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Hands on with Hipstamatic’s new Snap Magazine iPhone and Web app

snap magazine cover

Hipstamatic arguably lost the photo sharing race when Facebook acquired Instagram and catapulted the already-accomplished platform to a new, unforseen social status. Then Google went ahead and acquired Nik Software for another photo sharing competitor, Snapseed. Rather than capitulate to the bleak future that photo sharing apps appear to have in the wake of Instagram’s overwhelming successes, Hipstamatic has gotten creative by launching Snap Magazine, a digital-only magazine that aggregates hand curated images from its users. While the app debuted on iPads, Hipstamatic today announced that it has expanded to Snap Magazine with its new iPhone and Web apps.

snap magazine gangster squad

The magazine isn’t just the self-promotional publication you might it expect it to be. Admittedly, there are mentions of Hipstamatic here and there, and the advertising inserts are all promoting Hipstamatic products, but all in all it’s a lifestyle magazine that could easily be found on the bookshelves at Barnes & Nobles. The editorial team explores music, visual art, travels, fashion, food, and just about anything else you can think of. Of course, Hipstamatic stays fairly true to its roots by favoring images over text and paying particular attention to graphics, design, and photography.

While the magazine is inarguably good-looking, we checked out Snap on the Web were disappointed with the user experience. There’s a delay when flipping through the pages and it unfortunately reminds us of the experience of flipping through digital magazines on self-publishing platform Issuu, which has its fair share of quirks. Really, things just feel rough around the edges here, like Snap is meant to be experienced via mobile. 

There really isn’t much of a discernable difference between the iPad and the iPhone versions of Snap – which isn’t to say it’s all that engaging. The issues are essentially image files and there isn’t a hint of the interactivity that traditional iPad-based magazines offer, save for the page turning animation. It’s like you’re reading a print magazine on a mobile device. For some of us, that’s enough; others want interactivity. We had to download each issue before perusing, but they are completely free.

snap magazine horizontal

On the iPhone, Snap Magazine’s iPad version has simply been ported to fit the smaller screen size (it’s also optimized for the iPhone 5). When it comes to reading Snap Magazine from an iPhone, you’re forced to squint or zoom into the pages to read the text. Since it’s a magazine packed mostly with photos, luckily, this isn’t a huge inconvenience. When the phone is flipped horizontally, two pages are visible side-by-side as opposed to just one when being viewed vertically. You’ll recognize that touching the bottom of your screen surfaces thumbnails of every page that you can easily scroll through to select a specific page.

There have only been five issues out so far, so the magazine is still in its infancy. Hispstamatic hasn’t released any official concrete figures for the number of users, but based on Appdata we can get an indication of how it’s performing. As of this writing, Snap is the 106 top free app in the photograph genre and the 101 top free iPad app in the same genre.

snap mag food

The magazine is filled with the beautiful images that nearly defy smartphones – really, it’s hard to believe that the collections of images published on Snap weren’t taken using a DSLR. Editorial-wise, Snap is on trend with editorials, like a feature on the band Imagine Dragons, and even journalistic editorials covering world issues. The company has also established a Hipstamatic Foundation for Photojournalism that it hopes to educate the next generation of photojournalists.

Snap Magazine is really a breath of fresh air among digital publications, even if many images are sourced from Hipstamatic users and Hipstamatic users alone. Still, it’s an interesting way to make use of the photos were creating and sharing – even if Instagram has laid claim to the market, Hipstamatic deserves props for continuing to explore it.