Instagram finally jumps to Android, ‘in some ways better’ than iOS

by Phil Hornshaw

Instagram was lauded by Apple as the best iPhone app of 2011, but for the first time, you’re not going to need an iPhone to enjoy it.

The social photography app finally made it to Google Play (formerly the Android Market) today, bringing its well-loved retro photo filters to the most popular smartphone platform in the world. That should be a pretty good fit, considering how well Instagram has been received by the iOS community. As Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom noted back at SXSW, the photo app has some 27 million registered users just in the iPhone-using community, and of those, 67 percent or so seem to use the app on a daily basis.

If you’re not familiar with Instagram, here’s a quick primer. Instagram is a photography app that comes packed with filters that users can add to their photos. It’s quick-and-simple photo manipulation – you can slap a filter on that makes your image look like it was shot on film, or with a toy camera or a Polaroid, or simply that it was the product of a bygone era of photography. The Android version offers 22 different filters, as well as the ability to add “tilt shift” focus to make some portions of the image focused while others are blurry.

What makes Instagram so popular is its social networking capability, though. The app itself is a social network in which users can share the images they create in Instagram, and it’s possible to follow friends as well as people who are simply cool, the way one might on Twitter. Comments can be added to photos, as well as information about where and when they were taken, and they can be “liked” and shared across social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

It’s in the social networking portion that Instagram is really going to benefit from adding an Android app to its repertoire. If the app is able to duplicate its success on Android – and there’s no reason it shouldn’t, given how hotly anticipated it has been – then it should effectively double the number of people on the network, as well as the number of cool photos available to see, like and comment upon.

Right now, the version of Instagram available on Android is more of a port of the iOS experience than it is a distinct Android app, and that has some users a little annoyed. Systrom has said that there are some ways that the Android app “even better” than the iOS version, but just what those ways might be isn’t too clear. But Instagram definitely has time to distinguish its Android app, reworking the design to maximize the capabilities of features such as Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. And even if the company never pushes to make the Android app much different from the iOS experience, it should still work great – Instagram is so popular on the iPhone for a reason.

Instagram is available for free on Google Play. Go snap some pictures.