When Williamsburg app developer Alex Kane released the beta version of his app Sympler last September, he expected about 3,000 downloads. What he got was more than 80,000 downloads and a nod from Apple Japan as one of the best apps of 2013, alongside Vine and Instagram. Not bad for beta. Today, Sympler version 1.0 launches in the Apple Store.
Kane, best known as the guy behind Jelly NYC and their now-defunct Williamsburg Pool Parties, started working on a video mixing app about two years ago. He and his business partner Ben Jenkins thought that, if given the right tools, your average Joe could make online videos without any video editing skills.
“Since everyone has an iPhone and access to creating videos, we figured that if we were going to set out to enable folks to get comfortable with video, we’d have to make a tool that was on their iPhones,” Kane says. “We spent the next six months or so thinking about what that tool might be. And then we started building it.”
Here’s the spiel: Sympler is a video editing app that allows users to take photos, videos, and music from their libraries or online and sew them together to create a 20-second clip. The app’s feed lets you watch other users’ videos, then “remix” those videos with a few clicks. Sympler promises to makes you feel like a director, a DJ, and a hacker all at once.
But now to the point: does it work? I ran a test and tried to make a video of my own. (Disclaimer: I’m not a newb to the video-editing process.) The music loses a significant amount of quality in the transfer. The buttons are so small that you’re often accidentally touching a nearby icon. The audio scroll sometimes doesn’t want to work, and importing video is a stubborn, frustrating process. There’s no way to sort the feed, and it’s all just piled up in no particular order.
So, after three hours and much grunting and cursing, I gave up. Granted, I’m not a video editor by trade, but I am a few steps above your average Joe. Can a shitload of Japanese people be this wrong? Enter my soul-crushing self-doubt. (Just kidding; sort of.)
To their credit, the guys say their number one focus after the launch is to listen to users to improve the app experience. “We’re not set in our ways,” Kane says. “I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes, especially in technology, that I’ve learned and learned quickly, is that the users are always right. What you think might be right doesn’t mean anything unless the user agrees.”