Eye-Fi Rolls Out Direct Mode and a New Card

Eye-Fi, the folks who make the unique SD cards with built-in Wi-Fi, are just about ready to launch the most interesting improvement they've made since they unveiled their first cards. Previewed in January at CES, it's called Direct Mode, and it will let you transfer photos from a camera with an Eye-Fi card directly and wirelessly to an iPhone (or other iOS device) or an Android phone or tablet -- where you can then upload them to the Web using Eye-Fi's apps or use them with any phone app that involves photos, such as Instagram, Path, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.

If, like me, you do much of your photography these days with a phone but aren't crazy about the results, this is potentially a more exciting application of Eye-Fi's technology than its original features, which require that you be within range of an available Wi-Fi network to get photos off your camera and onto the Internet.

Direct Mode will work with all current Eye-Fi cards, and will be available this week as a free upgrade for owners of any Eye-Fi X2 model. The company is also introducing a card focused around the new feature: At $79.99, the Eye-Fi Mobile X2, available for preorder now and at Apple Stores and Best Buy on Sunday, is the cheapest Eye-Fi so far with 8GB. It's also knocking down the price of its top-of-the-line model, the Pro X2-which has geotagging and mobile access to AT&T hotspots-from $149.99 to $99.99.

I still wonder why digital-camera makers haven't introduced more models with built-in wireless capability, and why they haven't tried turning cameras into platforms for third-party apps. Until they do, Eye-Fi is filling an important niche. Here's its video about Direct Mode:

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