Long before the days of the iPhone 3GS, iPhone users were limited in their choices of video recording to whatever the jailbreaking scene could come up with. And in all fairness, Cycorder is a very finely-perfected application, and remains one of the sole reasons people still jailbreak. Well, that is until today. Enter ShowTime Video Recorder (60p/$1). Weighing in at a measly 0.1MB, you may think that it can't do that much, and you'd be right. ShowTime is about one thing and one thing only: shooting video. And yes, it does a decent job of it.
Now that the floodgates have opened for video recording apps on non-3GS iPhones, you might think that these apps would be somewhere near Cycorder's quality, or at least beyond Microsoft PowerPoint's quality. iVideoCamera records at 3 frames per second (FPS), with videos at a size of 160x213. Oh, and it stops recording after 60 seconds. Video Camera will stop after 10 seconds, but you do get 320x426 video. ShowTime costs the same as the other two, but you get unlimited recording, 320x240 resolution video at 6 FPS, and it has 16-bit audio to go with it.
A design reminiscent of the standard Camera app makes filming simple
ShowTime is very straightforward. The button on the left allows you to view previously filmed footage, the button in the middle starts and stops recording, and the timer on the right says how long you've been recording (or how long your last recording was). A brief pause follows filming, and the file is stored in the list uncompressed. Compression isn't very well-explained, and I had issues with videos disappearing into the digital abyss if I hadn't compressed a previous video. Hmph.
Video quality is comparable to that of the built-in Camera app. Slower FPS in lower light, higher FPS in higher light. Audio quality is acceptable to record a performance or people talking, but don't expect anything spectacular. The developers clearly had to set a balance with video and audio quality, and I don't think I'd be happy trading one for the other. It's fair to say that overall quality is the same as (if not a bit higher than) the average phone.
Alright, so you've shot your masterpiece. Now what? Well, you can either delete it, play it back or compress it. Compressing a 10 second video took about 15 seconds, and afterwards the file was 1.7MB. Strangely, it didn't mention how big it was uncompressed. Compressed files are stored in Motion JPEG format, and the only way to get files off of your iPhone is to compress and email them. This might actually be a deal-breaker for some: what if your email provider imposes an attachment limit (as most do)? And why should I have to send my files through space if my iPhone and computer are inches apart?
As you realise ShowTime might not be all it's cracked up to be, you watch previous footage and notice chunks of the screen are missing. Video is not taken of everything in the viewfinder to ensure a normal aspect ratio, but I turned the phone on its side first time round to make sure I did get a normal aspect ratio. The only problem is it's hard to tell what will be filmed and what won't. Godzilla attacking your hometown and you want to shoot footage to show people? Be careful, you might be left with a movie of a fat green belly with stubby little arms. ShowTime's limitation makes sense in a way, but it's never explained or even indicated in the interface.
It's important to remember that ShowTime is not perfect. If you want iPhone 3GS-like video, go out and buy an iPhone 3GS. Personally, I can't justify the cost of an iPhone 3GS, and this app means that I don't have to carry around my older phone at events anymore (alas, the problems of the modern world). At only $1 though, there are far worse things you could spend your money on.