I’ve been using a fairly recent (released late May 2011) social photo app Shnap!. Lately, there have been a lot of newcomers to try and challenge the biggest of the social photo apps, Instagram. Shnap! is pretty engaging, has a great interface, a good gimmick, and powerful tools for a social photo sharing app. It’s a fun app. All that’s missing is millions of users.

The UI is animated, well-designed and pretty fun. Shnap! is similar to Instagram in operation but with a lot of improvements. Import or shoot images from within the app. Invested in Instagram? You can even import images straight from your Instagram photostream – a cool feature. Whereas Instagram lets you share (and flood) your photostream, Shnap has a “currency system” or XPs. Posting images cost Shnap! virtual bucks, but you earn bucks by rating others’ images and having your images rated. Basically, this requires you to share and rate and give back to the community if you want to flood it – a pretty balanced approach. It looks like users can’t comment on individual images, but can leave messages on other user’s walls.

Image ratings are more detailed than just a like. They are more emotional, with ratings like “LOL”, “Cool”, “Wow”, and “Aww” (for puppies). It took me a while to realize that this is not a 0-5 rating scale, but different types of “likes.” I suspect, though, that “Cool” and “Wow!” ratings get you more bucks than a “Huh?”. The app isn’t very clear on how ratings are used.

Users can participate in user-created in-app photo contests, although currently the ability for most users to create a contest is under construction.

The toolset, while basic, gives users more control than the all or nothing filters in Instagram. In addition to presets, Shnap’s filters in its “lab” let you change the filter, border, and light effects independently. It has the basic set of filters – LOMO, croos-process, sepia, monochrome and several others. Schnap has a great Tiltshift filter with great visual cues and adjustable edge softness and blur.

The app supports both square format and 4:3 aspect ratios. Cropping is easy and quick and snaps to the edge of the frame.

While it doesn’t process images at full resolution, it saves at a larger 1024×764. Shnap! also saves geotag information. Instagram strips them out.

My biggest complaint about the app right now is that it lacks Instagram’s large and passionate legion of users. At this time, there seems to be a higher number of pet and food photos than I find on Instagram, but as the user base grows, the photos will become more diverse.

Many previous attempts at competing social photo sharing apps merely tried to duplicate what Instagram does – maybe with a different filter set or a few different features. Shnap! builds on Instagram’s strengths and adds a well-thought game level to the community. The XP point system helps keep a more balanced photostream.

In future updates, I’d like to see the ability (or more clarity) to comment on individual photos. And, of course, I’d really like to see more users. I still love Instagram for its ease of use in sharing photos and its community and won’t be giving up Instagram any time soon. Of the new social photo app startups, I’m going to be spending some time with Shnap!.

Shnap! is a free download for iOS devices. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.1 or later.

Follow me on Shnap! @ lifeinlofi. Are you also on Shnap!? Let us know your username in the comments below.

Shnap! - Shnap