Flickr iPhone app updated to take on instagram - hands on
Posted on 12 Dec 2012 at 14:00, by Tom Morgan
Flickr, the photo-sharing website that pre-dates the social photography boom brought about by Instagram and Twitter, has unveiled a revamped iPhone app designed to take on both services.
Originally started as a place for professional photographers to share their work, Flickr has seen a massive increase in uploads from smartphones in recent years - despite not having updated the official Flickr iPhone app in over three. That all changes today, with a huge update adding features and extra content aimed specifically at smartphone snappers.
Released globally this morning, the updated app incorporates all of Flickr's social features, including groups, discussions and discovery channels. Unlike previous versions, users can now log in with their Facebook or Google account, saving time and hassle when getting started. Naturally, you can also log in with a Yahoo ID.
Once inside, the slick interface is incredibly easy to navigate, with separate tabs for your personal profile, public groups and friends. The magazine-style layout has large image thumbnails that are a pleasure to browse through, letting you scroll horizontally through photos or vertically through your contacts. Favorites are just a double click away, and you can import your friends from other social networks including Facebook and Twitter.
New users can quickly upload any existing photos to the service from the iOS photostream, with the app pulling EXIF and location data from the files when uploading.
These features are great for new and existing Flickr users alike, but it's the camera features that will most appeal to Instagram fans. It's quick to load and has all the usual features you would expect, including gridlines, flash control, digital zoom and geolocation, along with direct upload to your Flickr account, along with Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
Creative control is the order of the day, and Flickr's development team have worked hard to make it as easy as possible to take great looking photos. You can two-finger tap to decouple the exposure and focus points, letting you set them manually. You can edit each image with crop, rotate and sharpness tools, as well as brightness and contrast controls. You can also draw or write text directly onto the photo - Flickr has teamed up with Aviary for these tools, which coincidentally is the same company Twitter partnered with for its photo filter technology.
It's these filters that add the vintage colours, sepia tones and washed-out images that appeal to Instragram users, and the new Flickr app has 15 to choose from. Most change the hue, brightness and contrast of an image, but others add image borders to mimic Polaroids and other discontinued film prints. It would have been nice if you could upload both the original and a filtered image to Flickr with one press, as you currently have to upload the original then go back into the app and apply a filter.
We've been assured today's launch has nothing to do with the ongoing Twitter / Instagram fracas, although the timing may work in Flickr's favour - Flickr photos play nicely with Twitter cards, letting your followers see your snaps without having to click through to another page.
If you've already converted to Instagram, Flickr's filters may not be enough to pull you away - however, we walked away impressed with its extra touches: anyone on a limited data plan will appreciate the WiFi only upload option, letting you conserve megabytes and upload in bulk when you get home after a day's shooting. It's smooth and responsive, even on the iPhone 4 we used to try it out.
The app also solves one of our personal iOS bugbears; sending multiple photos in a single email. Unlike Apple's own interface, you can easily select multiple images and share them in one go rather then individually.
Android users received a similar update back in August, but a few interface differences mean it's not quite as slick as the iPhone version. It would be nice to have consistency between photo filter names too, but otherwise the experience is very similar.
Flickr knows what photographers want - it is, after all, one of the largest photo-sharing service on the web - so its great to see such a comprehensive and useful feature list in this updated app. If you're a budding smartphone photographer, or simply want a more comprehensive photo app, there's no reason not to add Flickr to your app collection.
click through to the gallery to see some of Flickr's new filters in action
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