Apple’s iPhone App of the Year: Instagram

There are lots of different social networks out there for the iPhone, and although some of them work (and some don’t), one has broken through and become a popular app among iPhone users everywhere: Instagram.

It’s been over a year since we last looked at the app, and since then it’s been through a lot of changes. But what makes this social network for the iPhone work where others have failed? Let’s look at the success of Instagram after the break.

The Basics

I’m sure you’ve seen an Instagram photo before, even if you don’t have the app yourself. Surely it’s been on one of your friend’s Facebook or Twitter feeds, right? Well if you still live in the stone age, then here’s how it looks:

I know everyone says their kid is cute, but I've got evidence.

I know everyone says their kid is cute, but I've got evidence.

Yes, this is a photography app just like Camera+ and the others, but two things make this different. First, you can apply a myriad of filters to your images, including depth of field adjustments and frames, and second, you can post your images to your favorite social network, or just view your friend’s feeds inside the app itself.

Now this doesn’t seem like something revolutionary, but it’s a ton of fun. My personal Tumblr account is littered with pictures I’ve taken with Instagram, mostly of my son, legos and various things that’ve happened around my life. And that’s the point — Instagram becomes a fun way to document what’s going on in your world and share it with your friends. That’s pretty sweet.

Taking Pictures

The center button on the bottom of your Instagram screen is really the shining star on the whole deal. Push the button and the camera springs to life, ready for you to capture whatever moment is happening, from eating a good meal to just hanging out with your dad at Best Buy. Push the button on the bottom, take the shot, and then hit the green checkmark if you want to use that image, or the red X if you don’t. You can also import an image from your camera roll if you have something existing that you’d rather use instead.

In this example, I imported my image from my camera roll.

In this example, I imported my image from my camera roll.

Now it’s time to add your effects, so the image pops up in your viewfinder with a scroll wheel at the bottom that allows you to make whatever visual changes you like. These are much improved in the latest version of Instagram, as they load substantially faster, and there are a few more options as well. Just touch the filter you want to apply and it’s put on your image instantly, ready to go.

Create depth of field effects using the teardrop, or change your filter.

Create depth of field effects using the teardrop, or change your filter.

But wait, there’s more. On the top row is a group of other icons with various tasks. Working from left to right, you can add a frame, revert to the original version, insert a depth of field effect in either a horizontal bar or pinpoint, and close down the image entirely. By the time you’re done tweaking things, you can put out a real work of art with very little real work put into it.

You can also add or remove a frame if you like.

You can also add or remove a frame if you like.

Posting the Pics

Sure, you’ve made a pic and it looks cool, but now it’s time to share.

Once the image is tweaked to your satisfaction, hit the green checkmark and proceed to the next window. What I usually do here is put in a quick caption, geotag the photo if I want and then post it to my favorite social networks. The options are Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare, Flickr and Posterous, or you can just choose to email the photo to yourself or someone specific.

All your favorite networks and more.

All your favorite networks and more.

That’s part of the genius of Instagram. As I’ve written before, part of the problem with having an iPhone-only social network is that only the people on your iPhone can enjoy it. While other apps in similar situations glom onto Facebook and Twitter, more often than not, no one cares if you’re at your local Carrabba’s or that you just rated your friend’s dog a B+.

But with Instagram, people do want to see your pictures — and since they look artsy more often than not, they look like something a professional would take. It makes sharing important to the process, and not just a way for people to spread word about the latest app craze that could die down tomorrow. That’s cool.

The Other Stuff

When you fire up Instagram, the first thing that comes up is your feed. Upon initial setup, you’re able to link your various social networks to the app, which also gives you some options for people to follow. If you do follow a lot of people, then your feed should be pretty impressive, unlike mine. I only follow a few, so mine is pretty sparse.

Your feed shows your pictures, plus your friend's shots. If your post is cool enough, it could end up on the Popular page.

Your feed shows your pictures, plus your friend's shots. If your post is cool enough, it could end up on the Popular page.

Each post can be “liked,” and you can comment on them as well. Find a pic that you particularly fancy? Tweet it out to the world by hitting the elipses in the corner.

There’s a few other things in there as well, like a Popular section where you can see the top posts across the Instagram network, News to update you on what’s been happening with your feed, and then a personal tab for all of your info.

In Summation

Everybody likes to take pictures, and even though not all of us are professionals, Instagram helps make anyone’s shots look like they were done by someone who knows what they’re doing. That alone makes the app worth it, but because it’s tied into the other popular social networks, your pictures can be viewed by the world and appreciated by everyone.

Instagram isn’t just a camera app, it’s a social app, and one that’s been on my home screen for a long time now. It’s always fun to take pictures, and with Instagram, it makes it just about perfect.


Summary

Take photos, apply filters and post them to your favorite social networks.

10
  • Madromark

    Well, in my opinion it totally deserves the App of the year title. I started using it this summer, so far I have 72 photos and all of them are taken with my iPhone 3GS. It’s good to see others view of the world that we live in and also a nice way to meet new people. If you like or would like to take photographs and share them, then I definetely recommend this app.

    Btw my username is madromark, if anyone would like to follow me, I’ll follow back :)

  • http://www.perezfox.com Prescott Perez-Fox

    I use and enjoy Instagram, primarily because I can send the photos simultaneously to Twitter, Foursquare, Dropbox, Flickr, and email — I don’t know another service that does that.

    However, Instagram is very frustrating as a service. There’s no web tie-in. There’s no way to browse or to interact from a browser. You can only add friends from the app. The API is dodgy, there’s no Android version, and for me (at least) the app runs dog slow! So in some ways I wonder why I’m still using it!

    If the iPhone’s native Camera app had the social network tie-ins, I’d switch. It’s faster, easier to launch from the lock screen, and gets the job done with most of the same photographic tools.

    I’d give it a 7/10. It loses 3 points for being slow and for not being more widely usable on the internet as a whole. These days, even iOS apps must be multi-channel, especially if there is so much interaction baked in.

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  • Sarah

    I know I’m the only person who owns an iPhone and thinks this way, but I just don’t really like intsagram. I feel like it doesn’t take as high quality photos as it should, and that bugs me. Also, I think it makes everyone think that just by adding some cheap “vintage” effects, it makes them a good photographer. In my opinion, it’s just a place where 13 year old girls post pictures of themselves.

    • Paul Dunahoo

      I agree. The default camera app, or camera+, take much better photos. The sad thing is though, they don’t have the “social” part of things that Instagram has.

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    amazing features even free for all. thanks for sharing an useful review.

  • Derek Leung

    InstaWeibo is a pretty good “tweak” for this app that automatically posts the picture to your Sina Weibo too.

    http://zhaoxiaohei.com/p/ig

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  • ted

    I recommend this Timeline Eons app, a graphic representation of the entire natural and human history:

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/timeline-eons/id433352152?mt=8&ls=1

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    Genial ! Je partage ca sur facebook. J’attend avec impatience la suite. Bonne journée

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