The tech space is full of creative people, exciting projects and interesting products. With Noted Interviews, we tap into the brilliant minds of the individuals behind such works, letting you know why and how they do what they do as well as giving you a better insight into who they are as people.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Cam Bunton and my official title is Senior Managing Editor of PhoneDog and TmoNews. These are essentially two completely different job roles within the PhoneDog Media network, both of which I find interesting in their own rights. My main priority with PhoneDog is to create videos which can be anything from unboxing and review vids to tutorials and opinions.
With TmoNews I try to keep up with everything T-Mobile US is doing and share it with the carrier’s many fans and employees. These could be official pieces of news and opinions, or leaks and rumors I happen to get my hands on from the site’s sources. Virtually all my content for TmoNews is written. Both roles — understandably — also require a lot of emailing.
Outside of work, I’m very much a family man with three kids and wife (we’re about to celebrate our 10th anniversary).
How did you get into blogging about tech and creating videos? What came before and what inspired you to write and talk about mobile devices?
"I’ve loved mobile phones as long as I can remember"
I’ve loved mobile phones as long as I can remember. From the days when the old Nokia bricks had Snake and interchangeable front covers, I was hooked. Initially I thought that meant I should go get a career in retail, selling phones. So I did, and advanced to Assistant Manager level before realizing I really didn’t like dealing with customers much. When I sold phones to a couple of journalists I had a sort-of “eureka” moment and decided that’s what I wanted to do; work from home, writing about technology. I applied for local university’s media degree and just kept an eye out for opportunities wherever I could.
I got in to the industry, amazingly, through following PhoneDog’s writers and video makers on Twitter. I was a huge fan of the YouTube channel and I just happened to spot a tweet from Adriana Lee (now at ReadWrite) announcing a new iPhone blog. She wanted to get some volunteer writers on board to help out with content, so I applied without any real hope of getting asked to join. One phone call later, I was officially a volunteer member of the crew with the main aim of focussing on app reviews to begin with. As I worked with the site more, I took on more responsibilities and started making videos. At the time, I was also studying Film and TV Production at university. So my shooting and editing skills came in handy. That was just over five years ago now.
How do you find being one of the faces of PhoneDog’s popular YouTube channel? What advice would you give to aspiring tech video makers?
It’s funny, thinking back to when I first started writing for Today's iPhone my main aim was to eventually get to the point of making videos for the PhoneDog channel. I’d been a fan of the channel so long that I didn’t quite believe it when I finally got to that point just over a year ago. I was sent to MWC in Barcelona on my own as the only PhoneDog Media representative.
Now, I still can’t quite believe it and so there’s almost always pressure to make good videos. The pressure — of course — comes from myself. I push myself, and find faults in everything I do. But most of the time it’s a lot of fun. I mean, I get to play with gadgets and make videos about them. Commenters are generally very kind to me on my videos. I think having a British accent definitely helps with the primarily US-based audience. I try to show that I’m having fun on camera too and not be too serious.
"Be available, be consistent and work hard"
It seems like such a cliché but my first piece of advice from for video-makers is to be themselves and play to your strengths. Granted, I’m still quite inexperience at this, but there’s always a temptation to look up to other YouTubers and copy their style. (I’ve almost lost count of the number of MKBHD clones I’ve watched). If you have something unique and like-able about you that comes across on camera, that can go a long way with the audience. It’s not always about video production value, it’s more often about the value you add to the content — through having information other people don’t, a unique angle or by having a personality people are drawn too.
Second piece of advice is use what you have. You don’t need to spend mega-bucks on expensive equipment to be a good videographer. I use a low-end Canon with kit lens to shoot and iMovie to edit. My aim is to improve my equipment as time goes on, but don’t let your equipment be the thing that hinders you from making videos.
Third — and last — is the same piece of advice I’d give to anyone doing any job and wanting to succeed: Be available, be consistent and work hard. I wasn’t paid anything at the beginning of my time with TiP, 5 years ago, but I worked as much as I could because I wanted to succeed really badly.
What do you think about the state of mobile in 2015? Dominated by the big names and platforms or open to innovation/disruption from newer or smaller brands?
I ponder this very question a lot. And — surprisingly — it’s the disruptive products and brands I find most exciting. The ones who are pushing great specs and performance in to devices that cost less than $300. At the flagship end, you always know what you’re going to get: The latest and greatest tech, and each year brings a less impressive update to the last one. But I’m excited about democratizing technology. Getting awesome devices in to the hands of people who maybe can’t afford the $600-$700 flagships.
I really like what Alcatel OneTouch is doing with its Idol 3, and I have massive respect for OnePlus. Despite the company’s questionable marketing tactics, the device (the One) itself is an amazing amount of phone available to people who want flagship specs without paying flagship prices. I also admire Microsoft’s attempt to make Windows Phone as consistent an experience as possible across all price-points. It might not succeed with every device, but generally, you know what you’ll get with a Windows Phone.
I think we’re going to see a lot more done in these areas. Mostly because the high-end market is completely saturated now. What’s more, Samsung’s position as the top vendor is starting to look shaky because of the more competitive devices coming through from smaller Chinese brands.
In your opinion, how will wearables impact upon how use and interact with technology? What are your hopes for the category?
Wearables are interesting. I think we’re at a point now where more people are aware of the category. They may not know it as a “wearable”, but you’ll be hard-pushed to find someone who doesn’t know of the Apple Watch or Fitbit.
I still struggle to see its full potential. At the moment almost all of it still requires a user to have a smartphone to make use of the wearable tech. If that never changes, then wearables in themselves will always be playing second-fiddle to the smartphone and can never move past being “just an accessory”. It might be a really expensive and awesome accessory, but it’s an accessory nonetheless.
I haven’t really thought too much about where I want this to go yet. I’m a tech nerd, and so I love watching different companies put their own stamp on what they think we should do with it. Whether that’s fitness tracking, VR or smartwatches.
From a completely selfish standpoint — I think the one thing I’d love is to see proper watch-makers churning out quality smart-watches to compete with Apple. I’d love to see a high-tech connected Breitling, Rolex or Tag Heuer watch enter the market and take luxury wearables. But I guess — more importantly for the market — I’d love to see someone really turn it in to a device we can’t live without. Like the smartphone, PC or tablet. Something that — in 10 years — inspires us to look back to this time and think “how the hell did we survive without this?”
Tell me a bit about your current setup. What tools do you use to get the job done?
By professional videographer/YouTube standards my setup is pretty basic. My main computer is a 21.5-inch iMac (late 2012 model) with a 1TB Fusion Drive, i5 processor and 8GB RAM. I do everything on it, but if I’m ever away at a conference I take my trusty 13-inch MacBook Air with me. I don’t use any extra monitors or external drives. My camera is a Canon EOS 700D and I use a Zoom H1 mic for recording voice-overs and sound.
As a tech reviewer the rest of my setup is always subject to change, but I generally carry an iPhone and an Android phone. Right now, that’s the iPhone 6 Plus and a Nexus 6. I love stock Android, and like to have the latest features — if I can — to keep up to date with everything that’s going on in the tech scene. I also have the stainless steel Apple Watch on my wrist with either the classic black leather strap or the white Sport Band.
Ha! I often like to imagine, one day, living completely off-grid with no tech whatsoever. Cutting my own trees for firewood, eating my own home-grown fruit and vegetables in my own house that I built from timber. But if I’m honest, I’d find it really hard not have my iPhone. If I had to get rid of all my technology and keep just one thing, I’d probably keep my 6 Plus.
If you weren’t writing and talking about technology all day, what would you be doing?
I dread to think. I’d probably be stuck in retail selling phones. But in my ideal dream-world, I’d be making millions from music (my other passion).
As a tech fan, what are your hopes for the next 12 months?
I want to see an awesome Android Wear smartwatch that competes with the Apple Watch, and I want to see virtual reality market kick it up another gear and start making its way in to regular people’s homes. Also, flying cars… let’s do that.
What does the rest of 2015 hold for Cam Bunton?
Hopefully, I’d like to be able to take a break with my family, maybe go abroad for something that isn’t work-related and relax. We’ve had a pretty tough year this past 12 months or so and could do with some fun and respite. On the work side, it’s more of the same. And maybe, finally, a personal YouTube channel just for me that isn’t work, and just something I want to do for myself. I’m working on an idea now, but it’s in its very early stages and might not happen until 2016.
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
As my online bio suggests, I’m almost constantly on Twitter. So you can find out more and actually talk to me on there: @cambunton. If you want to watch my videos you can find them at YouTube.com/PhoneDog.