April 3, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
Evaluated version: 1.0
Pros: Massive photo sharing community, different camera app can be set to default
Cons: Crash prone on some devices, images force-crop, and not all filters present
FYI: Androinica is hosting a contest that allows users to print their Instagram photos on canvas to decorate their home or office. Get more information on how to enter the contest here.
Android users waited a long time for an Instagram for Android app. In the weeks leading up to its release, CEO Kevin Systrom even teased that the Android version was in some ways better than the iPhone version. After using the app for a few hours, I’m forced to say that’s not exactly true.
First, let’s have everyone settle down and acknowledge that this is a 1.0 of a highly-anticipated app, so there’s bound to be a tiny bit of letdown. And that’s all that this is – a tiny letdown. Still, Instagram isn’t an instant homerun. For one, the app may crash on you depending on what device you use. It stuttered several times when I attempted to take my first picture and required me to close the app and start over. (I’ve since seen others complain of a similar fate.) It’s also missing “Tilt Shift,” a feature I’m told is available on the iOS version. And then you factor in that Instagram has trouble importing from cloud services – something other apps I’ve used have done without issue – and forces users to crop images into squares, the hype doesn’t seem warranted.
But once you get past those issues, you see why Instagram might flourish in a way that other apps don’t catch-on – community. Cliché as that may sound, Instagram is as much about sharing photos with people you know as it is applying retro filters. Within moments of announcing on Twitter that Instagram was available, the Androinica Instagram account had more than 50 followers. The number increased to 150 within the hour, and many are people who I know in real-life. Instagram connects with Facebook or Twitter to discover your friends who are using the app, but unlike similar apps that do the same, my friends are actually there already. (Instagram revealed today it has 30 million members and 430,000 Android users who signed-up to be notified of its release.)
Taking photos is simple enough in later attempts. Users merely tap the camera icon and allow it to focus (or tap to focus), then tap again to take a picture. The following screen can apply 1 of 22 filters, change lighting, add a border, or rotate the image. There are no controls to tailor the image to your liking – it’s all or nothing. From there, you’ll be taken to add captions and post to Instagram or one of your linked accounts. (Tip #1: Go to settings to Settings to disable Instagram Advanced Camera and use what ever app you want. Tip #2: You can bring up the Android ‘Share’ function by tapping the “…” button below each posted photo.)
Overall, I’d say Instagram for Android isn’t very unique other than its massive audience, which is really what makes the app. You want people to see and comment on the photos that you create, and Instagram has a community of people unrivaled in that regard. It would be nice to make it easier to post to Google+ or see improvements, but that’s a conversation for another day. For now, here’s a look at the Instagram Android UI.