Is there anything better than Instagram? Considering Instagram’s immense popularity in its field, probably not. But let’s face it, Instagram is not the best photo app out there. It has the community, but its interface is severely lacking in basic features. For example, why in the world can’t you swipe left and right to browse your own or someone else’s photos? Why can’t you follow hashtags and locations just like you can follow users? And why in the world can’t you stop videos from auto-playing?
It turns out there are other Instagram apps out there, and they’re good. If you’re not a frequent uploader, you should consider dropping the native app and switching.
A Word About Uploading
Before we get started, there’s an issue we should clear out of the way. Every time a post about an Instagram client goes live, many of you are disappointed that it doesn’t let you upload photos. This is not due to some laziness or skimpiness on the app’s developers’ part. It’s due to API restrictions that come directly from Instagram.
When an app uses Instagram’s API (application programming interface), it’s bound by Instagram’s rules. Instagram doesn’t want third-party apps to let you upload to Instagram. If they allow that, what will keep you using their own native app, that’s clearly not the best out there?
For that reason, neither of the apps mentioned in the these post let you upload photo to Instagram. But they do have Instagram beat in many other aspects. So do the math, and decide what’s best for you.
Flow for Instagram (iPad, Free)
Flow is an iPad-only app, and while that’s certainly a shame for iPhone or Android users, it’s clearly made for the iPad.
Flow brings fluidity to your Instagram browsing that’s simply not found in the native app. For starters, you can view your own feed on a grid, or tap an image and swipe left and right to browse.
When viewing an image, not only can you see the usual things such as likes and comments, you can also tap certain elements to get these awesome mini-feeds.
Tap a username to browse all their photos, follow or unfollow them, or bookmark them (more on this later). You can also tap hashtags to get a similar mini-feed, and even a location, to get all the photos that were tagged there.
When viewing a feed, swipe to the right to reveal the app’s side menu. From here you can access your own profile, your likes, your settings, and several of the app’s unique features.
Remember when I said something about bookmarks? You’ve probably also noticed the little star present in every mini-feed screenshot. With Flow, you can bookmark users, hashtags and locations, and easily access those feeds via the bookmarks menu. For all intents and purposes, you’re following a hashtag or a location on Instagram. You can also keep an eye on a user you’re interested in without following.
In the app’s settings, you can choose to disable auto-play for Instagram videos. Remember when Instagram let you do that too?
Through the Explore menu, you can discover the top users, hashtags and shops (with Instagram accounts), not only in your country, but in pretty much any country in the world.
The search function lets you not only search for users and hashtags, but for places too. From here you can see what’s happening there, as well as check out nearby places.
With twelve 15-second-long video tutorials waiting for you inside the app, Flow is an easy app to master. The app is ad-free (at least for now), and there’s nothing to hamper the experience. All you have to do is dive in and enjoy every second.
Negatives (Android & iOS, Free)
Negatives is a very new app, and as such, it’s still rough around the edges. Compared to Flow, and even to Instagram, it also lacks some pretty basic features. But, and it’s a pretty big but, it lets you browse Instagram in a way you could only imagine up until now.
You know how Instagram is built around one single feed, one that includes photos from all your friends in a jumble? Negatives is not like that. In Negatives, each of the people you follow gets their own feed in the shape of a negatives strip.
You can browse each of these strips individually straight from the homepage: simply swipe right and left on a strip to view that user’s photos. You can, of course, browse user in fullscreen too. Tap on a user or on any of their photos to access that users’ feed. You can browse this feed by swiping right and left, or tap a photo to go into quick-browse mode.
As you can see, when photos have lots of text accompanying them, that text gets almost impossible to read, but for most photos that only include a few words, this is not a problem.
For individual images, tap the heart button to like, and the comment button to view some comments. If, like the photo in the screenshot, there are lots of comments, you’ll only get to see the most recent ones. There’s also no way to see who liked this photo other than you.
One of Negative’s coolest features is the hashtag view. Tap a photo’s description that includes one or more hashtags to open up browsable feeds for each of those hashtags. Likewise, you can open up user feeds by tapping users who commented.
This, though, is where Negative’s uniqueness ends, at least for now. The search feature is pretty limited, there’s no access to any kind of settings, and aside from browsing photos in the way described above, the app doesn’t do much. Then again, a multitude of features in not a necessity for a good app, and Negatives provides a simple and easy way to browse Instagram differently.
Negatives is a little half-baked. It’s slow at times, gestures are sometimes misunderstood, and, at least on Android, shutting off the screen while still on the app resulted in a completely black screen upon my return. The app is still young, though, and even in its current state, it’s definitely worth a try.
I Want More!
The two apps above are a great alternative clients for Instagram, but they’re not the only ones. If you’re looking for a Windows client, Pixsta is an app you shouldn’t miss. There are also many Web clients for Instagram, letting you access the social network without touching a phone. Itsdagram is a fully-fledged Instagram app for Windows Phone that even lets you upload, and if you’re sick of the entire Instagram community, you can always try some really good Instagram alternatives.
Do you know of even more alternatives and clients worth trying? Make sure we know about them too!