Six Reasons Why People Flip Over the Flip

Posted by: Rob Hof on July 30, 2008

Like more than 1 million other people, I’m a fan of the Flip, the little camcorder that, on paper, looks like it should suck. It has almost no advanced features that tech-obsessed folks think they need. Some of them, in fact, are downright livid about why people would prefer fewer functions.

No matter. Market watcher NPD Research just announced that the Flip is the best-selling camcorder in the U.S. as of June.

Here’s why—and I think this list provides useful lessons to purveyors of tech gear, who nonetheless will probably continue to ignore them in their endless quest to one-up each other.

1. It’s cheap. Starting at about $100, it’s affordable to almost anyone who’s at all inclined to shoot video in the first place.

2. It’s easy. Three buttons: Record, play back, erase. That’s it. No manual necessary. And uploading to YouTube is a snap, or actually a flip—press a release button and out springs the USB connector. The software installs automatically.

3. The video’s more than good enough. It won’t match a regular camcorder’s, but it looks just fine on a standard TV. And the Flip works surprisingly well in low light—better, notes one commenter below, than camcorders costing much more. This is really important, more than most people realize.

4. It’s small. It fits in just about any pocket. Maybe just as important, it’s unobtrusive, unlike most camcorders, which look kind of like miniature satellites spying on you.

5. It uses regular, AA batteries. Easy to replace and, even more important, no brick for recharging. (Except the new, smaller Mino, which uses an internal battery.)

6. It’s fun!

I don’t mean this to be an ad for the Flip. It’s far from perfect (optical zoom is something I’d pay extra for, and the new Mino model is getting a little pricey for what it is). But it’s refreshing when you run across a device that just works with no fuss. You’d think more tech companies would figure this out after all these years watching Apple eat their lunch.

Reader Comments

PXLated

July 30, 2008 12:47 AM

I don't really get all the hype on this. Almost everyone has a small digital camera that already takes video and usually has zoom and shoots at the same (or better) resolution. Why spend the money and carry two devices when one will do.

SeattleKnows

July 31, 2008 12:37 AM

This makes no sense to me. My Cyber-shot takes great pictures and the movies on the large memory stick more than serve our needs. I'm not "flipping" for flip!

Dan

July 31, 2008 7:19 AM

Its very easy. My daughter has one, now her sister wants one, her cousin does too, and I imagine all her friends do too.

It's super simple to load videos onto YouTube. My only gripe is that it goes through AA batteries like crazy.

Media Consumer

July 31, 2008 11:12 AM

Wow, my $180 Elph takes better video, DOES NOT USE AA , takes gorgeous 6mp stills, has optical zoom... I guess the screen doesn't flip out though. Leave it to marketing I guess, never ceases to amaze me. I guess if buttons/options confuse you then the flip is for you.

gerrrg

July 31, 2008 12:28 PM

Using AA batteries is a lousy reason to want to buy one product over another. A charge on a Li-Ion battery lasts for a long time. I've taken hundreds of photos on a single charge, over a period of a few months with my Nikon D70S. I've used my Aiptek video camera for a couple of months with nearly 100 short videos and photos before I had to recharge it.

I think the only reasons people are attached to the Flip is because it looks cute and is simple. It's not that cheap if you want more than beyond the lowest model, and many other competitors offer more features for less money than flip devices. The Aiptek that I use has 1080p at 30 fps, 720p at 60 fps, for $149 (same price for the Flip Ultra which maxes out at 640x480).

phatphil

July 31, 2008 1:53 PM

Gizmodo reviewed the Flip video camera. They found that in normal or low light its resolution was equal to video camera's that cost over $1,000.00. That's why I bought one!

bud

July 31, 2008 5:14 PM

Its not that its a simple camera, its that it is an EXTRA camera. Hand it off to someone who couldn't hit the side of a barn with a viewfinder, to shoot video while you keep shooting stills and more video with your uber kewl digital point and shoot you think is all you need.

Video likes separate angles.

And you really don't need to increase the quality much if you are posting to the web. Better than NTSC, good enough for the web, keep in glove compartment for those surprise photo opps, hand off to the kids to be an assistant director. There is really nothing wrong with having a Flip

Andy

August 1, 2008 12:24 AM

The Flip is a convenient thing to keep around the house to be able to take spontaneous video clips of your kids, pets, etc.

It's very easy to take videos and upload them to your computer.

Jochen

August 1, 2008 2:23 PM

....and I would like to have one too. Does anybody know, when the Flip will be avaiable in Europe (i.e. Germany)?

Greg

August 1, 2008 2:25 PM

I bought one for my daughter for her birthday. Overall, she really likes it. However, quite a number of the videos have some weird pixelated black blocks showing up randomly throughout the picture. She said it just shows up from time to time. Other than that, she is happy with it.

The digital zoom is OK for what it is - a way to "highlight" distant action, not to actually zoom in on it. The "zooming" is a smooth magnification (i.e., there's no blockiness to it), so I guess one can't complain too much unless you're expecting it to work like optical zooming.

There are several HD camcorders moving into this price territory, but none are quite as drop-dead simple as the Flips are. However, I think now that this market has been legitimized, we'll see some genuine competitors moving in with lower-end HiDef and competing with the simplicity that makes the Flip such a winner.

flipsucks

August 1, 2008 4:51 PM

Waste of time. This is for people who are clueless in technology. I prefer my Casio slim digital camera which shoots Mpeg and HD quality. It small and slim and fits in my pocket. Now this is a real video camera to have. Who cares about how easy to upload to Youtube has it not that difficult to do that anyway.

Levante

September 23, 2008 2:35 PM

It's obvious that you techies DO NOT GET IT.

This is an awesome example of a "disruptive technology." Most people do not need high tech gadgets and HD quality. This will suffice...and I guarantee that the Flip evolves to produce a better picture.

Limelimelaid

September 28, 2008 9:45 AM

I was looking for reasons to buy one, and this is great! Now I want one even more. Thanks for helping me out!

~Limelimelaid~

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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