The Social Relationships in Apps

Typically when you hear about an app worth downloading, you play with it for a couple days and ultimately you end up either using it incessantly or deleting it because it didn’t stick. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt about apps is that they can either be a hit or a miss and I’ve started to notice certain criterions that have determined how far I will go with not just using an app itself but the service that’s tied in with it.

Quick screen shot of the photo sharing apps on my iPhone.Not sure why I have all 3 when I just use 1 and that’s Instagram.

iPhone apps are now vast, especially within the photography category and given the large number of photo sharing ones popping up, it’s surprising how reluctant I could be in signing up to all of them simply because they’re available. The attractiveness of popular ones such as Instagram, Path and Picplz stem from the ease in which in we can capture and share life moments but it can also become overwhelming being part of all of them when you can make your life simple and stick to one. The question is which.

For me, it truly comes down to these 4 criterions:

1. The easy of use: The decision to ditch any of the apps I mentioned will not be based off on how difficult one is over the other because they’re all dead simple to use right upon launch. You snap, select a filter and upload. Based on that, I could use them all.

2. The amount of features: The majority of photography apps are being designed with some distinguished elements of an actual camera in order to replicate the type of close-knit experience you would have when using it. Basic features such as zooming and exposure control are enough for me.

3. It’s popularity & recommendation: Every single free or paid photography app I owned has been brought to my attention by someone who has tweeted its awesomeness. We occasionally discuss mediocre products but we’re quicker to mentioned exceptional ones and when a recommendation for something comes from a highly respected source, we’re quick to adopt it and not question why we own it. If it’s popular, it must be good so we stick with it. 90% of people I know on Twitter use Reeder for RSS reading. The app is phenomenal and the fact that people I admire use it is a bonus.

4. The investment of time: The first photo app I recall using that had an integrated community for sharing your mobile photographs was Best Camera created by the Seattle based photographer we all love Chase Jarvis. The app isn’t occupied with any groundbreaking technology but it delivered as promised yet its initial popularity didn’t catch on with me so I had no reservations in ditching it after a couple days.

The second app I used with the same promising features was Camera+ by the folks at TapTapTap with co-creator and professional photographer Lisa Bettany who carried out a lot of advertising for it. She also contributed all those stunningly beautiful filters available in the app. For a while this was my go-to app for shooting, editing and uploading photographs on the iPhone but after having been pulled from the App Store for violating Apple’s developer agreement, it’s built-in community began to dwindle and so did my interest in using it. The majority of my photographs were shared within Twitter and not so much within the app’s community so ditching it was not an issue as well.

Which now brings me to Instagram. Since it became available, it’s said that almost 200,000 people have become registered users and they are posting a photo every second. Unlike its predecessor, the founders of Instagram say that the “service will distinguish itself by the strength of the community of people who use it.” An online community is no fun when the people who you mostly socialize with on networks such as Twitter or Flickr are not a part of it so my allure in continuing to use it came from knowing that folks I knew were already onboard. I couldn’t say the same for Best Camera or Camera+.

Since joining Instagram, the valued relationships I had developed on Twitter have broaden. I’ve also noticed I have uploaded more photographs than I ever did than with Best Camera or Camera+. Suffice to say I was investing generous time in the social portion of the app up until now that regardless of whether something else came along with similar functionalities, I wouldn’t be inclined to switch. Both Path and Picplz are said to be Instagram rivals and I’ve tinkered with both but the idea of uploading the same photographs I already did in Instagram and hoping that the same people I follow are using the other service is too much.

I guess the purpose of this post is to state that what strongly prevents me from switching from one service to another is realizing that the connections I’ve formed in one are stronger than the features equally available in another. Everyone utilizes Twitter so I can’t imagine people and major companies ditching it if something similar is introduced because they’ve already established a bond for what they used first.

I’ve applied the same logic for not ditching Tumblr for Wordpress or Gowalla for Foursquare. I began with Tumblr as much as I did with Gowalla and migrating to a similar service would mean giving up the time I invested in both.