We all know Instagram is coming to Android soon, and with its success on the iOS platform, many are waiting anxiously for it to arrive. Let’s take a look at what Instagram offers.
- Nearly 20 photo filters
- Linear and Radial Tilt-Shift blur effects for extra depth of field
- Retro borders
- Social sharing with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare, Posterous, and Instagram’s own network
15 27 million iOS users use Instagram, so it must be popular for a reason. The fact is, it’s a well-made app that’s easy and fun to use, adding a coolness factor to social photo sharing. It’s gotten so popular, in fact, that I’m actually starting to get a little tired of seeing the same retro filters applied to everyone’s photos. I mean, sure it’s cool looking, but if everyone’s photos have the same look, it’s not that unique anymore. This is a testament to how easy it is to use, of course.
Your love of retro filters notwithstanding, Instagram is here to stay, and with the Android version coming soon, it’s going to blow up even more. But what if you want the Instagram experience today? One thing Android already has is a huge list of apps that are similar to Instagram, some with more features, some with less. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.
Like Instagram, Hipster also has a bunch of filters and borders for your photos, but it also adds the ability to add text on top of your image in creative ways, making it look like a postcard in the process. As a matter of fact, Hipster calls its images postcards.
The Play Store lists the following features for Hipster.
• Choose your postcard style from many gorgeous themes.
• Share your postcards on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Flickr.
• Keep track of where your friends are and what they are doing.
• View the most interesting postcards that were sent from your location.
• Tag the friends who are in your postcards.
• Signup with Facebook or email (tap the more button).
The user interface is very straightforward and simple to use. The combination of filters and borders gives you plenty of options, and the text is a nice touch. Hipster also has its own web site for hosting your images, just like Instagram, making sharing more flexible.
Hipster is free in the Play Store.
Streamzoo is a pretty close clone to Instagram, offering over a dozen filters, 15 borders, tilt shift blur effects, and color controls. Hashtag support is also included for easy searching on Twitter and other social networks. You also get your own Streamzoo page with your uploaded images for more sharing. On top of all this, you can also share videos as well as photos. The Play Store lists the following features for Streamzoo.
- Follow @users or #hashtags, and like and comment on photos to award leaderboard points to your friends.
- 14 Filters (Lomo, C-41, X-Process, Toy Hipster, Old School, Masterpiece, Sunshine and more).
- 15 Borders (White, Black, Canvas, Film, Gritty, Old Vignette, Viewfinder, Dusty, Retro and more).
- 6 Crop shapes (Square, 3×2, 4×3, 16×9, Custom and Golden Ratio). You can also Rotate and Flip!
- Rectangle, Parallel, Circle, and Ellipse Tilt-Shifts (All adjustable with a pinch).
- Edit Hue, Saturation, Brightness and Contrast.
- Unlock badges for uploading photos to your favorite streams (Sunsetter, Foodie, Beach Bum, Sky Walker, and many more).
- Share your photos on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
- Separate Title & Description for photo-blogging while out and about.
- Full-featured Web experience at http://streamzoo.com
Streamzoo is free in the Play Store.
3. Lightbox Photos
Lightbox Photos is a little different than other photo sharing apps. For one, it does not have built-in border or blur effects, though it does have over a dozen filter effects similar to Instagram. This means that when you click the camera icon to add a picture, you can choose to use any installed camera app on your device, including ones that provide a full compliment of effects, filters, and borders. This saves a step for users of alternative cameras.
Sign up for a Lightbox account and get your own Lightbox photo blog. Sharing covers all the big social names, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and more. You can also share photos privately with friends or make them public. The Play Store lists the following features for Lightbox.
- Enhance your photos — Apply effects to your photos to make them beautiful or to create a retro camera look.
- Share with friends — Easily post your photos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare.
- View your photos online — If you sign up for a Lightbox account, your photos will be automatically uploaded to Lightbox.com and you can view them from any web browser.
- Control your privacy — You can make your photos public, share them only with friends, or keep them completely private.
- Publish your own photo blog — Photos you make public will be posted to your own attractive Lightbox photo blog. Example: http://joshmo.lightbox.com
- Join the Lightbox community — Follow and interact with friends and creative people from around the world.
- Works with other Android photo apps — You can use camera effects apps such as Vignette, Camera360, PicsArt, and Camera ZOOM FX to take photos with Lightbox. You can also import photos saved from photo editors such as Pixlr-o-matic, PicSay, Little Photo, and Photoshop Express.
Lightbox Photos is free in the Play Store.
Pixlr-o-matic is made by Autodesk, an experienced graphics company, and feels very polished as a result. The biggest advantage it has over most other apps in this roundup is the sheer number of filters, effects, and borders it has. Pixlr-o-matic offers an astounding 68 filters, 73 lighting effects and 193 borders at last count. It even offers a randomizer which randomly chooses combinations of filters for you.
Sharing is done through the standard Android share menu, which is actually kinda nice since you have tons of options available, such as email, that are not built-in to many of the other apps. Though there is no full web site like Instagram and others, Pixlr-o-matic does integrate with imm.io, which is a clone of photo hosting and sharing site imgur.com.
The Play Store lists the following features for Pixlr-o-matic.
- Color overlays help you adjust the mood – amplify the tone, cool it down, or add surreal shades
- Lighting effects add drama, sparkle or a grunge look
- Finish off your photo process with the right frame – pick a border style that fits you
- Want it all in a single swipe? Try the randomizer and we’ll select an effect, overlay, and border for you.
- No camera required! Select a photo from your gallery and start applying effects. If your device has a camera, you can also snap a new picture from within the app
- Share your vintage image directly with your friends through Facebook or imm.io
- Export your finished image back to your gallery. Images can be saved in high resolution, depending on the resolution of the original image
Pixlr-o-matic is free in the Play Store.
The slogan for picplz is “Snap a pic. Apply an effect. Share with friends everywhere!” Where Picplz goes a step further is with the editing of the photo before posting. Not only do you get the standard 17 retro filters to choose from, but you can also click the Edit button and modify the image with tools like crop, rotate, brightness, saturation, and more. Besides the standard photo editing tools, there are also some fun options, like Stickers, which allows you to add hats, glasses, and other props to the picture, and Meme, which allows you to add text to the top and bottom of the image similar to the infamous lolcat meme (think icanhazcheezburger). If that’s not enough, you can even draw on the image, blur it, fix redeye, and more. All this photo editing muscle is brought to you via an integration with photo editing web site Aviary. I’d love to see more apps us Aviary for editing. Unfortunately, there are no frames or borders available in Picplz.
I also noticed that Picplz also allows you to choose an alternate camera to take a picture, just like Lightbox, allowing you to use a camera app with its own filters and effects.
You can share to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous, and Foursquare, as well as upload to your Dropbox account, which is a nice touch. Sharing your pictures also uploads them to Picplz.com, and you get your own public photo gallery.
The Play Store page lists the following features for Picplz.
- 100% FREE photo filters.
- Style your pics with filters to give your photos vintage 70s, monochrome black & white, Hipstamatic Russian toy camera, cross processing, and instant film effects and more.
- Share your photos on your blog and your Facebook account. (optional)
- Check in on foursquare when you post your photo. (optional)
- Add your location. (optional)
- Seamless & FAST uploading (photos upload in the background.)
- No waiting. Photos upload in the background allowing you to take photos without waiting for them to upload.
- Customizable sharing options make sharing photos simple.
- Photos taken with picplz are posted to your profile on picplz.com and tagged with your location (when available).
Picplz is free in the Play Store.
EyeEm positions itself as more of a discovery photo app that allows you to find pictures based on topics, places, and events. When you use the app to take a picture, you are presented with the option to add a topic and location in the form of a sentence, such as “Lunch at Malibu Grill“. In this example, you can tap on “lunch” and change it to any number of existing topics, or add your own. These topics become albums of similar images. The “Malibu Grill” part displays a nearby location. Tapping it changes to another nearby location it finds using GPS. Pretty slick.
This method of tagging your images becomes a sort of crowdsourcing for organizing all the images uploaded to EyeEm’s service. You also get your own page on EyeEm.com and you can share with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, and Tumblr. Filters and borders are here, but not really the main focus of this app. There are only 14 filters and 12 borders, though they do look pretty good.
The Play Store page lists the following features for EyeEm.
- Taking photos together: Find people who take similar photos of the topics, places & events you contribute to
- Edit: Take beautiful photos with 14 amazingly fast photo filters and 12 photo frames
- Share: Easily update your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare & Tumblr
- Discover: EyeEm is like a real-time photo search engine: simply take a photo and discover albums of topics, places and events
EyeEm is free in the Play Store.
7. Pix: Pixel Mixer
Pix has 30 filters, 24 film layers, and 16 borders. Not bad, but Pix lets you stack up to 3 filters together to create new ones. Combine that with interesting film overlays and borders, and you get an almost infinite amount of permutations. Find that perfect combination and save it as a favorite for later. A randomizer is available for quick and easy exploring of effects combinations.
Sharing is done through Android’s share menu, and that’s it. There’s no web site. Pix has potential with its filter architecture, and although that part of the app feels pretty mature, there’s not much else yet to make it feel more social and fun.
The Play Store page lists the following features for Pix.
- Apply Various Effects at Once! Create your own effects by using multiple effects at once!
- Add Your Effects to Favorites! Simply add and retrieve your favorite effects using our Favorites.
- Random Effects with Just One Touch. You can apply various random effects with just one touch. Get ready to be surprised!
- Simple User Interface. Applying filters, film layers, and frames has never been this easy!
- Powerful Sharing Functions. Share your edited photos on Twitter, Facebook, and other apps on your phone.
Pix is free in the Play Store.
As you can see, there are plenty of alternatives available now, and since they are all free, it’s worth trying them out to see which strikes your fancy. For me, Pixlr-o-matic is the best as far as filters and effects, and Streamzoo and Picplz are probably the most socially mature, with EyeEm coming in next as an interesting photo discovery service.
There are many other great photo filtering and sharing apps out there, and my list is surely not comprehensive, but I just wanted to outline some of the apps I feel are close to the spirit of Instagram. What are your favorites? Are any of these competition for Instagram, or do you believe once Instagram launches on Android it’s game over for many of these? Let us know in the comments!