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Quick Review of iMovie for iPhone

Sep 13 2021

Over the weekend I made my first movie using my new iPhone 4. All video and photos were shot during the load up of the Dismal art project with my iPhone 4 and then edited on the BART ride home from Oakland into the short video you see below.


My Review of iMovie for the iPhone

It’s obviously a 1.0 product but an amazing one at that. There are a few bugs and a few features that I’d like to see. On top of this the user interface could use a little work as I was left confused a number of times and much of the interface is hidden behind meaningless icons or non-intuitive touch gestures. Luckily MacWorld has a good Hands on of iMovie for the iPhone.


  • Exporting crashes often, especially if you are exporting at HD. Others are also having this problem. Seems it many happens with videos longer than a minute or two that are composed of several photos or video clips. Annoyingly I was able to export the above video at medium size but not at HD.
  • Importing photos from your photo library can be laggy.
  • Changing the titles can also be laggy.

User Interface Issues

  • Most of the interface icons are generic and meaningless. Even after several minutes of working with it I kept forgetting what each icon was. (See example: I mean what the hell is the difference between the down arrow in the box and the one in the folder? The one in the box on the left is import and the one in the folder on the right switches you to the video camera so you can shoot a new clip—shouldn’t that icon be a video camera?!?)
  • I kept having issues with accidentally hitting the wrong button or control as there are a lot of too small interface elements and other too elements that are too big for their limited importance. (See example: not how close the trim icon is to the down arrow folder icon. I accidentally hit that folder icon several times while editing.)
  • Trimming the video clips is confusing as you are trimming blindly: trim then move head to where you trimmed; if wrong, try again; repeat. Ideally, to make this easier the head position should lock to where you are trimming so you can see what the hell you are doing.
  • The controls for changing the Start/End of the “Ken Burns pan effect” is confusing. I finally figured out that grayed out was the active state but that was counter-intuitive.
  • Took me forever to figure out how to delete a clip or photo. Dragging to the video area to delete is counter-intuitive. While you can double tap to delete video clips, when the iphone is horizontal the delete button is hidden—you can scroll to it but there is no indication that it is there.

Feature Lack

  • While you can import photos from your photo library and music from your music library, you can annoyingly only import video from the camera roll.
    • This means that if you download the video and delete your camera roll, the video in your project is now missing. So make sure you finish your movie and export before deleting video off your camera roll!
  • You can only add one music track even if your video is longer than your music
  • There is no control to fade in/out music in added audio track
    • iMovie automatically lowers the music volume of your added audio track if you leave your video audio on so that you can hear the video, but I would like to control fade out when the video is ending.
  • Titles only can be added to video clips not photos
  • Titles last the entirety of a video clip
  • Cannot create a text only titling slide
  • Photos are forced to use the “Ken Burns pan effect” (though you do have control over the start/end points of the “Ken Burns” pan)
  • Limited number of transitions: One global Cross Dissolve and each theme has it’s own special transition.
  • There is no way within the app to split one clip into two or more clips.
    • This can be done in the Camera App before importing into iMovie, but it should be part of iMovie.
  • No way to publish directly from the app—you must export to the camera roll and then you can publish from there or download it to your laptop
    • Worse publishing from the Camera Roll (to youtube/MMS/email) automatically compresses the movie into ugly-digital-artifact-landia! You have no option to publish an uncompressed full res video even if you are over wifi!


I still think it was worth the $5 as it’s great for what it is—though I seriously hope they fix the export bug soon. Also, I really dislike the lack of the ability to upload at full res. The fact that I can shot and edit 720p video all on the iPhone but still need a computer to publish online at full resolution is annoying. Secondly, the fact that it only works with video in the Camera Roll seems like an artificial limitation and I hope they fix that soon.

I’m also happy that Apple is charging for this app as it encourages 3rd parties to create their own video editing apps. I’d gladly pay money for a more functional and easier to use app.

One last thought that is a comment on the iOS in general: The fact that this app exports to the camera roll seems kludgey and really underscores the need for some sort of simplified universal file repository.

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