A preview of the Bolt app’s interface. (TechCrunch)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: There’s a new Snapchat competitor on the market.
No, I’m not talking about Facebook’s recently released Slingshot app. I’m talking about Bolt, Instagram’s first foray into speedy, ephemeral photo-messaging. The company released the app on iOS and Android today in Singapore, South Africa, and New Zealand. According to TechCrunch, the company is testing the waters in these English-speaking, Instagram-fluent countries before it launches the app in the United States.
Bolt was created so people could share images, videos, and messages with their contacts with just one quick tap. Once you’ve signed up with your phone number, Bolt loads your contacts list, which appears in the form of people’s faces at the bottom of the screen. Then you’re brought to the home screen, which serves as Bolt’s camera. Once you take a photo, you can send it to a friend by tapping her face.
After your friend gets the message, she can simply swipe it to make it disappear. After 30 days, the image will be wiped from Instagram’s servers for good.
In other words, Bolt isn’t all that different from Snapchat or some of Facebook’s existing photo-sharing apps. However, Bolt does have one admittedly clever feature that allows you to stop a photo from being sent. Simply shake your phone to “undo” a message within the first few seconds of sending it, and you can stop it mid-transit. This action will also give you the option to save the photo to your Camera Roll.
This is definitely a curious move by Instagram, which was acquired by Facebook in April 2012. As noted above, Zuckerberg and company released a similar app, Slingshot, in June, which joins a crew of other Facebook messaging apps, including Messenger, and — once Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition closes later this year — WhatsApp.
It seems Facebook will do anything, even rebrand and repackage superfluous apps in other countries, to try to bury its competitors.