Polaroid announced plans at CES to release Socialmatic, a camera that takes Polaroid film photographs and connects to the Internet, in the fall of 2014. The squat, colorful camera bears more than a passing resemblance to the Instagram logo, and it looks like a fun gadget, one that combines the throwback appeal of handling physical pictures with digital sharing culture.
Socialmatic has been in the works for a while; it started as an idea independent of Polaroid, created by ADR Studios and propelled by the concept of combining old and new photography fads.
Now, posting a photo on Instagram is much easier (and less expensive) than printing out a physical copy. Pictures posted on Instagram don’t have to go through years of decay and yellowing in a bulky photo album before they achieve their enviable, vintage-hip faded tinge. Instead, Instagram provides instant nostalgia by processing our recent moments into images that look like old memories. But there’s something particularly satisfying about taking Polaroids — the ritual of refilling the cartridge, the building anticipation as you wait for the image to appear, the gratifying tangibility of those little white-rimmed squares. Socialmatic lets you play in both worlds, since it connects to Wi-Fi and runs on Android, and allows users to print out a physical picture while simultaneously posting to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and any other online destination.
Of course, Socialmatic doesn’t preserve all of the charms of Polaroid. The thrill of waiting to see what the photo looks like is gone, since you can choose which picture you want using the 4.5-inch touchscreen. And you don’t need to shake Polaroid’s ZINK (Zero Ink) paper to get a clear image (although you’re not actually supposed to shake Polaroids, contrary to Andre3000’s advice). Then again, you don’t have to waste expensive film on a crappy picture, since you can select which one you want.
The Socialmatic is 14-megapixels, with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for selfie times. You get 4 GB of storage with the ability to expand with a microSD. I haven’t tested it myself, so I can’t vouch for the quality of the photos, but I’m assuming the draw is primarily the Polaroid hook. No word yet on the price.