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Pretty interface of 500px Android app cannot hide its issues

by Marty Gabel

500px, the growing image sharing/hosting website, just released its official mobile app on Android (to accompany the company’s website), and we’ve taken it for a test run. While Instagram may be all the rage right now on mobile devices, 500px offers a great way to store and share photos on the web too.

Flickr, which Yahoo! bought a few years ago, remains one of the most popular sites for photo sharing, but many paid-up users of the service (including yours truly) have been a little perturbed by its lack of development over the past few years. Its Android app, however, is a pretty competent affair, and hopefully, the website will see further development in the future.

Why discuss Flickr first in article about 500px, you ask? Well, 500px has seen its photo sharing service grow in popularity over the past few years. It offers a great-looking web interface which is perfect for browsing photos, and just recently lowered its prices to compete better with Flickr. I already have a free account with 500px. Could a great Android app convince me to shift all my photos over to their service instead?

A pretty launch

I tried the app on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7+ first. Photos always look better on a bigger tablet screen, after all. It’s nice that as soon as the app launches, even if you’re not a signed-up user of 500px, that some of the best images hosted on the site are shown first, and you can scroll through them. For many, even this simple photo gallery could be worth the entry price (free) alone, because there is some incredible work on display.

Popular photos are shown first, then a selection of Editors’ Picks. “Upcoming” showcases new-to-the-site images that are ‘buzzing,’ while “Fresh” displays recently uploaded delights. A handy search icon lets you find images by keyword, and I’m assuming the results depend on what tags the photographer has provided for their photo.

Delving deeper

Once I logged-in with my username and password, things got a little more interesting. The app immediately took me to my user page and displayed my uploaded photos. It was easy to scroll through them and check for comments or ratings. You’re also offered the ability to share the images on Twitter, Facebook, or simply open them in a browser window. There are also links to view the galleries of any friends you’ve made on 500px or the photos that you’ve made your favorites.

Open the settings menu and the app offers options to sign-in to Twitter or Facebook to facilitate easy sharing, and, importantly filter nude photographs. There’s a lot of wonderful artistic nude photography on 500px, but of course, it’s not always suitable for everyone to view.

A promising start, but missing some essentials

All in all, the interface is clean and efficient. 500px offers a great way to access some of the best photography around in a straightforward way. But there is quite a bit missing here. For one (and I’m not sure if it’s just because of the tablet I was using), but many of the photos didn’t seem to be displayed in their highest resolution, and I noticed distinct ‘banding’ in many images. Switching to the HTC Rezound smartphone with its brilliant 720p HD display, the issue didn’t look as bad, and only affected certain photos. Unfortunately, there’s no way to zoom-in to see images either. The second issue that really bugged me though was that there was no way to upload images to the service at all. Admittedly, I usually reserve 500px for high-res photos taken with my ‘proper camera,’ but surely a mobile offering of any photo-sharing service has to offer the ability to upload images like Flickr does?

Still, I’m happy to cut 500px a bit of slack. While there’s clearly some way to go, it’s a nice start. Despite the occasional bit of lag and interface elements (like buttons) that work far better on the larger tablet screen, even if the photos look worse, 500px will no doubt improve and update its app in the future. Like a number of users in the Google Play Store, I did notice the occasional ‘force close’ and stall.

Let’s hope the brains behind 500px work on these issues. There is a lot of potential here, but presentation trumps practicality at this point, and for now, I’ll probably stick with Flickr.

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