Instagram takes on Snapchat with lightning fast ‘Bolt’ app

Instagram Bolt

As expected, Instagram has launched a new photo and video messaging app called Bolt, though for the time being only iOS and Android users in New Zealand, South Africa, and Singapore can put it through its paces.

As its name suggests, speed and ease of use is at the heart of Snapchat-like Bolt, with the free app allowing for the super-fast sending of images and videos to friends.

To send a snap, simply tap on a friend’s profile photo at the bottom of the screen and off it goes – that’s right, your friend’s photo acts as the camera’s shutter.

Up to 20 friends can be added by selecting from your phone’s contacts, though you can only send images to one person at a time. There are no editing tools to spruce up your snaps, “so people can see the world as you do,” the Bolt team says.

Sending a video is equally simple – just keep your finger pressed on the profile picture instead of tapping it.

Comparable to Snapchat, you can add text to your image, though be sure to do it before you tap on your friend’s profile picture or you’ll miss your chance. However, unlike Snapchat, you decide when to delete the image, an action performed simply by swiping it away.

A neat touch is the ability to ‘unsend’ a message. To do this, you have to shake your handset within a few seconds of sending the image. While you’ll have to act fast to grab an outgoing shot, it’s a feature that’s sure to come in handy from time to time.

Bolt is a standalone offering, meaning you don’t need an Instagram account – or one with parent company Facebook for that matter – in order to use it.

Soft launch

So, why has it gone for a launch softer than a freshly baked muffin? Well, wanting to avoid issues that might come with a global launch, Instagram has chosen to take things one step at a time, going for locations with interconnected populations that aren’t overwhelmingly massive, thereby allowing it to comfortably scale the experience.

Bolt’s launch comes hot on the heels of Facebook’s similar Slingshot app, suggesting Facebook, which acquired Instagram two years ago, has kept its word about keeping its nose out of Instagram’s affairs, leaving it pretty much to its own devices.

While similar, Slingshot lets you send out content to many contacts at once, whereas with Bolt it’s just one. Slingshot also incorporates a system where you have to return a photo to the sender before you can view theirs. Bolt seems to be an altogether simpler service, in that respect.

There’s no word on when Bolt will get a wider rollout, but it’s likely the Instagram team won’t want to drag out the launch, meaning it could land in, for example, the US and Europe in the coming weeks. We’ll keep you posted.

[Bolt for iOS, Bolt for Android]