Instagram Comes To Android, Highlights Fragmentation
April 4, 2012

Instagram Comes To Android, Highlights Fragmentation

Long-time iOS exclusive Instagram was made available for Google´s Android operating system yesterday. While users of both platforms took to arguing about the merits of each operating system, the popular photo-sharing social service topped 1 million downloads in its first 24 hours in the Google Play market.

Boasting more than 30 million users as an app only available to users of the iPhone, Instagram already had an impressive base of users sharing their vintage and filtered photos with one another. The app works as a combination photo-sharing service (a la Flickr) and a social networking service, (a la Twitter). Users can take pictures from within the app (or upload them from the phone´s library) and apply any number of stock filters, designed to give the pictures an old and vintage feel. Once the photo is edited, it can be uploaded and seen by the user's followers as well as be shared to other sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Users can view photos from people they follow, and there is a built-in feature to “Like” photos.

Arriving on the iPhone first in 2010, Instagram has been a huge success, often topping the App Store charts as a most downloaded app. Instagram´s CEO Kevin Systrom announced their arrival on Android last month at SXSW and hailed it as “one of the most amazing Android apps you´ll ever see,” after briefly showing off the app.

As users loaded the new app onto their Android devices, differences between the two iterations began to arise, causing concern and even frustration for some users. For example, the iOS version of the app allows users to preview filters live and in real time. This means as a user is shooting a picture, they can instantly see how it will look after the filter is applied. The first version of Instagram for Android is lacking this feature, allowing users to only add filters after the picture is already taken. Also missing is the Tilt Shift/Blur feature. This creates a blurred effect on the picture and can be edited and manipulated by pinch and pull gestures on the iPhone. This feature creates depth of field in photos as well as blur or distort particular portions of an image the user may not want to highlight.

In an email to, Systrom explained the missing features this way: “We cut features that are used by a small minority of folks – live preview, for instance, is used on 1 percent of all photos posted. Our mantra was get something great out, and get it out quickly.”

While there are differences between the two versions of the app, perhaps what is most highlighted is the difference between the two platforms. Often chided for fragmentation, the Android platform can cause problems for app makers. There are many different phones made by many different companies on many different carriers that can run Google´s operating system. As such, some phones are capable to have the latest version of the OS, while other phones will never be able to upgrade past a certain version. Instagram is only available for Android users running version 2.2 of the operating system.

In reading about its launch on Android, each reviewer has had a different experience using the app depending on their software and hardware.

Ginny Miles, writer for PC World, tried the app on two phones, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0 and a Samsung Galaxy Blaze 4G running Android 2.3. Here, Smith noticed the effects of fragmentation within the app. While Instagram worked just as well as the iOS version on the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy Blaze 4G version made Smith choose between the camera built-in to Instagram or the phone´s native camera app when taking photos. Wired´s Alexandra Chang also noticed this weird camera switching behavior when she tested the app on her Sony Ericsson Xperia Play.

Users of Android tablets will have to wait until Instagram releases a version of the app compatible with their device. Amidst complaints of its large size, missing features, and long-load time, many Android users are simply happy to be joining in on the photo-sharing fun.