Roaming with Google Clips

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The premise of Google Clips is undeniably intriguing: a hands-free camera that uses AI to capture spontaneous moments of the people and pets who matter to you, automatically. But does the Clips’ performance live up to its promise? We took it for a field test, during B&H Adventure Week, to find out.

Design and Setup

Google gets a lot of things right with Clips, starting with the design and setup. Right out of the box, you can tell this is a Google-made device. Its 1.9" square body is simple, straightforward, and clean, with a white front and seafoam green back and sides that add a nice pop of color. The black camera lens sits prominently on the front above a near-invisible shutter button. There’s no power switch—you twist the lens to turn it on—and the only port is a USB-C charge port at the bottom. The result is a device that is both pleasing to the eye and easy to manage.

As far as setup goes: I downloaded the companion app to my iPhone X, paired my phone with Clips, and that was it. For Android, Google lists the Galaxy S7, S8, and Pixel phones running Nougat or above as being compatible. That doesn’t necessarily mean an Android or Apple phone not on the list won’t work (the S9 should be just fine, for example), but performance might be hindered.

Camera and Performance

Clips is something of a luxury in that it’s not designed to replace your smartphone or any of your other cameras. Instead, its purpose is to capture the candid moments you would otherwise miss: a child’s impromptu dance, your pet doing something unexpectedly cute or silly, spontaneous laughter among friends, and it gives you the opportunity to be in the moment. Leveraging on-device AI, Clips captures these unscripted events by recognizing the best spontaneous moments to capture and capturing a clip. These “clips” are seconds-long wide-angle motion photos that you can also pull JPEG photos from or turn into GIFs. The stills look great, but the real joy of the Clips are the motion photos, which really do feel like these nice moments in time—not staged or orchestrated, but authentic and sincere. And the fact that Clips decides which motion photos to capture makes reviewing the footage doubly enjoyable and exciting—you never know what for certain what footage you’re going to get. It’s important that you consider the angle Clips sees, and look for good vantage points from which to capture these memories.

Urban Shooter
Wilderness Adventurer

Other notes about performance: Google Clips doesn’t have a built-in mic, so the motion photos will be visuals only. It comes with 16GB of storage, which holds a lot. I used up about half that on more than 200 clips and manual stills. It has both integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so you can review clips instantly and manage the device straight from the smartphone app. I didn’t time the battery recharge time, but Google’s claim that it lasts up to 3 hours is verifiably true—I took it out for a long hike in the woods and it lasted well past the 3-hour mark.

Overall

Clips is a great device for parents, pet owners, and party goers. Almost everything about it is simple and unobtrusive: the way it looks, how easy it is to set up and use, and even the way it captures footage. Use it to capture all those impromptu I-wish-I-had-my-camera-out moments that so often get away. It’s not going to replace any of your other devices, but it is a nice-to-have and it does really give you some footage you’d otherwise miss while allowing you to be in the moment, too.

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