera settings has improved over the last couple of years – the Hero2 has a more intuitive LED display than the original Hero, and the LCD BacPac settings display makes things even easier, but the display on your smartphone via the app and WiFi BacPac is superb.  You can view and adjust settings very easily, and you can view other things like battery levels, SD card capacity remaining, and so on.

The photo and video preview, and the ability to watch the video while it’s recording, is also a huge added value, and it works very well. Granted you can’t view in high def, and there’s a lag of a couple of seconds or so between the actual video your camera sees and what you see on the smartphone preview screen, but those minor (in most cases) issues aside the functionality here is excellent, both in terms of what’s offered and how it’s executed.

Forgetting the app for a second, the remote also works very well with the BacPac. Though the remote doesn’t offer the same detailed settings layout as the app it does offer an intuitive and simple way to change your camera settings remotely, and of course you can use it to snap pictures or turn video recording on and off remotely as well. The app is great, but won’t completely replace the functionality of the remote itself, at least some of the time, because the remote is waterproof, compact, and can be Velcro’d to your wrist, your bike frame or bar, or wherever.  We’ve already found the remote particularly useful when paddling, with the camera mounted on the boat’s hull far out of reach.  Using your iPhone app on the water could prove costly but the remote is a great solution for basic camera functions. The remote is also a better “on the fly” way to start and stop video or take pics. When you’re riding trails it takes one simple button press on your wrist mounted remote to start recording.

Now if GoPro could just deliver the long promised additional app functionality we could stop complaining entirely.  Until then, we have plenty of quality, easy to use (after set up) functions that will keep us occupied for a while.

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