When it comes to mobile-only social networks, Instagram needs no introduction. The insanely-popular photo sharing network for iPhone and Android has gathered countless fans across the globe in a rather short span of time. However, it holds true for Instagram as well that nothing’s perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. Take the interaction among the service’s users, for instance. The only interaction options that you get are through comments and “loving” a picture, but that’s about it – there are no direct messages, chat or anything else of the sort. While Instagram itself seems to deem it sufficient, third party developers disagree, and that’s perhaps the reason we see InstaTalks released in the iTunes App Store. Developed by Natrobit S.r.l., the app allows you to chat with any of your Instagram followers that also use InstaTalks. You can even search for the app’s users in your vicinity and connect with them on the go. Update: InstaTalks is now available for Android. We’ve added a link to its Play Store page at the end of the article.
InstaTalks doesn’t require a separate registration of its own, and you may sign in with your Instagram credentials. The app will require authorization to access your Instagram data, after which it’s pretty much smooth and conventional. On the permissions front, InstaTalks will send you push notifications and require access to location services to find users in your vicinity.
The interface of the app is divided into four main tabs, at the lower edge of the screen. Logging in for the first time will land you at the popular tab, which will list the most active users of the service. It’s worth noting at this point that you cannot communicate with anyone who’s not following you (unless you acquire super powers, but we’ll get to those later). Tapping any contact will open the new chat window, which will also let you see the recipient’s current availability (offline or online).
The next tab comprises a list of all the Instagram users that you follow. Again, you can only chat with those that a) use InstaTalks, and b) are following you back. Starting a new chat is really easy. All you need to do is tap a contact’s name, input your message and send away. A camera button next to the text field lets you send photos from your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad’s camera roll as well. The list can be filtered on the basis of all contacts, recent interactions and favorites, using the three buttons on top.
In the chat window itself, the star at top right lets you quickly mark the contact as favorite, while the grid next to it will pull thumbnails of all photos shared by that particular user on Instagram. You can, however, not view any photo in full using InstaTalks, and the app will direct you to Instagram if you have it installed on your iDevice.
The third tab lists your profile, which will be useful if someone were to search for you over the app’s network, while the final one boasts settings, where you can configure parameters like whether to show both followers or following, either of them, or none. Since the app supports push notifications, you may also toggle those on or off. It is also in settings that you are introduced to Super Powers (mentioned earlier), which are essentially in-app purchases that grant you features like chatting with anyone, irrespective of whether they follow you on Instagram or not, or filter search results with only those users that are currently online. Super Powers come in packs, offered in 1 month for $0.99, 3 months for $4.99, 6 months for $7.99 and Lifetime for $11.99. Quite honestly, the pricing model feels ridiculous to me, since you’re be saving more if you continue to opt for the $1/month option. However, there’s a catch – the developer states the availability of the 1 month Super Power pack to be limited, and it might not last that long for you to take any real advantage of it anyway. Also, irrespective of what plan you choose, they are priced rather steep for what they offer, but hey, that’s just my take.
InstaTalks takes a different approach towards Instagram, and brings something entirely new to the table. The app is available for free on iTunes App Store, and is iPhone/iPod touch optimized only. Whether you’ll find any use for it or not, you can only determine after giving it a try. On our part, we like the concept.
Update: InstaTalks is now available in the Google Play Store, too. You can download the app on your Android device via the link provided below.