Instagram 6.0: one update too many?

Instagram just completed a major update of its apps for iPhone and Android. The goal? To make Instagram 6.0 your one and only photo editing app. Incidentally, the development team has pulled the rug out from under its most threatening rivals, VSCO Cam (AndroidiPhone), Snapseed (AndroidiPhone) or Pixlr Express (AndroidiPhone). But was the latest Instagram update really necessary?

According to a recent study by the investment bank Piper Jaffrey, Instagram is the preferred social network of American teenagers. This result can be partially attributed to its ease of use, but with this update, things have gotten a bit more complicated, and I feel that version 6.0 loses some of Instagram’s intuitiveness. Will this latest update affect Instagram’s popularity?

New editing options

The Instagram update only effects one section of the application: the choice of filters. As you can see from the two shots below, the development team didn’t hesitate to modify the interface to integrate these new options.

Check out this video of the Instagram 6.0 features in action, installed on an iPhone 4S.

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Instagram before and after

Instagram before and after the update on an iPhone 4S

The size of the filter icons have increased, while the option to blur, add a frame, and the ability to resize the image have disappeared from the screen. The Lux button, which allows you to increase the brightness and contrast of on image, remains in the same place. Beyond these changes, there are two important developments:

  • It’s now possible to double tap on the filter of your choice to control its intensity on a scale of 0 to 100. Here, you’ll also be able to choose whether or not you want a frame on your photo.

Instagram filtersIt’s now possible to change the intensity of Instagram filters

  • The wrench symbol covers a string of options for editing. From saturation to blur through to cropping, there are no less than 10 customizable sliders.

A series of options you’ll probably never use

With so many possibilities for modifying photos that eventually get compressed before being published, I need to ask, are they really necessary? Personally, I struggled to find my bearings with this new Instagram. It was much easier to crop an image or add a frame before this update, for example.

Frames Instagram

It’s now much more difficult to add a frame to a photo

Currently, I use very few of these 10 new editing options. Blur, photo frames, and filters were already more than enough, and I don’t intend to go through any extra steps to post media.

Even further, it seems like some features have virtually no effect. Has the Instagram team only added these options for the application to appear more professional? My guess is, yes.

Competing with VSCO Cam

I spend a lot of time testing all the photo apps for smartphone, and I’m certainly not the only one– experienced Instagram users have long been using third party apps to retouch their images before posting.

Professionals, on the other hand, opt for a more radical technique: they prepare their content on PC or Mac, import it to their smartphone, and then publish it on Instagram (see our tutorial on how to import media from your PC).

Will this Instagram update help people who use a third party app to edit images with native Instagram options? I highly doubt it. VSCO Cam, one of the most popular editing options for mobile, has long been recognized as the best utility to make the most striking pictures. This service has much better quality filters, and the photo capture options are more complete (I’m mainly thinking about the possibility of separating exposure and focus when taking a picture).

Cam catches VSCO

VSCO Cam, probably the best photo editing app on the market

What about users who aren’t familiar with all the other photo editing apps? They probably aren’t interested in venturing into the advanced settings of Instagram. The different filters already available correct the most common imperfections including brightness and contrast, just to name a few.

For these reasons, I’m not convinced that this Instagram update was really necessary. Why go directly to other photo editing apps when most of your users end up posting their photos or videos on your network afterwards?

If you love Instagram, make sure you take a look at our complete guide to Instagram.

Follow me on Twitter @bbrassart

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