Review: T-Mobile Cameo connected digital photo frame

Summary:My wife bought me a digital photo frame for Christmas, but wasn't sure if it was high enough resolution or if it would work well as an accessory for my office. It turns out the resolution was too low so we returned it. I told her about the T-Mobile Cameo that was announced in November 2008. I just recently was able to get an eval unit from T-Mobile and after trying it for just a day I ran out to my local Seattle T-Mobile store and purchased one for myself. Check out my image gallery of the product and my thoughts below to see why I found it so compelling.

My wife bought me a digital photo frame for Christmas, but wasn't sure if it was high enough resolution or if it would work well as an accessory for my office. It turns out the resolution was too low so we returned it. I told her about the T-Mobile Cameo that was announced in November 2008. I just recently was able to get an eval unit from T-Mobile and after trying it for just a day I ran out to my local Seattle T-Mobile store and purchased one for myself. Check out my image gallery of the product and my thoughts below to see why I found it so compelling.


Image Gallery:Check out product photos of the T-Mobile Cameo in action.
Image Gallery: Cameo retail box
Image Gallery: Cameo on my desk

In the box: The retail box comes with the T-Mobile Cameo and black leather photo frame, USB cable, user manual, and A/C adapter. There is a stout removable round bar that screws into the back of the frame to prop it up in portrait or landscape modes. The frame is actually removable and from what I understand you can purchase new frame covers for the device. There is a T-Mobile SIM embedded in the back of the frame that is not removable. The A/C adapter is quite large with a white cable that is comes out of the back of the frame. I think a black cable would be a bit less obvious though.

Features: The T-Mobile Cameo has a 7-inch, 720x480 pixel resolution display. With the black leather frame cover the front measures 8-3/8" x 6-1/2". There is an on/off button on the cable leading to the A/C adapter so you can turn the frame off. In addition to the round bar used to prop up the frame you can remove it and hang the frame in landscape mode with the back hook.

There is a Secure Digital (SD) card slot and miniUSB port on the left upper side of the frame so you can get photos onto the frame using either of these methods, in addition to the wireless capability.

On the back you will find a center action button with a forward and back button on each side. These buttons are used to access the series of menus (shown in my image gallery) and accept or reject photos sent from a person the first time.

The frame can be used in portrait or landscape modes, but it is probably best to keep it in one orientation and just send photos to it with that primary orientation so you don't have to flip it around if you want to run a slideshow of photos.

Usage and experiences: The T-Mobile Cameo is assigned a phone number and thankfully does not take up one of your five available family plan lines. I have four phones and the T-Mobile Hotspot @Home service already taking up all five of my allowed accounts and couldn't have purchased the Cameo if it took up one of these lines. You get unlimited messaging capability with the Cameo phone number so you can send as many photos to it as you want and are only limited by the memory capacity of the Cameo (about 500 photos). You could always move photos to a SD card too so you can have a large number of photos available on the Cameo.

The menu system is very easy to figure out and pressing in on the center action button brings up the options that include viewing new photos, rotate the photos, select photos, manage the slideshow functions, arrange the photos in the order you want them to appear, delete the photo, and access the settings. In the settings menu system you can control the time/date, permissions (who is allowed to send photos), brightness, standby mode settings, info on the frame, and a button to go back to the default settings. The info button gives you your number, signal strength, number of photos stored, amount of space used (in percentage), and product data with firmware version.

JPEG and GIF photo formats are supported and it is really designed to let you send photos from your phone via MMS to the frame. Anyone can send photos to the Cameo via text/MMS and via email (you use the phone number and T-Mobile extension as the email address) and the first time that contact sends you something a pop-up appears where you can authorize all future photos sent from that person to appear without an approval request. You can also block senders and I had to do this a couple of times when someone sent a text message to my assigned number, probably because the number is reused and in their contact list. You cannot send photos out from the Cameo and it is setup to only receive photos.

My wife and oldest two daughters have phones with cameras and it is fun to get their different photos sent to me throughout the week while my frame is on my desk at work. I have given the number to other family members as well so they can easily share their latest photos. I plan to take the frame home when I go on trips for work so I can send my family live photos of my experiences and think the Cameo is a perfect way to finally use all those camera phone shots we take and never do anything with.

I think the Cameo is a perfect device to give to parents and grandparents to share your photos with since it doesn't require them to do anything other than plug it in and accept you as a contact once to enjoy many photos. The size is good and the resolution is excellent for the size of photos that come in on the frame. I am very pleased with it and highly recommend it.

Pricing: The T-Mobile Cameo launched for $99.99 in November with a $9.99 monthly reoccurring charge. I was already paying T-Mobile a hefty monthly sum and the additional $10/month seemed a bit excessive for the photo frame. Just before I received the eval unit the price of the Cameo dropped to $39.99 with the monthly charge dropping to just $1.99 per month. There is no contract or obligation to even pay for the monthly fees and with the Secure Digital card slot and USB port you can use it as an unconnected photo frame if you desire.

You cannot find the T-Mobile Cameo online and need to go into your local store to buy one. I may be getting one soon for my mother-in-law and others to easily share photos and memories.

UPDATE: A couple of readers emailed me to say they went down to buy the Cameo and were told they had to be a T-Mobile customer. I am sorry to those who may have done this and it didn't even cross my mind since I was a customer already and thought you could sign up for just this service. Here is the official pricing/availability info from T-Mobile.

In order to purchase a T-Mobile cameo, you must be a T-Mobile customer with an eligible voice plan. Eligible plans include family and individual rate plans as well as postpaid and Flexpay contract customers. However, you don’t have to renew your contract to purchase a Cameo.

T-Mobile customers may purchase the Cameo as a gift as well. If the recipient is a T-Mobile customer, the monthly reoccurring charge can be transferred to the recipient’s account. If the recipient is not a T-Mobile customer, the person who purchases the frame is responsible to pay the monthly reoccurring charge on their own account.

Topics: Telcos

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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