Shark Tank Makes Me Buy Things: Groovebook


Every so often, when I'm all caught up on Arrow and I'm sick of watching Doctor Who reruns (TENTH DOCTOR 4EVA!!!), I turn to Hulu Plus to check out ABC's Shark Tank.

In my mind, I watch Shark Tank for three reasons:

1. To learn how to best negotiate with billionaires
2. To be inspired by up-and-coming entrepreneurs 
3. Because I thought there was an actual tank of sharks on the show

In reality, however, I watch Shark Tank for one reason, and one reason only: To discover new products that I can waste my money on. Because, why not?

Groovebook is one such product.

According to its paper-store-owning purveyors, Groovebook is a "revolutionary" subscription-based app designed to help you "actually do something" with your forgotten smartphone photos. Basically, it's a photo book subscription service: For $3/month, you get a printed "Groovebook" of 40 - 100 of your favorite smartphone photos (which you upload, but more on that later) sent directly to your home. What's nice is that you can order additional Groovebooks for the same price -- $3 -- to be sent to other people's homes. In other words, it sounded like the perfect service for my mother, who's always complaining about how I never send her pictures, and how the pictures I do send her are always in digital format.

Plus, it's only $3/month. That's like the price of a cup of coffee, maybe -- actually, I'm not sure, because I don't drink coffee. But it's like the price of three Diet Cokes at an average cafe, or one Diet Coke if you're in the touristy part of Florence, Italy.

Either way, it's pretty affordable, especially when you compare it with the price (and inconvenience) of going to a drug store to get your phone photos printed. So, naturally, I immediately signed up.

Groovebook: The App

Groovebook is a bunch of things in one -- a subscription service, an app, and a physical product. The app, which is available for Android and iOS, is free. It's a quick initial download, and an average-sized app (it takes up approximately 14MB on my Galaxy Note 2), and setting up your service is as easy as filling out a form (including your credit card info -- it is a subscription service, after all). But that's where the non-issues end.

This. App. Is. Awful.

 Groovebook's Android App

Groovebook's Android App

It takes forever, crashes often, lags for days, and occasionally just doesn't work. BUT it's a cheap service, so I'm willing to keep using it...even though it occasionally makes me want to slam my phone onto my polished concrete floors.

Er, but yeah, onto how it works. Once you've set up your account, the app asks you to review and upload photos for your next Groovebook. The main screen has two buttons: Review and Upload. First, you have to review photos -- tapping Review takes you to your phone's main photo reel so you can choose the photos you want in your Groovebook. Photos with a green check mark go into the book, while photos with a red x mark do not. Photos with a small yellow dot have been featured in previous Groovebooks, so you can decide whether you would like multiple copies.

The reviewing process is extremely slow and laggy. Fair warning -- I do have about 2000 photos on my smartphone, but then again...who doesn't? It takes me anywhere from a half-hour to an hour to scroll through photos and pick the ones I want.

Once you've "reviewed" photos, you hit "done" to go back to the main screen. But you're not done! (Not sure why, but you're not.) Now you have to hit "Upload" to upload those photos to Groovebook's server. This process takes forever. I wish I could tell you how long it takes, but honestly it takes so long that I usually just leave my phone somewhere while the photos are uploading, and eventually forget about it. I estimate it takes around an hour or two to upload 100 photos, assuming the app doesn't just crash (which it does, often).

At the bottom of the app's main screen there's an Information tab, which takes you to the app's settings menu. Here you can change your address, check your order history, order additional Groovebooks, and close the book (order the book right away, instead of waiting for your next months' subscription book). This part of the app is a little smoother than the photo review/upload part, but not much. It took me about 30 minutes to change my address when I moved, thanks to the app's lagginess.

Groovebook: The Service

Okay, so the app sucks. It may be my phone -- I have a Samsung Galaxy Note II on Verizon -- but it's probably not. It's probably just a sucky app. But I hear -- via Shark Tank -- that they have sort of sucky profit margins, so I can understand the lack of attention to the app. But you've been warned...don't try this service if you're easily frustrated.

Now, onto the Groovebook service. It's actually a pretty nice business model: Every month you upload at least 40 photos (max. 100), and you get a photo book of 100 prints. If you upload fewer than 100 photos, the app supposedly replicates the photos you did upload -- but I recently uploaded fewer than 100 photos and the app pulled a bunch of random photos from my camera roll. Nothing awful, but I don't really want printed photos of screenshots and PC interiors. So that's a glitch.

The app is supposed to remind you when your Groovebook due date is coming up if you haven't uploaded enough photos, but mine never does. Of course, I also turn off all notifications because they annoy me, so you be the judge of whose fault that is.

As a service, Groovebook runs pretty smoothly. I've been using it for three months now, and I have three Groovebooks. Each book comes approximately a week after my due date, which is the 2nd of each month.

Groovebook: The Product

Each Groovebook comes neatly wrapped in plastic and packaged in thin cardboard to protect the edges. The book features a bright, patterned cover with a soft, almost rubbery texture. The book is photo-sized (approx. 4" by 6") and each photo is semi-glossy with perforation so you can easily remove it. The photos are also marked with time and date stamps above the perforation, just in case you care about that. 

Overall, the product is excellent. The photo paper about half as thick as what you'll get from a drug store, but still thick enough to easily stuff into an album. 

Groovebook: My Thoughts

Groovebook is a really cool...idea. The company has its service and product down pat, but it really...really...really needs to work on the app. Lagging and crashing issues aside, the app also has problems finding photos from Android phones with multiple albums (iOS is easier, because iOS users just have one photo roll). But for $3/month, and $3 per extra book, it's a fantastic deal -- especially if you take the time to curate your photo roll and add in photos from other sources, such as Facebook and your computer's hard drive. 

Assuming you have the patience of a saint, you should definitely check it out!