At the 2012 South by Southwest conference (aka SXSW), the popular iOS app maker announced that Instagram was being developed for Android. Co-founder Kevin Systrom announced that the app is in private beta and not quite ready for full release as of March 2012, but Systrom teased that the Android app would in some ways be "even better than our iOS app. It's crazy."
If the Android version is still not available by the the time you read this, you can sign up for announcements about the release here. Android makes up more of the phone market, but the app maker has resisted the urge to develop an Android version until now. This may in part be because of the difference in phone cameras among Android devices. The iPhone's standard hardware makes it much easier to develop around.
So What Is Instagram?
In a nutshell, Instagram is a way for you to recapture the nostalgia of old fashioned Polaroids with your smart phone. The name comes from a combination of the words "instant" and "telegram," which were words the users thought captured the idea of turning your phone into a retro photo machine.
The Instagram app can either take photos directly or process photos that are already existing on your phone's camera roll. Photos are cropped to a square format - just like the Polaroids of yore, and then the can be post-processed with various old-timey filters to give the pics a faux vintage look. The iOS version offers eleven filters, though that number may increase in the future.
Community is part of Instagram's appeal. Photos can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, and used as check-ins for Foursquare. Instagram is also its own social network, and users can follow other users. Developers can also integrate Instagram into other tools using Instagram's API. Much of the appeal of Instagram is that you can share a photo on multiple platforms without having to wait forever.
Instagram is free, and the company has indicated that they plan to keep it that way. They may explore a "freemium" pricing model where extra filters and features can be purchased for an additional price but the core product remains free. As a young company, they're wise to keep all options on the table.
Instagram doesn't have the patent on old-timey phone photos. If you don't want to wait for Instagram to come to Android, you can still get some of the functions in existing apps. FXcamera offers an ad supported photo app. It doesn't have the square cropping or social sharing, but it can give you the photo filters. Camera ZOOM FX offers one of the best paid photo apps out there with far more filters and photo editing features. PicSay Pro is another great choice, with stickers and other comic editing choices.
That said, the real appeal of Instagram is the simple interface and instant sharing, two features it's hard to find in a single, free app for Android. When the Android version of this app is released, it will be great to not only see how well it does, but how the competition responds. This could be a great day for Android camera phone owners.