First look at Bolt, Instagram's latest photo-sharing app

First look at Bolt, Instagram's latest photo-sharing app
Pictures of the app Bolt running on an iPhone.

Available for free on Android and iOS

With Snapchat boasting over 82 million users as of May 2014, it is clear that photo-sharing apps are a hit, especially among teens and young adults. Apps such as Slingshot, Taptalk and Mirage have risen to compete against Snapchat, eager for a slice of the market. Instagram's Bolt looks to be Instagram's answer to Snapchat.

Launched on July 30, this free, standalone app seems very similar to Snapchat - simply take a photo and send it to a contact.

In addition to photos, text captions can be added to the photos, while short videos of up to five seconds can be sent as well. Upon viewing the message, the contact can dismiss it by swiping to the side, which deletes the message forever.

Users can also reply to messages with text or a photo of their own. Where it differs, however, is how the messages are sent.

Bolt is a one-tap app, a fire and forget app that captures the photo and sends it the moment you tap on your contacts' profile photo. If you prefer to send a video, you can hold down instead of tapping to begin recording. Letting go sends the video. Messages can only be sent to one contact at a time. 

If you don't like the message, you can shake the phone to bring up a menu which lets you delete the last message you sent. However, it does not work if the recipient has already viewed your message.

Instagram appears less strict about privacy than Snapchat - if you feel like keeping the message, you can just avoid swiping the message and it stays in the app, while Snapchat's messages automatically self-destruct in seconds after being opened.

The app is available for Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and higher, and iOS 7 and higher.

To sign up for the app, users key in the mobile number. No accounts or email addresses are required.

To add contacts, users can either sync Bolt with their phone's directory or manually search by keying in the contact's phone number.

Bolt looks minimalistic and clean, with a uncluttered interface.Sending photos does not get any easier than a single tap, which streamlines the process considerably compared to Snapchat's four or five taps required.

However, Bolt assumes that you are well acquainted with other similar apps - it makes no attempt to explain how to take a photo or video.

My colleague had problems figuring out how to take a video at first, saying that the user interface was unintuitive.

There are several buttons at the top, providing options - a flash button lights up photos, a text button lets you add text captions to your photo, a settings button and a button to swap between the phone's cameras, letting you use the front-facing camera.

At the bottom of the screen are your 'favourite' contacts - up to 20 contacts can be added to the favourites list.

These are the contacts that you can send messages to - if you want to message other contacts, you need to remove one of the 20 contacts from the favourites list in order to add a new contact.

Instagram's reasoning is that the 20 favourites would be the people that you would most often send messages to.

So far, the app looks promising, offering a simple, no-nonsense experience that makes photo-sharing easier. Whether it can take on Snapchat successfully remains to be seen, however.

This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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