Back in 2010, Hipstamatic was one of the most popular apps for early smartphone photography before it was superseded by Instagram’s vibrant social network. Now, over a decade later, Hipstamatic is attempting a comeback, relaunching in the iOS App Store with new networking features similar to those that originally drove Instagram’s success.
In fact, the new Hipstamatic social network looks very similar to early versions of Instagram — allowing photographers to publish images to a chronological feed and share their snaps with friends or like-minded users. It’s a simple format that Instagram itself has long since abandoned in favor of stuffing its platform with algorithms and features like Reels.
Hipstamatic seemingly has little interest in any of that, which could be good news for those frustrated by the modern Instagram experience. For example, users on Hipstamatic are limited to following a maximum of 99 people, distinguishing it from similar platforms and, hopefully, ensuring it remains a smaller community.
And, of course, the new platform still features Hipstamatic’s iconic camera filters and lenses for adding a variety of image effects in addition to a selection of editing tools to make adjustments to photographs without jumping to another app. The platform is still an iOS exclusive and completely free of ads. Hipstamatic co-founder Lucas Buick says the app will be supported through a “community membership program,” though he doesn’t say how much this will be, when it’ll be available, or whether it’ll unlock any benefits. We’ve contacted Buick to clarify and will update should we hear back.
Despite the similarities of this relaunch, Buick once claimed that Hipstamatic “never really tried to compete with Instagram.” But as Instagram’s popularity started to surge in 2011, it ultimately made Hipstamatic obsolete anyway. Not only did Instagram have social networking capabilities but it was also completely free, while Hipstamatic cost $1.99 to download. Hipstamatic was never shut down, instead remaining as a shadow of its former glory despite removing that download fee and eventually relaunching as the Hipstamatic X analog camera app in 2019.
The new Hipstamatic social platform faces an uphill battle to compete not just with Instagram but also the plethora of other photography-based networking apps like VSCO that exist today. Hipstamatic’s social network features are fairly basic by comparison, and most other platforms have since directed their attention toward video-based features anyway. But success doesn’t have to involve crushing rival platforms. Maybe Hipstamatic will finally find its own beat as the niche, hipster photography network it could have been.