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Pitches for group photo-sharing apps are sort of like pitches for “the Instagram for video” products: they are usually treated with caution. Lots of people have tried to crack the nut, but we haven’t seen any clear winners yet. Color was one of the most high-profile attempts at letting friends easily share their photos with people around them, but that didn’t come close to being a hit despite the hype when it launched.
Two different products for iOS have come onto the scene recently — Albumatic debuted last week, and Cluster plans to launch Wednesday morning. Both take a modern approach to sharing photos with friends, and they look different from most everything we’ve seen before. The apps themselves are simpler (they involve minimal instructions or tagging), and they make it easy to save photos shared by friends that you want to keep to your camera roll and invite people to albums. Within a few seconds of opening both apps, I clearly understood how they worked and I was able to get something out of them pretty quickly.
The problems with group photo-sharing are clear. I spent Thanksgiving this year with six friends here in San Francisco, and we were all snapping photos on our iPhones throughout the day. By the end of the night, we all wanted each other’s photos for Instagram or Facebook, for sharing with absent friends and parents. But there wasn’t an obvious way to dump all our photos into one big album. We investigated Dropbox and Flock, but neither seemed like a fit, and we ended up using Apple’s photo stream, although it was a clunky solution.
So what could we have used instead? As of this week, we’d have two new options:
With Albumatic, which launched last week, a user can create an album at the beginning of an ongoing event and add friends who are located nearby to contribute photos as the event happens. Users can like or comment on photos, and if your friends are creating events in distant locations, you can follow along and get notifications when they add the the album (although you can’t contribute if you’re not physically there).
It seems like it might contribute to some serious FOMO, but could also be a fun way to keep up with far-flung families, groups of friends in other cities, or destination weddings you can’t attend. And for the event participants who are present and adding photos, it could be a good way to create a record of the event that you can easily share. Albumatic is clearly meant for in-the-moment sharing.
Cluster takes a slightly different approach to photo-sharing that I found immediately easier to use, compared to other options, after opening the app. Instead of trying to collect photos from party attendees as the party is happening, Cluster wants you to create an album when you get home that night and let everyone add photos after the fact. It’s a different approach that could work for different people.
Once you create an event and pick your photos, you tell the app which friends were there, and it notifies them to add their photos (using the time and geolocation to suggest photos they might want to add). In testing, the app was quite accurate in picking up which photos I should contribute to events I attended, even in months past.
Cluster seems like it has more post-event potential than Albumatic, but it will be interesting to see how both play out at SXSW in Austin next week and whether one is more conducive to sharing than the other.
This story was corrected at 10:37am to note that you can upload photos in Albumatic from the camera roll as well as take them in the app.