By: Hillel Fuld
We are approaching the end of 2010 and the analysts have a large number of predictions about what trends we should expect to see in 2011. Buzz words like Twitter, social, location, mobile payments, and many more are tweeted hundreds of times a minute. However, it seems that a new trend has come out of nowhere and begun to make a lot of noise.
Photo sharing is nothing new and Flickr is not going anywhere anytime soon. Having said that, the way people want to snap, share, and interact with photos is significantly changing. What seems to be the current pattern if I am judging by download numbers (more on that later) is that consumers want a snappy and simplistic interface in which they can take a photo, enhance it to look better than the average mobile photo, and share it across their already developed social networks.
This space has been heating up lately with apps like Camera+, Hipstmatic, Instagram, PicPlz, and the newest kid on the block, Burstn (Update, a newer kid moved in before I got the chance to publish this post, Path.). I have been using Instagram for over a month now and it now proudly lays on the bottom static bar of my iPhone alongside Mail, Phone, and Twitter (SimplyTweet is the app I am currently using), yes, it is that good. I recently downloaded PicPlz after Andreessen Horowitz chose to invest in it rather than continue funding Instagram. I was not completely disappointed but despite some major advantages, I still prefer Instagram.
I have not used any of the other many apps out there that make photo sharing a trivial task, so I cannot compare them but I can compare Instagram and PicPlz, so here goes. The following are some major differences between the two photo sharing giants, some in favor of Instagram and others in favor of PicPlz:
- Mobile Platforms: It is no secret that the competition between the various mobile platforms are continuing to heat up and the app that can make its way on the most handsets will ultimately win the battle. That means PicPlz has a serious advantage here with an app on the Apple App Store as well as the Android App Market.
- Web Interface: Another huge plus for PicPlz over Instagram. If I had to choose one feature I absolutely need in Instagram, it is a Web interface. Mobile is great, but I would like to be able to sort through my followers, likes, and views on a website. With PicPlz you can and you can do it in style. The PicPlz website is intuitive, well designed, and gets the job done.
- Amount of Views: There is something extremely satisfying about tweeting a Twitpic, then going to the site ten seconds later and seeing that the picture already had 500 views. There is no view count on Instagram, just a Like count. This is a feature I was happy to see on the PicPlz site and something tells me we will see very soon in Istagram as well.
- Mobile Interface: This is a subjective matter and I might prefer Instagram over PicPlz because I tried it first and got used to it. However, the Instagram app is much more simplistic and intuitive (in my opinion) than PicPlz. I found myself digging deep into the PicPlz UI to find things that should be on the top level. Even applying the filters in Instagram is a much simpler and more pleasant experience. Again, this is just a matter of opinion, but I think Instagram takes this round, although, PicPlz is far from the worst mobile UI I have ever seen.
- Integrated Networks: This is an important issue. I actually tweeted this today after trying Path. Now the entire premise of Path is to share photos with close friends and not Twitter followers so I get why there is no Twitter integration, but as I told one of the people behind the company, I would like the ability to select who I want to share the picture with from my FB friends or Twitter followers. Anyway, in terms of social networks integrated into the app, Instagram is the clear winner with the ability to share your pictures on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare.
- Sharing Options: This point is directly connected to the Mobile Interface point above but it is very crucial so it deserves its own mention. There are two basic philosophies when it comes to social sharing, automatic and manual. There are apps that are configured once to share on certain platforms (PicPlz) and then all your photos are shared there automatically, and there are apps that ask you every time where you want to share this specific picture (Instagram) and only once you decide, is the photo shared. I love that about Instagram. There are some photos that are relevant to my Twitter followers, others for my Facebook friends, and others for Flickr. I want this process to be manual and not automatic. This might be a preference of mine but it seems like the logical thing when we are talking about photo sharing. Is it just me?
- Filters: While some professional photographers and photography enthusiasts hate what Instagram is doing to our pictures, the fact of the matter is, with the exception of a very few mobile phones, camera phone stink. It is therefore no surprise that people are enjoying the ability to enhance their mobile photos with filters. Comparing the simple number of filters available in the two apps again gives this round to Instagram. While PicPlz has six filters to choose from, Instagram has eleven. Is this a huge deal? No, but it is always nice to have more choices. I personally attribute much more significance to the ease at which the Instagram filters are applied, but we already discussed that.
- Popularity: Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “What is this? High school? Why does popularity matter?” The truth is I am the last person to emphasize the importance of sheer numbers. We all know that on social media numbers are not what matter, it is more about relationships and yada yada. However, when it comes to photo sharing apps, numbers do matter since if you are sharing photos on an app with few users, that will be reflected in the amount of activity you experience within the app. In the few months I have been using Instagram, there has not been one time that I opened the app and did not get new friend requests, comments, or Likes. Last I heard, Instagram has over a half a million active users and something tells me that number has grown a lot since. PicPlz has quite a few users as well, but I have heard numbers in the areas of 100,000, not sure how updated that is.
As you can see, both apps have a lot going for them, but at the end of the day, what wins for me is always simplicity. The Instagram experience could not be simpler or faster, which makes it an app I want to keep coming back to. There is no way to know what the future will bring for these apps, there were rumors of PicPlz buying Instagram, but something tells me the developers of Instagram would turn down that deal.
More important than these two apps and which one is better is the overall trend of apps simplifying the photo sharing need of consumers, which to me is just the next step of the social revolution that is taking place on the internet.
What do you think of this new trend? Is it a passing phase or are you loving Instagram as much as me and what seems to be half of my Twitter feed? Please share your insights in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter.