Everything you need to know about Mobli, the Instagram competitor with deep pockets

When it comes to mobile platforms for photo and video sharing, Instagram is so far ahead of its many competitors, it seems difficult to imagine a rival gaining real steam. But Mobli isn’t just any rival – the media platform has powerful backers. Mobli recently secured a major cash influx from one of the world’s richest men, Carlos Slim. Slim’s telecom company América Móvil led a round of funding that gave Mobli $60 million, and also gave the up-and-coming media sharing app a distribution deal with América Móvil users. 

This will almost certainly boost Mobli’s profile in Latin America (which is quickly challenging the rest of the world for most social network-addicted population), and will likely help the company position itself as a more serious Instagram competitor. Here’s what we know about Mobli so far.

It has a lineup of celebrity investors. 

Mobli lags far behind Instagram when it comes to user numbers and name recognition (it still only has around 12 million users), but that’s not for want of celebrity fans. Backers include Leonardo DiCaprio, Lance Armstrong, Serena Williams, and Tobey Maguire. That said, most of these celebrity investments occurred over a year ago, and since Instagram introduced video and Vine debuted (and the Kardashians incessantly plugged Keek, another video sharing service with 60 million users) the famous-people shine is off Mobli — which is why Slim’s cash injection comes at an opportune time for the app.

Mobli lets you see what users are putting up as they put it up. 

mobli smart feedMobli lets you follow friends and search hashtags – just like Instagram, nothing particularly special there – but it also features a “live” search function, which gives you a glimpse of what other users are uploading as they upload it. This feature might get overwhelming if the app gains more users, but right now it provides an interesting overview of the sort of content people are sharing. Looking at my Live Mobli feed, I see a lot of selfies, but also some users who skillfully deploy the app’s filters and editing tools to create visually interesting content. 

Mobli actually out-features Instagram. 

Mobli hasn’t been shy about its desire to unseat Instagram – the company even launched a campaign to pay users to stop using Instagram called #mylastInstagram earlier this year (which came with a hefty cash prize) – but so far, it’s still struggling to catch up with its far more established competitor. 

This isn’t because it’s an inferior user experience, however. Mobli has a lot of good things going for it. In addition to the real-time Live search option, the company’s use of location-based technology is impressive – for instance, there’s a filter you can only use when you’re in Madison Square Garden, meant to connect concert-goers as an event unfolds. This kind of specificity means Mobli might be more fun to use than Instagram when they’re at events that have special filters and features created for an exclusive experience (of course, it’s only fun to share content if you have an audience, so that’s assuming the app grows to a point where most people have friends using it). 

mobli filters

Mobli’s user interface is beautiful and easy to navigate, it has strong integration with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and it offers more filters and features a view counter, so you can see how many people have looked at your images. There’s nothing wrong when it comes to features offered – now the app just needs a userbase to match its assets. 

Carlos Slim is a good man to have in Mobli’s corner. 

Mobli is already focused on securing the Latin American market – if you go to the company’s blog, there’s a special FAQ section in Portuguese, a nod to its Brazilian users – and with a tighter association with América Móvil, Mobli will gain more exposure in countries using the service. This more internationally-minded approach may give Mobli a way to secure a foothold of users in Latin America, and if its base grows in one area, it may propel interest from North American users as well. Mobli tweeted about its new investment money today in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, making sure to use the languages of the users it’s setting out to woo, and it’s a smart tactic.  

Carlos Slim is the second-richest man in the world, and his decision to back Mobli is an excellent sign for the app’s future, especially in the Latin American market. Slim previously invested heavily in Shazam, a successful music-discovery app – point being, he’s not known for picking losers. 

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