‘ll come right out and say it: I’m not a big fan of Instagram. And no, it’s not because iOS users have had their underpants in a wad over the Android release, but because for me, it really doesn’t live up to the hype. Here’s why, and more importantly, here are some just-as-good alternatives for Android users (and some for iOS users too!) who want to take and share photos with or without those filters that make a 5-megapixel cell phone camera look like a 70s Polaroid.
Why I Have No Love for Instagram
Here’s the thing—putting aside the fact thatsome very vocal iOS users are very upsetthat their precious app has descended to the likes of Android users (let’s be clear, some iOS users, not all – most people understand that the device you use, OS you prefer, or browser you surf with is not who you are) and the social commentary the whole depressing fiasco gives us, the truth is that while Instagram has great hype, slick sex appeal, and a bolted-on social aspect, it doesn’t do anything that a half-dozen other apps for iOS and Android do. In fact, some of those Android apps do it just as well or better.
Instagram’s real appeal is the closed nature of its product—the fact that it’s walled off by default, with no open browsing of user photos by just anyone, and before its Android release, built a brand off of being iPhone only, private, and that thing that a select few used to take photos on their phone and then, for fear that no one would see it, pushed it over to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, or anywhere else that people actually hang out. Aside from design and marketing, there’s little that makes the app special to this writer. (Your view may differ, and if so, that’s cool. You should use Instagram!)
That said, it’s good at what it does, the product is sound, it’s the aura around it that’s misplaced. That and the fact that it’s been dangled in front of Android users for far too long only to culminate in an arguably unfinished version (no tilt-shift? really?) when it was teased as “in some ways, it’s better than our iOS app,” according to one of the app’s founders. Combine the aura that and the fact that so many iOS users don’t want you playing in their sandbox anyway and it’s worth looking at some alternatives.
For the Super-Social: PicPlz
PicPlz has actually been around longer than Instagram, and it’s my personal favorite. The app has languished a little and needs an update to keep up with the times, but all of the functionality in Instagram (minus the tilt-shift, but you don’t get that anyway Android users) is available here, including the social network on the back end full of people taking pictures of the sights and special moments they want to share with the world.
Fire up the app, and when you tap to take a picture, you’re shunted to your phone’s default camera app to take your photo. Snap it, and you’re returned to PicPlz to edit it. It’s also loaded with photo filters if you’re into that sort of thing, from “russian toy camera” to “the 70s,” all of which designed to give your photos that old-timeylook and feel to them. If sharing your images on PicPlz’s own network isn’t enough for you, the app also connects with Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, FourSquare, Posterous, and will even upload your photos to Dropbox for you as well. Oh, and it’s available for Android and iOS, with both groups living in harmony.
For the Filter Freak: Pixlr-O-Matic
What started out as a webapp we’ve discussed before turned quickly into one of both iOS and Android’s premier photo tweaking apps. If you love adding borders and filters to your photos, playing with the colors, or adding sepia tone to make them look like old-timey snapshots or 60s-era polaroids, Pixlr-O-Matic is the app for you.
It doesn’t bother with a social network on the back-end (and honestly, why bother if your friends are all on Twitter or Facebook and you’re going to send the photo there anyway) which we can’t fault them for. The real focus of Pixlr-O-Matic is the filters, the borders, the tweaks, and all of the changes you can make to your photos. In the end, you get over 2 million different permutations and options to make your photos look just right (or all wrong, depending) before you save the finished product to your camera roll or gallery and then share it with your friends.Follow @hoswal98