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Send full-res iPhone photos and spare your bandwidth via Beamr

The iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and the fourth-gen iPad all carry one key component: a really awesome camera. The 4S has proven to be a workhorse capable of producing some startlingly good images, and the combination of iOS 6's Panorama feature with the improved optics of the iPhone 5 is letting us fall in love with iPhone photography all over again.

There's a drawback, though, when it comes to sending those lovely megapixels to friends via email, Facebook or Twitter: they're getting compressed, a lot. Resolution and quality take a hit, and while you can use local sync or Photo Stream to get the full-resolution images, that adds time and complexity. Now a new free app called Beamr is providing a way to get those full-res images off your phone in style -- and without blowing out your network connection.

Using Beamr is as simple as launching the app and selecting multiple photos from your library. These go into a "glossy magazine" layout, with an option for you to customize your cover image, headline and credit. Select a sharing mode (email, Facebook or Twitter) and that's all there is to it.

The result is a microsite of your images, in the same magazine format, hosted on the Beamr website. Your friends will see the full 8-megapixel resolution of your iPhone photos, in top quality; the images, however, will use only a fraction of the storage space and bandwidth of conventional JPEGs without sacrificing visual quality. Especially on pre-LTE cell networks, the difference in upload time is quite noticeable -- a four-image Beamr magazine makes it off the phone in about the time it would take to send one or two images conventionally.

Beamr's Israeli developer, ICVT, first gained notice for its JPEGmini product. Implemented as a web service, a standalone server module and as a Mac app, the proprietary process analyzes a digital image to determine how much it can be compressed without sacrificing perceptible detail. Once that level of compression is fixed, the software automatically puts the photo through a custom JPEG encoder that squeezes the image to the max.

The biggest advantage of this approach: the resulting files are plain ol' JPEG format, rather than an esoteric filetype requiring a special browser plugin or preview app. That means you can use them anywhere a normal JPEG would fit -- on your website, for example -- and not worry about compatibility issues. The file size savings can be substantial, ranging from 40 percent up to 80 percent depending on the size and composition of the original. You can try out the JPEGmini tools using the free Lite version of the Mac app, or via the web form.

As for the Beamr app, it's fun and dead simple; there are, however, a few minor drawbacks. You can't delete a Beamr magazine right now, so best to be 100 percent sure that you don't include any questionable images. Further layout and customization options may be in the works for in-app purchasing, but right now there's only the one layout choice. You might wish for the ability to simply send your Beamr-compressed image to your regular photo sharing service without the magazine wrapper.

In any event, the app is a promising start and a nice showcase for the JPEGmini compression suite. Give it a look.

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