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Instagram on Android. What’s the big deal?

Instagram on Android. What’s the big deal?

If you use Twitter or Facebook with any regularity, you may have noticed yesterday that the words “Instagram” and “Android” began appearing together frequently.

Instagram, up until yesterday, was an iOS-exclusive photo sharing app and social network that became quite popular due to its ease of use and iconic “hipster” photo filters that emulate low-tech cameras; the irony of low-quality, washed-out photos on an extremely high tech device like the iPhone was not lost, as many people express ire towards a userbase that may actually believe they are being artsy—even as their photos look the same as all the other Instragram users’. Yesterday, the app finally became available on Android, a move that drew the scorn of some of the more elitist among the iOS user base, which has been humorously illustrated by Buzzfeed.

Despite how easy it is to poke fun at the userbase, Instagram has a definite appeal. My friend on Twitter, TJList, asked what the big  deal was, and my response was that Instagram was a great storytelling tool. He asked why Instagram was a better storytelling tool than just snapping a pic on your phone and sharing it on Twitter.

Instagram on Android sample

An example of Instagram's distinctive style

Visual Appeal

The most basic reason why Instagram is a big deal is the core function: it just looks good, and it has a distinctive visual style that many other app makers have tried to emulate. The pictures look cool. Even though many don’t like the look, it has to be said that it is pretty recognizable. Another important thing that Instagram does is put all of its images into perfect squares. This makes them iconic in the literal sense. It’s a well-designed presentation. When you share a photo on one of the countless photo sharing sites, (and there are so many, you often don’t even know which one you’re sending your picture to), you get something like this:

Photo sharing on Lockerz

As you can see, the presentation is quite a bit more… well, it sucks. Ads everywhere, all kinds of icons and buttons that are ignored, a useless comment section (have you ever seen a comment on a random photo sharing site?), and other crap. Most people don’t know (or care) if they’re using TwitPic, Lockerz, Yfrog, or Twitter’s own image sharing, because it just doesn’t matter. I’ve taken hundreds of photos on my phone and shared them on these sites, and not once has anyone ever commented on them, “grabbed” them, liked them, shared them (other than re-tweeting them), or otherwise.

Instagram, on the other hand, has a pretty remarkably clean presentation when a web link is clicked from a Tweet:

An example of Instagram's web interface

As you can see, it’s much cleaner. It doesn’t waste space by inviting useless comments, it doesn’t have any ads, and everything you would want to do to interact with the photo is right there; you can Tweet it, you can Like it, and that’s it.

The Instagram app itself does allow commenting and social networking, if that’s your forte, but even just as the standard camera app on your phone, Instagram is the cleanest option I’ve used so far. When you want to quickly share pictures on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, Instagram is a stylish option that works well.

The social side of Instagram

When you use the Instagram app, you are part of a larger community, just like Twitter or Facebook. My friend TJList mentioned up above said to me later on, “At the moment, I’m too busy to add another “community” activity.”

Well and good, even though using Instagram to capture photos doesn’t take any more time than using any other service. However, taking the few extra minutes to develop a community following on the app can introduce you to some neat people and some great photos—and there are some great photos on Instagram.

In my two days with Instagram, I’ve had tons of interaction on the 15 photos I’ve taken so far. People have commented on them, shared them, and posted them on their own social networks.

The big deal

The big deal is this: Android now owns 50% of the global smartphone market. That’s simply too big to ignore. And though Instagram hasn’t monetized yet, they will, and that Android userbase is going to be a large part of that growth.

Instagram is going to become the Twitter of photo sharing. It has already proven itself to be the go-to photo app on iOS (27 million users in March, and GigaOm predicts 50 million by the end of this month due to the Android effect), and there’s no reason for it not to be. What most non-users don’t understand is that you don’t need to use the “shitty sepia filters” (as one Twitter friend put it) that the app provides; you can always publish your photos untouched (except for the forced square form-factor; that’s the only thing Instagram imposes on your pictures, which is a good way to learn to creatively crop).

It’s like this: When you’re on the go, and you want to quickly tell a story, it’s almost always better and more interesting to snap a photo and write a caption for it. Instagram is not the only photo app that does that, by a long shot, but it is the only one that does it with a userbase of over 25 million people. When I share photos on Instagram, the likelihood of people seeing them and enjoying them and re-sharing them is much higher than any other app I’ve used.

Washington Post on InstagramAnother way to look at it is to compare Instagram to Twitter: When Twitter came out with its 140 character limit, many people laughed at the silliness. “Why would I type shitty 140-character blurbs about what I ate for lunch?”. What happened, though, was Twitter became a globally-used communications network, and the forced brevity actually made some people better writers. Instagram is doing the same thing for photos: Constraining people into a 612×612 square crop, it will make some people better photographers. News media is already using it to tell important stories, and as always, a picture can convey an idea with much more emotional poignancy and urgency than any written word.

I like Instagram. I like the look. I don’t like all of the filters, and some of them are really too ironic for my tastes, but overall it’s a well-designed app with a great UI, and a great way to one-touch enhance the photos taken on my Android smartphone, share them, and let my friends and family know what I’m up to at a glance. I am highly entertained by the interactions I’ve gotten from Instagram and its workflow as it feeds my Facebook and Twitter stream.

The backlash against Instagram reeks of “get off my lawn” syndrome. When digital photography took off, film photographers lamented the death of the art. Now those same photographers are enjoying the benefits of digital even while they’re bitching about the use of Instagram’s filters to gain effects that used to take darkroom skill or hard-to-find equipment.

When a technology gets popular, adopting it quickly is a key to staying young. When we see an elderly person using the internet or playing a video game or using a smartphone, we all say “Oh my gosh, that’s so cute. Go Grandma! I hope I am that cool when I’m 85!” This is how you do it—you adapt to the world as it changes around you and embrace it.

Instagram is fun. That’s the big deal.

Comments

  1. fatcat
    fatcat first pinterest, now instagram, going down a road prime...
  2. Kwitko
    Kwitko I think it's possible to be *too* social.
  3. midga
    midga This looks neat.
    Maybe I'll tweet.
  4. oni_dels
    oni_dels i love IG. i've been an Igers (that's what we call ourselves) for a year now. i call it "twitter for picture". it's nice when you wanna take pictures at a party and share them rapidly, either on instagram or through twitter/fb/tumblr...
    obviously like any other social media you get your share of emo tweens, nail polish pics, cats & dogs, and half-naked people. so choose who you are following carefully, mostly if you watch your feed in public...
    also you can look me up on it: oni_dels
  5. primesuspect
    primesuspect
    I think it's possible to be *too* social.
    I don't get that. How? All of the most important and fulfilling relationships and experiences I've been through in my life have been because of social relationships. The more "out there" I am, the more I experience, and the happier I become. I could probably trace back the genesis of every single important and incredible experience of my life to a social connection I've made.

  6. shwaip
    shwaip I can't believe the iphone anti-instagram-on-android-war is actually a thing. But it is:

    image
  7. Tushon
    Tushon I lulz'd in the office at that. TY for share #teamnofucksgiven
  8. midga
  9. I-need-a-better-name
    I-need-a-better-name So here's the deal for me, Instagram for Android isn't an Android app. It's an iPhone app that was ported to Android. All of the design cues are iPhone design queues.
    I'll give you the social aspect of Instagram but you're creating yet another network of users to share with on top of Twitter, Facebook and whatever other networks you might already be a part of. I'm done with Instagram and I really just installed it out of spite for the iPhone hipsters who were bemoaning Android users getting access to it now. They can have it for all I care.
  10. AlexDeGruven
    AlexDeGruven I'd love to use it, but it does something funky with my completely stock phone and locks it up or crashes it out.

    Edit: It works now after updating.
  11. Kwitko
    Kwitko
    I think it's possible to be *too* social.


    I don't get that. How? All of the most important and fulfilling relationships and experiences I've been through in my life have been because of social relationships. The more "out there" I am, the more I experience, and the happier I become. I could probably trace back the genesis of every single important and incredible experience of my life to a social connection I've made.

    What I meant by too social, is too "social media." There's no more human connection. People have thousands of "friends" on Facebook, 99% of which they will never interact with beyond the Internet. That's not being social. There's a crucial part of the equation missing from these social apps, and piling more on top of an already huge pile moves us another step away from being human.

    It's a rare occasion when people get together in person through a social network. It's definitely the exception to the rule. I would agree 100% that without Icrontic I would not have the wonderful friendship I have with many of you. But without seeing you in person, the bond grows weaker. I can update you thousands of times a day without never again seeing you in person, but that's not fulfilling to me as a member of the human race. I lament the fact that I have not been out to Michigan in a long time, but posting a picture, an update, a tweet, every day will not change that.

    That is not to say social media is useless, but it should not be the primary way people keep in touch. It is a valuable tool for people to communicate when separated by thousands of miles, social upheaval, and natural disasters. We have also seen that it is a double-edged sword in those situations as well. Information is spread so rapidly, but not necessarily correctly.

    So yes, Brian, I do think it's possible to be too social media. I don't care about your tweets, your updates, your instagrams. When I want to share my world, I will. The constant barrage of information dilutes the relevant information. I will never have as many posts or tweets as you, nor do I care to. It doesn't make me less social than you.
  12. fatcat
    fatcat Agree with Seth here.

    Icrontic does have events, but Icrontic is not the 99%

  13. Straight_Man
    Straight_Man Electronically social should be a term differentiated from social. Modern use of social means social via use of electronics. Us oldsters have trouble figuring out what is meant by social on forums these days, vs what IRL social means.

    Trying to make shorter something that is not a rant, it is an older generation POV of the word social offered to get intergenerational understanding rather than to start flame-warring.
  14. primesuspect
    primesuspect
    There's no more human connection. People have thousands of "friends" on Facebook, 99% of which they will never interact with beyond the Internet.
    I could not possibly disagree more. I can't believe any Icrontian actually believes that social interaction on the internet is:
    ...not being social
    Our lives, our friendships are all exactly because of these internet interactions. Are you saying that the friendships you've made here, in IRC, on Icrontic and Short-media, people whom you've never met in real life, aren't valid? I know you're not saying that.
    I lament the fact that I have not been out to Michigan in a long time, but posting a picture, an update, a tweet, every day will not change that.
    I think this is an attitude and a personal choice, not any reflection on reality. There are people who maintain family relationships over the phone, loved ones living in different countries, etc. I know many grandparents who are thrilled to get Instagram pics of their grandchildren in different countries every day. Tools like photo-sharing apps, Facebook, and the like make these interactions easier than ever before. I don't see any downside to any of this.
  15. Kwitko
    Kwitko Don't worry Brian, I will still love you no matter how much you blogosphere your social twittergrambook.
  16. primesuspect
    primesuspect That's part of why you love me :p
  17. Kwitko
    Kwitko And all this time I thought it was because you're funny and like the same crazy shit I do.
  18. primesuspect
    primesuspect That's how you KNOW I'm funny and like the same crazy shit you do!
  19. Kwitko
    Kwitko No, I know because I peek through your window at night.
  20. Praxis
    Praxis Let's not be coy, someone has a stake in Instagram, and it's way overdone. :)
  21. Tushon
    Tushon
    No, I know because I peek through your window at night.
    Peek? I saw you standing out in the open, doing the "Thriller" dance while staring deadpan into the patio door
  22. shwaip
    shwaip i signed up, username modusPwnens
  23. BobbyDigi
    BobbyDigi I heard there were emo tweens and half-naked people so I'm in: Bobby_Digi

    -Digi
  24. Tushon
    Tushon
    I heard there were emo tweens and half-naked people so I'm in: Bobby_Digi

    -Digi
    That's just @Cola
  25. Jengo
    Jengo Downloaded the instagram app for my phone, gonna try it out :)
  26. Thrax
    Thrax You know, being about 4 hours away from all my friends in Michigan is just far enough that it can be prohibitive to come back on a lark with any regularity. It ain't cheap. I don't know what I would have done without being able to easily interact with the lives of my friends via social media.
  27. AlexDeGruven
    AlexDeGruven Wait... Who are you again?
  28. Snarkasm
  29. Colgere
  30. primesuspect
    primesuspect Well, that's big news.

    Facebook photo sharing is pretty damned good, so this makes perfect sense. If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em.

  31. GHoosdum
    GHoosdum Now Instagram doesn't have to find a way to monetize.
  32. primesuspect
    primesuspect True story. They did monetize. By a billion bucks.
  33. AlexDeGruven
    AlexDeGruven The anti-Facebook "I'm deleting my Instagram now because of Facebook!" crowd is hilarious. So much hipster rage.
  34. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm No better than the "ew, Android" teamiPhone crowd.
  35. AlexDeGruven
    AlexDeGruven I think the teamiPhone crowd is worse, I just wasn't on the twitters much while that was going on.
  36. primesuspect
    primesuspect Sweet, delicious rage.
  37. ardichoke
  38. BobbyDigi
    BobbyDigi
    #teamnofucksgiven
    Team ^5!

    I introduced Sugar today. She'll be on by tonight and sharing away!

    -Digi

  39. RafQ
    RafQ Ok read the article, you answere my question. I'm downloading Instagram now. Before I didn't get it and thought it was stupid. It seems not so bad now thanks!

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