WHEN MARGE Patrizia gifted her mom a digital photo frame back in 2006, she had no desire to grab a second one for herself. While the clunky device worked fine as a memory aid, uploading photos for her mom required Ms. Patrizia to transfer the photo files from her camera to her computer to an SD memory card that she could plug into the side of the pixelated device. After going through this laborious process once, she rarely updated the frame again.
Twelve years later, Ms. Patrizia—now a 72-year-old Erie, Pa., retiree—received a much-improved version from her own daughter-in-law. Ms. Patrizia said the gift isn’t the Skylight itself (though its thinner design is tidy, it stops short of elegant). Rather, it’s the photos of her grandson that her daughter-in-law regularly emails directly to the frame.
“Sure, you can get an instant photo on your phone,” Ms. Patrizia said. “But it’s nice to have all the images displayed because you run out of places to put a frame.” The concept might read as octogenarians-only, but she enjoys fresh reminders that her family is thinking of her. “It sparks a telephone call or a text message about how he’s growing. It’s very enjoyable.”
Here, five reasons why the photo frames of today might finally be worth taking a look at.
1. No need to give grandma a walk-through.
Why is a dusty generation of shoddy digital frames still scrolling through junior-high photos of kids now entering law school? Simple: the pain of updating SD memory cards. Today’s devices require little more than a Wi-Fi connection to let anyone access a legion of photos. With the digital frames from the brand Skylight, friends and family can send shots straight to a unique email address. Once you press send, grandma need merely tap to view on the HD touch screen and enjoy new images. ($159, skylightframe.com)
2. The screens are smarter.
Using similar tech that automatically adjusts a smartphone’s brightness to a room’s ambient light, Netgear’s Meural Wi-Fi Photo Frame outwits the distracting glare of high noon. The cable-operated frames feature a 15.6-inch diagonal HD display to show off family photos, and they cleverly avoid energy waste. Instead of screening images to empty rooms, they can be set to automatically power down when they stop sensing light. ($300, meural.netgear.com)
3. You can curate ‘playlists.’
You’d never leave your entire Spotify library on shuffle. To avoid randomness, Meural’s app lets you create “playlists” of specific events, letting you reminisce about past Thanksgivings or a Grand Canyon hike. Sync shots of your envy-inducing Paris vacation for your next socially-distanced gathering, or autoplay soothing nature scenes upon waking, tapping into Meural’s vast art library (available via a $9 monthly subscription).
4. You can sync to social.
It’s easy to upload photos via email or the connected apps. Even easier: Cut out the middleman. Pix-Star’s frames let you sync a device to your social media accounts and automatically upload photos you post on Facebook, Instagram or Google Photos to a frame. (From $155, shop.pix-star.com)
5. You’ll dispense with pointless nostalgia.
You might still yearn for the days when you mooned over photos in analog form. But be honest: When’s the last time you had a pickup at the one-hour photo lab or ordered prints shipped by Snapfish or Shutterfly? Digital photo frames will get your new photos out of your “favorites” folder and into the living room or home office you’re currently stuck in.
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Corrections & Amplifications
Marge Patrizia lives in Erie, Pa. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that she lives in Eerie. (Corrected on Oct. 15)
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