The sensation that is Instagram has iOS as well as Android users snapping pictures and sharing them like never before. There’s no question that with the millions of users on the platform as well as the simple workflow, Instagram is a winner. But does that mean Instagram is the best game in town? Maybe not. We recently brought you a list of seven Instagram alternatives, and today I want to do an in-depth comparison with the one I feel is the closest competitor… Streamzoo, available for both iOS and Android.
Round 1: Adjusting Your Photos
There’s no question that one of the cornerstones of Instagram’s success is the retro-style image filters. Making your brand new pictures look like they were taken in the 1970′s is apparently very popular for whatever reason. Though I feel these filters have been overused and abused, I have to admit that using them can typically make your images feel a bit more artistic, or at least help hide any imperfections in your original.
The first thing to note is that Instagram forces you to take square pictures only. So even though you can change Instagram’s default camera to use your phone’s own camera, the app will force you to crop the photo to a square. Buh-bye landscapes and panoramas. It’s an interesting, though puzzling, requirement.
Instagram does better with its 17 built-in image filters.
These include the following:
No idea what the names of these filters mean, but it’s easy enough to just click through each one to see how it affects the image. Borders are integrated in some filters, and you have the option to keep or remove the border. There is also a lighting effect which you can toggle on or off, though I’m still not 100% sure what it does. Again, best just to try it see if you like the effect.
Lastly, you can rotate the image in 90 degree increments. That’s about it as far as editing your photo in Instagram. Simple, yes, but ultimately a bit limiting.
One major thing I like better in Streamzoo is that it does not force a square aspect ratio of your image. When you first take or import your picture, you get the option to crop the image into various different aspect ratios, or keep it in its original shape. This is also when you can rotate the image, or even mirror it if you’d like.
As far as filters are concerned, Streamzoo comes with a total of 14… just a few shy of Instagram’s. However, Streamzoo also comes with 15 borders that can be used with any of the filters, giving it a big edge in flexibility, and many, many more artistic permutations. Below are screenshots showing how I applpied the Vibrance filter and the Vintage border.
The filters and borders included in Streamzoo include the following:
Again, the names here don’t necessarily tell you much, and you will be left trying each of these to see which works best for your photo, but at least Streamzoo’s names are a hair more descriptive than Instagram’s. It’s also a nice touch having the borders be their own thing separate from filters.
There is no mysterious lighting toggle, but the customization of your photo does not end here. Streamzoo has a “tilt shift” option that allows you to blur certain areas of your photo to simulate a wider depth of field or bring focus to a specific area of your picture. Below, I chose the circle to keep the model’s face and t-shirt logo in focus while blurring the rest.
To be fair, Instagram also provides a tilt shift option, but only to its iOS users. The Android version of Instagram does not currently support it, though I’m sure an update in the future will remedy that.
Next, Streamzoo provides color options so you can tweak the hue, saturation, brightness, and contrast of your image. Let’s bring up the brightness a bit.
It’s obvious that Streamzoo is infinitely more flexible with its filter/border combinations, tilt shift options, color tweaks, and aspect ratio allowances. Instagram got crushed in this round.
Round 2: The Network
Make no mistake, both these apps are social networks in their own right. They each create a community of people who follow each other and comment on the content.
What makes Instagram so successful is not necessarily the features of the service itself, but more the sheer numbers of people using it. If you build the best technology in the world but no one uses it, it’s not that compelling, especially when the technology shines best with a large network of users behind it. Instagram reportedly has over 27 million iOS users at last count, and that’s huge. If we assume there are 200 million iOS devices out there, as reported last year, that’s huge penetration.
I immediately got 15 followers right after installing Instagram since many of my Facebook friends already use it.
Considering Instagram has been an iOS exclusive for so long, there’s no question the numbers will be heavily skewed toward iOS in the beginning.
I haven’t been able to find any numbers mentioning how many Streamzoo users there are, either on Android or iOS, but it surely doesn’t have the penetration that Instagram has. It does seem to be an active and growing community, especially now that Instagram is out for Android and every blogger out there is doing comparison articles
I have yet to get any followers on Streamzoo.
There’s no arguing with the numbers. Instagram has a huge head start here.
Round 3: Sharing
Being able to share your photos to your favorite social networks is very important for a photo sharing app. So how do these two stack up?
Built-in sharing in Instagram comes down to four sites: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Tumblr.
There are also four built-in social networks in Streamzoo, but they differ slightly. It includes Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr.
This round is a wash. It comes down to which networks are important to you, and specifically, do you care if you have Foursquare, or do you prefer Flickr? One other thing to note is that with both apps, the final photo is saved to your SD card, allowing you to share it pretty much anywhere using the standard Android share menu from the image gallery on your device.
Round 4: Web Site
Both services offer an online web site to access your photos. But there is a major difference.
Every picture you share on Instagram gets hosted on their servers, meaning every picture has an Instagram address. However, that’s ALL you can use the site for. There is no way to actually log in to their site to see or manage your photos or friends. This is what you get when you go to Instagram.com.
Yeah, just a little blurb about getting the apps. Also notice how heavily iOS their page is. Not only do they use an iPhone as their sample device, but the default action when clicking the “FREE download” is to go to the iTunes store. Interestingly, when clicking the button on that page to “Get it on Google Play”, you are taken to a very similar page with an Android look to it.
Streamzoo takes a completely different approach to their site. They make it another way to interact with their service. You can upload images (as long as you have uplaoded at least one from the app, and have at least 5 followers), follow users, browse photo streams, comment, and more. You basically have a fully-functioning photo sharing site that stands on its own.
Yeah, Instagram got crushed in this round, though I believe they built their service intentionally with an app only model in mind. I understand their approach, wanting to make sure everyone on the service is on a level playing field (might explain their forced 1×1 photos as well) but ultimately, I think people appreciate the flexibility of full access from more than one device.
Round 5: The Rest
We’ve already covered the features that both apps have in common, but what about the unique options specific to each?
Umm… well… I think everything Instagram can do we’ve already covered above. Nothing more, nothing less.
This is really where Streamzoo pulls way ahead. Here’s a list of some of the other features available:
- Share videos as well as photos
- Earn points for your activities and compete in the leaderboards
- Unlock over 30 badges for such things as Cat Lover or Foodie
- Full hashtag support with trending and popular streams
The gamification aspects of Streamzoo (leaderboards and badges) provide a great incentive to use the service. A discreet description field to add your hashtags also helps self-categorize your images into huge collections on the service for maximum exposure.
Video uploads are also a great differentiator for Streamzoo, however you cannot add any filters to videos.
And The Winner Is…
After looking at all five rounds, it becomes pretty evident that Streamzoo is our winner, taking a total of three rounds, tying one, and losing one to Instagram. So why all the fuss about Instagram? Well, the one round that Instagram won is arguably the most important round there is, and that’s the network. With so many people using the service, it has pretty much become the de-facto standard in the social photo sharing space.
As more Android users come on board and start comparing competing apps, it’s likely that services like Streamzoo may get a boost in users, though it’s a long hill to climb to reach what Instagram has already achieved.
Personally, I prefer Streamzoo by leaps and bounds, but I will keep both installed just because most of my friends only use Instagram (yes, I have a lot of iOS friends). Maybe the more I post on Facebook and Twitter with Streamzoo, the more my friends will begin to check it out.
In the end, though, does it really matter since we are mostly posting to sites like Facebook and Twitter? It’s not like you have to be a member of either service to view a picture.
Which do you prefer? Sound off in the comments below!