This article was updated at 1:21 p.m. PDT to correct information on video quality.
Generation Y (and Z) are in for a big treat. As social-networking services like MySpace.com, Facebook, and Twitter have exploded as the definitive way to keep in touch, mobile content companies have begun to offer up some sophisticated ways to capture that energy and broadcast photos, videos, audio, and text from mass market phones.
I've been impressed with what I've seen from JuiceCaster, a mobile-media broadcasting app that's available as a WAP site from any Internet-enabled cell phone, and very soon, as a Java app offered through T-Mobile. Juice Wireless' CEO Nick Desai gave me access to JuiceCaster 6.0, the app's latest evolution, and chatted about the app's previously unannounced T-Mobile release.
Brand new features
Though the JuiceCaster WAP site is accessible from any mobile phone via m.juicecaster.com, the downloadable client is unsurprisingly prettier, faster, and more robust.
Actionable items are varied with this rich multimedia app, but they boil down to three essentials--watching someone else's media, posting your own, and interacting with others through comments, invitations, and chat. Let me laud JuiceCaster here for its broad definition of "others," which takes in JuiceCaster users and non-users, and which, like Twitter, allows users to subscribe to other users' feeds.
The app's well-plotted interface makes it easy to create media on the spot or tag, title, and publish media that's already on the phone. The output can be posted as public, messaged privately, or set as your JuiceCaster profile picture.
New to JuiceCaster 6.0 is the choice to set media as your Facebook status. Clicking that option after taking a photo cues friends reading their Facebook activity feed to check out your profile and see the photo. Of course, any photo you upload will also show up in the regular activity feed, but assuming you've added JuiceCaster's Mobile Status application for Facebook, friends will now be doubly reminded.
JuiceCaster's integration with the social networks doesn't stop there. Mobile Video is another Facebook application to showcase your mobile video uploads to your Facebook profile. For MySpace, Blogger, Friendster, and others, there's an embed code for pasting a similar widget. Another new, nicely integrated feature auto-updates Twitter with links to your media. A follower that clicks a link will be taken to a stylish player on JuiceCaster.com. Unlike the Facebook status update, which users selectively activate, Twitter updating works in the background after setting up account permissions in the "Manage Connections" section on JuiceCaster.com.
The downloadable client also comes equipped with five equally attractive skin colors and a backup mechanism for e-mailing or texting media to contacts. The latter is much more primitive than the default auto-updating, but it's a safety net nonetheless.
JuiceCaster's T-Mobile launch
Over the next few weeks, JuiceCaster 6.0 will be rolling out on between 12 and 14 T-Mobile handsets, including Nokia, Sony Ericcson, and Motorola models (like the Razr). Subscribers who agree to the $3 per month charge can sign up from the T-Zones catalog.
Is JuiceCaster worth $36 a year plus data charges? It is if you have an unlimited data plan and a penchant for broadcasting your life online, and it's exponentially more worth it the more high-end your phone.
I spent a lot of time with JuiceCaster on a Motorola Razr and enjoyed flawless performance, though the Razr's image quality was admittedly rough in photos and video. I'm not sure I'd want to continually broadcast poor photos I have to reshoot multiple times to frame correctly, but the immediate video feature is a huge plus, and is available so long as the phone's native camera supports video. Besides, if I had that Nokia N95 I won, image quality would be a different story.
Fence-sitters can always try JuiceCaster from its WAP site before making a subscription decision. Not all social networking features will be available, but the core media-sharing actions will give users a chance to see if their activity level warrants $3 a month for a significant publishing convenience.