Instagram’s new app Bolt is pretty good

Instagram is testing their new app Bolt in Singapore, New Zealand and South Africa for iOS and Android, and I got my grubby hands on it.  Bolt is one-tap photo messaging, like a simpler Snapchat.  And you know what…I kinda like it, though I don’t know how defensible it would be as a business.

It’s attractive and single-minded.  There’s no confusion to the app’s purpose.  One tap to send a photo or video might not seem much different than say, Snapchat’s three taps, but surprisingly it’s increased the number of messages I usually send.  Maybe that’s because testing Bolt is top-of-mind, but I don’t think so.

One tap messaging feels so effortless — it’s easier than typing a text and yet can say so much more.  Sending dozens of photos and videos throughout the day to let someone know how things are going doesn’t feel like work.  With Bolt, it feels natural.

The result is that I’ve been messaging more with Bolt than with Snapchat, though that increased messaging is limited mainly to my girlfriend.  (Don’t go there, perverts!)  One part is that few friends have Bolt so I don’t have many to message to, but I don’t think my behavior would change even if I did.  There are only a handful of individuals I’d care to send photos and videos to on a frequent basis.

Another part is that there aren’t many moments I want to share; so when it happens and I want to share it with my circle of friends, it’s annoying to send what’s essentially the same photo to multiple people one by one.  Being able to configure groups would be great — that’s the one missing feature that can make the biggest impact.

I like Bolt and it’ll come down to whether enough of my friends use it over Snapchat.  Yet I don’t know how defensible Bolt might be; the app’s claim-to-fame is essentially an interface feature that can be easily copied.  In fact, some say Bolt itself copied it from apps like Taptalk and Mirage.

Fortunately for Instagram, Kevin Systrom is more ruthless than Mark Zuckerberg. Unlike Zuckerberg with Poke, Systrom won’t hesitate to leverage Instagram’s wide installed base to give Bolt a boost; the kind that Taptalk and Mirage need and can’t get. We saw a hint of that already when news of Bolt first leaked.

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