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When we first heard about Zum, the video sharing app for iPad and iPhone that lets you send 5-second "vidpics" to friends that supposedly self-destruct after viewing, we admit we were intrigued. First, we wondered about what type of content users would want to send via video and then erase so swiftly.
And how trustworthy was this app? How could we be sure that our videos would be wiped from history? We went hands-on to see if Zum delivers.
After downloading the app from Apple's App Store, we were taken to Zum's initial page, which asked us to enter a user name, password, location and phone number to get started. We're not sure why the app needed our phone number, especially when we were using Zum from an iPad.
Once we were signed in, we were given the option to view our Inbox, take a 5-second video, look at our Pals page or edit our information/sign out. It's a pretty basic interface, but it serves its ultimate purpose - to send brief videos.
To get started, we wanted to add some Pals. We tapped the purple Pal icon and then tapped the hot pink Add Pals button near the top of the interface. We were then taken to a screen where we could enter a friend's user name. However, we had to enter someone's name before moving on. We didn't like this, as if we had accidentally tapped the button there is no way of going back. We typed in our friend's user name, tapped her name then tapped Save at the bottom of the interface.
After we tapped the Video icon, the camera instantly loaded. However, we had time to get everything in place for our video before tapping the red dot icon at the bottom of the interface to start recording the 5-second video. A timer appears in the upper right corner so you know how much time you have left.
Once the 5 seconds has elapsed, a message appears saying "Video Recording Stopped: The maximum length for this video has been reached." We tapped OK, then were given the option to play the video, retake it or use it. We tapped Retake, wanting to perfect a detail, and went through the same process. We then tapped Use.
We were then taken to a screen that said Send To at the top and had a list of our Pals whom we'd most recently sent videos to. We tapped our friend's name under Recent and a check mark appeared next to it. We then tapped the yellow Zum button at the bottom of the interface, and received a pop-up notice, indicating that our video had been sent.
We appreciated the 2x button at the bottom of the screen on the iPad version, which enlarges the interface to take up the entire screen, ideal for users with ailing eyesight.
When we asked a coworker to send us a video using the app on his iPad, he had trouble getting videos to record. After pressing the Record button and doing a 5-second video, the app took him back to the main video screen where he had to press Record again and redo his video. This happened several times, and other times the app just froze. We also had some issues with the interface freezing on our iPhone.
He finally got the video to record, and sent it to us. We tapped the Inbox button at the bottom of the interface and saw a message saying "zum from Dan." By tapping on the image thumbnail, we watched the video once, and then it self destructed.
After returning to the video app after the weekend, we checked our Inbox and saw that we had a message from an Ariana. We don't know anyone named Ariana. After watching the brief video, which just involved Ariana showing us something on her desk, the video instantly deleted from our Inbox. Ariana's message proves that videos on the app truly do self-destruct after viewing (at least from your Inbox), but we don't like how anyone can send you videos. We'd prefer if there was a system where you had to accept someone's Pal request before receiving videos from them.
Above: A screenshot we were able to take from a video.
Also, there's a loophole to the whole "now you see it, now you don't" appeal of the 5-second self-destruct video. We were able to take screen shots while viewing videos, so if you put inappropriate or secret content into a video, it'd be easy for the recipient of the video to document every detail.
Divine Nine, the company behind the app, says the videos are only allotted to 5 seconds to cater to "a younger generation's short attention span." But there's no sort of censor on the material in videos younger users can receive. And although the video we received from the mysterious Ariana was strictly PG, we could definitely see the app being abused by sending inappropriate material to younger users.
And the whole premise of the app turns us off slightly. After brainstorming with our coworkers about potential uses for the apps, we had a hard time coming up with much that wasn't dirty. Surprise birthday party announcements turned into secret information such as passwords which turned into information for cheating on tests which turned into a video about an illicit affair which turned into sexting.
Zum definitely does what it intends to do: The app provides a clean interface that provides users with an easy way to send extremely brief videos that will self-destruct after viewing (although we still have no way of knowing if the app stores old videos somewhere in its database). It's a clever idea, certainly, but we just don't see the point of using it unless you're trying to get away with something you can't afford for anyone to find.