Why I just asked Memoto for a refund

I’ve just e-mailed Memoto and asked for a refund of my Kickstarter pledge. I still think it’s an exciting and interesting product, but I don’t believe enough people will be prepared to pay $108 (excluding taxes) per year to use it. It’s ironic, as I can see that one of the arguments for the high subscription fee is sustainability.

I’ve been excited about Memoto ever since I first heard about it at SSWC last August. I became a backer as soon as their Kickstarter campaign launched and I think the team is a bunch of brilliant people. But their recent announcement to charge $108, excluding any taxes, annually to use their cloud service is a step down the wrong path. I know that Memoto didn’t arbitrarily choose a price, that they have been crunching numbers and landed on $108 to build a sustainable company. I think that it’s a huge gamble on enough people being interested in logging all of their lives through the Memoto service, a gamble that I wouldn’t bet on.

People are prepared to pay for storage, software and other services in the cloud. Google, Evernote, Flickr, Dropbox are just a few. And you can combine hardware with a service. Look at Bodymedia users (an activity and sleep tracker for losing weight), who pay over $100 for the device and then $83 per year to use it.

I also know that there is a direct correleation between how useful a service is and how much you’re prepared to pay. To pay $25 per year for Flickr Pro is reasonable. Even $50 a year is reasonable, considering you get 1 TB of data. Paying Google $60 for 200 GB of data for your Gmail, Google Drive and Picasa accounts is reasonable. Paying $135 (which it will amount to in Sweden, as 25% VAT is applied) to store your photos in Memoto’s cloud? The discrepancy between “useful” and “price” is too big for casual users. Especially since you can only store Memoto photos there, nothing else.

There is an option not to pay for the service from year 2. In that case you can download the images from the camera to your own storage. You lose Memoto’s “momentification”, the service that puts all photos that belong to a separate moment together, so you don’t have to browse through the 1440 photos the camera takes during a 12 hour day. But you also lose any GPS data, as that is not stored in the EXIF data of the images. Without processing the images on Memoto’s servers, your images won’t be geotagged. This is the deal breaker for me.

Add to that that there’s big competition on the market. Autographer, a lifelogging device that works a bit differently is starting to ship July 30 (they might beat Memoto to market). It’s still unclear if they will charge you for uncrippled use of their product (I’ve asked them and will update with their answer) Autographer will cost more than the Memoto, £399, but will not require any subscription.  Google+ has a light version of momentification: if you upload a time lapse series of photos, Google+ will put them together into an animation.

Another reason I don’t think that Memoto will reach a sustainable subscription rate at the announced price has to do with function. I got to beta test an early version for a couple days, and I realized that what happens in front of me isn’t as interesting as what happens where I’m looking. The value of the logged data is higher if I find a way of mounting the Memoto on a baseball cap, rather than wearing it on the collar of my sweater. Another challenge that Memoto faces is the angle: when you wear it on your collar or on your chest pocket there is no way of fixating the angle of the camera. A lot of the photos I took during the day, especially while walking was at an angle similar to the image below:

The angle of Memoto when worn on the collar of the shirt

One solution is wearing it as a necklace, another is to wear it further down (requires a shirt or something similar). Or a wide angle lens for the camera. A fear I have is that many Memoto users might be disappointed by this, considering the amount of images of Memoto worn exactly like this there are out there. That disappointment will impact the readiness to pay the subscription fee.

So what do I think Memoto should do? After all, storage does cost. And if you use the camera for 12 hours a day it’s 1440 photos per day. Assume each photo being 500 k and you have over 700 mb of data per day. In a year that’s a whopping 250 gb. So year two you’d be pushing half a terabyte of data. Google would charge you at least $120 per year, Dropbox would take $499. Memoto’s subscription fee for lifeloggers who save all their data is more than fair.

While hardcore lifeloggers are an important target group, there is another one: the casual loggers. This group won’t care for the 8 hours of sitting at the office or the commute to work every day. They will want automatic capture of moments out of the ordinary: travels, dinners with friends, conferences. For this group, Memoto’s subscription fee is outrageously high.

I’d introduce two plans: one flat rate storage plan like the current. $108 excluding taxes is a great price. Let’s call this plan “Lifelogger”. And then I’d have the “Casual memorizer” plan, with limited amount of storage for $30 a year. Once you hit the storage limit, you can either delete (or move!) some of your images, or increase the plan at a premium rate. I believe there to be a lot more “Casual Memorizers” than “Lifeloggers” out there, while Memoto are putting their moey on that there are enough hardcore lifeloggers out there who will buy the camera and pay the annual fee.

I’m not ready to wage my money on it, and therefore I asked for a refund. I still believe in the product, I still believe in the team and if they change their subscription plans to accomodate casual lifeloggers, I’ll gladly come back as a customer.

UPDATE: I just spoke to the team behind Memoto, and they said that they’re still talking internally about different subscription models. Since there’s a chance they’ll go for a lower end, I decided to stay as a backer.

The drawing of the humans comes from Peter Kiselkov’s tutorial of how to draw a human body.