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An increasing number of cameras these days have wifi built-in, allowing instant viewing of photos on your iPhone or iPad, and from there instant sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and so on. Which can leave those of us with less sociable cameras feeling a little left out in the cold.

Eye-Fi has offered solutions to this for some time, in the form of wifi-equipped cards that you can insert into your older or pro camera and transmit the images to a PC or Mac. This approach worked, after a fashion, but had two big problems. First, setup was far from easy, and second, transmission was via a wireless router. Fine at home, where you probably didn’t need it, not so fine when out & about, where you probably did.

This was the problem the Eye-Fi Mobi set out to solve: a $50 (8GB) or $80 (16GB) SD card that transmits photos direct to an iOS device running the free Eye-Fi app, with no router required. I decided to give it a try … 

Out of the box

The Eye-Fi Mobi is pretty much indistinguishable from any other SD card, aside from looking rather more orange than usual. It’s of course exactly the same dimensions as a standard card, and the card itself is a decent-speed Class 10.

eye-fi-mobi-16gb

I was pleased to see that it was supplied in what Eye-Fi calls ‘frustration-free packaging’. Instead of having to attack the packaging with the knife, scissors or tactical nuclear weapons most of today’s packs seem to need, you can open it unassisted with your fingers. You don’t even need fingernails. Other manufacturers, please note.

On the back of the card case is a 10-character activation code needed to pair it with the free app. And that’s it. You download the app from iTunes.

Setup

This was the part where previous incarnations of Eye-Fi cards had you pulling out your hair in frustration. This wasn’t anything to do with Eye-Fi, it was the nature of setting up ad-hoc wifi networks with a router acting as an intermediary. The very expensive Nikon wifi transmitter had exactly the same problem. Compared to that, the Mobi is a breeze.

First, simply insert the card in your camera like any other SD card. This was when I hit my first reliability issue: the first card I received was dead on arrival. A replacement was sent, which worked.

When you install the app, it will ask permission to install a wifi profile. Grant this by entering your iOS passcode, and it will ask you for the activation code for your specific card. Type in the code from the case and hit OK. The app will open and you’ll get a message telling you it’s not connected, and giving instructions on what to do next:

Photo 128

Note that you do need to take a photo to wake up the card and create the wireless network. I decided to be a little meta and took a photo of the app asking me to take a photo …

Photo 131

As soon as you’ve done this, you can open your standard iPhone or iPad Settings app and will see a new wireless network entitled Eye-Fi Card followed by a hex identifier. Select this:

Photo 129

As soon as your phone connects to the app, the photo you just took is copied across:

Photo 136

In theory, all subsequent photos are then automatically copied across.

Photo 138

I say ‘in theory’ because you’ll note that the green connection status box in the screengrab with the first photo has turned to a red ‘lost connection’ box in the photo above. I checked the wifi status, to find that the card had disappeared from the list of networks:

Photo 140

I tried taking another photo to see if it had simply gone to sleep – nothing. I tried switching the camera off and on again – no luck. Tried removing the card and re-inserting, when it reappeared. That worked. I took exactly one photo and then the same thing happened again: red status box, wifi network gone.

This time, however, no subsequent amount of messing around brought it back: not removing and reinserting the card, nor doing the same with the camera battery, nor reinstalling the app. Four photos and it was dead.

Had this been a one-off, I’d have written it off as one of those things. But with two separate cards, one DOA and the other failing on day one, I have to conclude that the reliability of these things is suspect.

Which is a great shame, as I do very much like the idea. At the moment, I use my DSLR most of the time, but it does lack the ability to instantly share photos online, and a small LCD panel also isn’t the ideal way to share photos with others present at the time. The Eye-Fi Mobi plus my iPad (which pretty much goes with me everywhere anyway) would have been an excellent solution to both problems.

I have no doubt that Eye-Fi stand by their products, and that either they or the retailer would arrange another painless swap, but two failures is generally my limit for something I want rather than need. If you do fall into the need category, don’t let my experience put you off – I may simply have got two cards from the same bad batch – but I would suggest buying it from a retailer with a no-hassle returns policy.

The Eye-Fi Mobi is available from Amazon. The 8GB model offers a tiny discount but free shipping at $48.94, while the 16GB model offers a more worthwhile 15 percent discount, also with free shipping, at $71.99.

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17 Responses to “Review: Eye-Fi Mobi, a cool idea let down by poor reliability”

  1. Interesting that you’ve had two dead cards…I’ve been using the 8 GB Mobi card for two months now without any issues (1000+ photos later.) If I’m in range of a known WiFi network and I turn the camera off for more than 60 seconds, yeah, it switches back to the other network. Kind of annoying but I think I’ve ran into that problem twice.

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  2. I had same connectivity issue when was trying Transcend WiFi card. Ended up ‘sleep/stnadby’ setting in my camera, extend the time or completely turn the ‘sleep/standby’ off and it will work as a charm.
    Also, DPReview had great article on Transcend vs EyeFi card last week.

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  3. I have an Eye-Fi Pro X2 that has been very reliable. Other than setup being a hassle (which can be expected with any network device setup) like you said, I have had no problems with mine. I wonder what the difference is between the Pro x2 and the mobi models?

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  4. Not accurate about the older version needing an intermediary router. The older OLDER version, yes, but the last version didn’t need an intermediary router at all. I’ve had the Eye-fi Connect X2 for at least a year and a half, and use it all the time far from routers, sometimes even far from a decent cellular signal, to very reliably send photos from my point and shoot to my iphone.
    The main advantages are this: If I’m getting into a situation where I don’t want to take my expensive phone that I need for business, such as in a kayak or playing with my son near water, then I use the point and shoot with the Eye-Fi card in it, and then stream the pics to my phone when I’m back on dry land. If the point-and-shoot goes down to the bottom of Georgian Bay, I’ll be sad that I lost the last batch of pics but I can replace the camera cheaply.
    If I want to take better pictures than my phone is capable of but still want them on my phone quickly, then I stick the card into the dSLR or even just use the point and shoot which takes quite nice pictures.
    I find it easier to manage than messing around with all the iphone add-on lenses you can buy.

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  5. Ziv Gillat says:

    Ben,

    Thank you for the review. Sorry that you haven’t had an amazing experience with the card.

    Which camera are you using? I wonder if it’s a camera thing where it kills power to the card. 85% of cameras are Eye-Fi Connected, but maybe there is an issue with the model that you’re using.

    Also, on the whole Wi-Fi re-connection thing – this may be improved with iOS 7, but for now, with iOS 6, we can’t force the iOS device to drop off the existing Wi-Fi, and reconnect to the Eye-Fi Card. You’ll have to go into Settings / Wi-Fi, and choose the Mobi card’s SSID. But if you were out of the house, and the iOS device was not connected to any Wi-Fi, this will be totally automatic.

    Looking forward to your reply —

    Ziv.
    Founder, Sales, BD.

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  6. I’ve had no problems at all. Works flawlessly. I love it and use it a lot.

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  7. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the ipad camera kit doesn’t work with an iphone?

    I have an eye-fi and due to the small mission to get the app connected to the actual card, I never even use it for it’s intended purpose.

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  8. Michel Lamy says:

    Doesn’t work well, suck the life out of your battery and it very very slow

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  9. I would encourage anybody who likes the idea to try to Eye-Fi Pro X2. It’s been rock solid, fast and reliable for me. Thousands of pictures through it from a Rebel T2i.

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  10. Interesting, I have purchased 5 x2 cards of which I own 3 and 2 I gave away as gifts..
    I own two 16gb cards and one 8gb card..all 3 are working perfectly and connect directly to my samsung phones (note 1, 2 & 3)

    I do not like the mobi card as there is a limitation of not being able to connect to your laptop … I don’t understand why they are pushing it…

    My problem now is that I updated to a d800e and the 16gbs are just too small.. I want the 32gb but it only comes in mobi version
    … Waiting for eyefi to wise up and upgrade the x2 to either 32 or 64gb

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  11. Neil Paisnel says:

    I have not tried the Mobi card, ( I have 3 x 16Gb Prox2 cards) but do have to agree about the general unreliability of the iOS app.

    I first have to say that the Eye-Fi support people are excellent in their speed of response and helpfulness.

    It is not so much just the iOS app, but the whole system and how it communicates and updates its data between devices, card and the Eye-Fi servers

    I am writing this in February 2014. I have had these cards since December 2012.
    There was a potential card failure.they sent me a NEW card F.o.C. but the random upload issues continued.

    I have a Canon 5D MkIII …it has 2 card slots..CF and SD. I write RAW to CD and small JPEG SD for instant upload via ‘Selective upload’

    I think the main issue is not such that the system is unreliable, but the setup is complicated and fiddly to get correct and the documentation is not very complete.

    I have not had uploads to Facebook working reliably since I have had the cards. To be more specific..you can set it up and test for as long as you want and all will be fine.
    Stop using it for a few weeks, and go to use it for a real job…..and it won’t work.

    I have been successfully uploading to my personal FB “Test” album for may months now..no issues.

    I go out to shoot a “Charity Winter Fund-raising Sea swim” , so add the customers FB account to my card, with card in the Computer..via the Eye-Fi app.

    It all sets up successfully.

    The new account appears , via the Eye-fi server, correctly through the iOS Eye-Fi app.

    Start shooting and uploading.

    Nothing….a day later nothing …Uploads to FB usually take 2-3 minutes ..Camera to iPhone to FB via 3G

    After a few mails back and forth between (the excellent and very patient George at) Eye-fi support he suggests doing a manual share of the new photos to the new FB account.

    I do this , and the new account..(although its details have been received vie the Eye-Fi server to the iOS app) is turned OFF.

    The iOS app does not have a menu item to turn off or on the the upload destination, you have to do it via the ‘work around’ of doing a single manual upload first. There after it works flawlessly

    Several issues to this problem that I see as an end user:
    Poor programming…if you add a new account, one would expect it to be activated. The initial account activates automatically, but subsequent upload destinations do not.
    Poor programming on the iOS app side..no obvious way to check apart from doing an initial manual upload.
    Poor documentation.

    Similar issues with RAW files.
    If I had accidentally selected a RAW file (Instead of a JPEG) to upload from the camera, it would freeze the system.
    The issue again turned out to be one of the Eye-Fi server not communicating changes made on the Desktop Eye-Fi app to the iOS app.

    I had turned OFF RAW uploads via the Desktop app (with the card selected in the app on the Desktop system) , yet the iOS app still had RAW upload set to ON.

    This was resulting in conflict so the system would lock up and not upload further JPEG’s.

    Again poor programming and poor documentation.

    Once you know all these little quirks, it has the potential to be reliable..but they do not seem to be documented anywhere obvious, and believe me I have searched, and you only et to the bottom of it after many months of back/forward e-mails with Support.

    As I said earlier..I have three cards..three cameras and two iOS devices. After realising the issues could have been caused by complications by having too much going on, I simplified last December, and have stuck to using just one card, one camera, one device (iPhone) and a single upload account (FB) all went well for over 200 images.
    But as soon as I added the new FB account..it all fell apart again..sorted now..but it is a very ‘fragile’ system.

    Wish me luck, this weekend I will try and introduce a second camera and card in to the mix

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  12. So I’m curious (I know this is an older post, but I haven’t seen too many about this): is it NOT POSSIBLE to send images from a MOBI card to a PC, but only to a mobile device? Is that what the MOBI designation means? I’ve gotten my 8GB MOBI card to consistently transfer to an iPad without difficulty, but for the life of me, can’t get it to transfer to a PC. When I insert the card into my SD reader, the PC wants to format the card, which would obviously be a bad idea.

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  13. H. (@HDow) says:

    Late to the game. I have a Pro X2 in a LUMIX DMC-LX5, connecting to an iPhone 6 using iOS 8. I have finally got it working but have no idea why. I’m not connected to the eye-fi network, according to Settings (the network never shows up) but pictures are uploading anyway. For now.

    But I can’t figure out how to delete photos from the app. They show up (dunno how) in my Photo Stream, and when they do I can delete them from PS, but they stay in the Eye-fi App.

    So basically,I’m have to curate the photos on the phone before uploading them. Assuming that the next time, the card connects to my iPhone. I find the whole thing very Microsoft.

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