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They say they are two categories of smartphone users in the world - those who use Android and iOS and those who do not use Instagram. Yes, the app that made using filters a rage all over the world has now become pretty much synonymous with smartphone photography. And it definitely has come a far way from being the shoot-and-filter affair that it started out as. It has been acquired by Facebook and has been updated at regular intervals.
And the latest update throws adds yet another spin to the app. But before we get into it, a few basics for those who know not much about Instagram (yes, such people for exist). Instagram is a free app for Android and iOS users, which lets you change the appearance of photographs, and then lets you share them with other Instagram users as well as on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. That might not sound like much to newbies, but anyone who has been using smartphone for more than three years will tell you just how much the app revolutionised image editing and sharing.
The basics of Instagram 3.0, the latest version of the app, remain the same for both iOS and Android versions. You download the app, log in using either an Instagram account or your Facebook account, and are immediately taken into the social network side of the app, where you are shown pictures taken by Instagram users you are following. You can also find out which of your Facebook friends are on Instagram and choose to follow them as well as check out the activities of your followers in the News section. Pretty routine if you know what we mean.
It is however, when you reach the photo upload/take section that you realise what is new in this edition of Instagram. Yes, taking a photo and adding filters is the same as always (more than a dozen, excellent filters), but when you get into share mode, you not only see a different, more spacious upload area, but also a new option “Add to your Photo Map.” Yes, Instagram has now added a sense of place to its vast repository of images. You can specify the place where a photograph was taken or let the phone do it for you. And in a touch that is right out of iPhoto on the Mac, you can see your pictures and those of the people you follow or who follow you on Instagram, neatly marked out on a map. Zoom in a bit, and pictures taken at specific locations become visible - so if you see a person has taken fifteen pictures in India on the world map, you can zoom into the map to see which Indian city/town he has taken the photos in, and further zooming could even show you in what part of the city the pictures were taken. Very very neat, we think.
Another change that will be noticed by regular users is that now scrolling down the list of pictures ends only when the app has literally run out of photos to show- yep, we have entered the era of infinite scrolling on Instagram. Profile pages also look a whole lot cleaner, which again is very very welcome. Some users are also claiming that the app works a whole lot faster but we must confess we saw no significant speed change, although part of the blame for that could be laid at the door of our service providers - if anything, we saw the app slow down on our Xperia S in the stage between taking a photograph and adding filters. Finally, you can also now report users and comments that you find offensive - something that was long overdue, considering the nature of the site.
Of course, we do have our quibbles. For the life of us, we cannot understand why Android users cannot get live filters on their devices, as it would allow them to see the effect of a filter on a picture BEFORE taking it - right now, that is very much an iOS-only feature. And yes, call us spoilt by the likes of Pixlr-o-matic but we do wish we had a few more filters and tweaking options available - some frames and more editing options for instance would be nice.
That said, for sheer ease of use, superb filters, and a dynamic community, Instagram remains unmatched. And the location feature just made it a whole lot better. Download or update as the case may be - if it is the former, geez, where have you been?
(Note: A number of Sony and HTC phone users have said that when they access Instagram on Google Play, they get messages saying the app is incompatible with their device. The solution is simple: just head to www.instagram.com on your phone’s browser and click on the “get it from Google Play” option, and then just keep opening succeeding pages within the browser - the app will download on your device. That’s how we got the app on our Sony Xperia S. Quaint bug!)
Available from: iTunes App Store, Google Play