I first met the Aura executives in August when we wrote about equipment to keep in touch long distances. All of the products were fun to use and offered something unique for people who are far from the ones they love. But they can also be expensive, especially since some of them were feeling a little crafty. Digital frames, while also quite expensive, feel a lot more practical.
Of course, devices like these have been around for quite some time. The first time I saw a digital photo frame in the early 2000s, it was frankly a bit tacky, with a pixelated screen and obnoxious PowerPoint-style animated transitions between images. Just five years ago, the technology hadn’t improved much; in 2015, the Seattle Times called “knockdown jokes” digital frames. They just weren’t good. But as mobile screens have improved, the technology inside digital photo frames has also improved dramatically. The latest models have received rave reviews, and they’ve grown in popularity – especially as freebies – for good reason.
Aura mounts are proof of this huge improvement. The images on the Aura look vibrant, but the screen doesn’t shine like a computer screen. A sensor also automatically adjusts the display’s brightness based on available light, so it doesn’t stay on in a dark room. (I set mine to have the screen turn off when all the lights are off.) There isn’t a jagged pixel in sight; even scanned film photos look great. When you look really close, you can see that it doesn’t exactly look like a photo printed in a glass frame, but the image doesn’t look really digital either. It’s just cool. When my sister visited, she said that she didn’t realize it was a digital signage until the picture suddenly changed. (I should note that I have only tried frames from Will have, But Nixplay is another popular brand you might want to consider.)
The reason they make great giveaways is the way photos can be shared. Frame owner can upload photos to their frame directly from their phone using the Aura mobile app. But they can also use the app to add “members” to the frame and invite others to drop photos into their library. So if you give one to your parents, you and all your siblings can easily add photos of your own families. They will appear on Mommy and Daddy’s frame hundreds or thousands of miles away. Seeing a new image emerge is heartwarming. The frame owner can tap the almost hidden touch bar at the top of the frame to see who added each photo and when. They can also browse the album to view specific photos and tag their favorite photos by giving them a heart. Aura frames don’t require a lot of effort to install, and the app is easy to navigate, so even the most novice technician can figure it out.