The Camera Bag: Instagram-friendly square photo frame appears; Facebook’s takeover gets FTC nod
posted Friday, August 24, 2012 at 4:11 PM EDT
Just a couple of months shy of its second birthday, photo app Instagram has become incredibly popular, incredibly quickly. Last April, we reported that social networking giant Facebook planned to purchase Instagram for a staggering one billion dollars. (The US Federal Trade Commission has now officially given that deal the nod, closing its nonpublic investigation without taking any action.)
Instagram's user base is also continuing to expand at an amazing rate. Just a week before the Facebook takeover, alongside the launch of its first Android release, the company reported having some 30 million iOS users. A month ago, it was said to have surpassed 80 million users, with over four billion photos shared worldwide.
That rapid growth is a sure-fire recipe for attracting the attention of third parties, all wanting to bask in a little reflected glory--and so it is for Instagram.
We told you in May about an unusual project from an Italian designer to create a camera mimicking the Instagram logo, with printing capabilities and of course the ability to work with the Instagram app. Although the Socialmatic project failed to take off on fundraising site Indiegogo, raising less than 12% of its US$50,000 fundraising goal, its creator subsequently claimed that a third party had stepped in to fill the gap. A press release suggested that Global Mobile Communications would provide the necessary funding and a partner for design and manufacture.
Now, another company has joined the scrum, this time seeking to launch an Instagram-friendly photo frame. Created by Design to Matter (aka D2M), a company with offices in Silicon Valley, California and Hong Kong, the Instacube is also crowd-funded, although through a different entity--this time, it's the popular Kickstarter service. The goal is to raise US$250,000 to fund development, and more than 90% has already been raised with almost a month before the funding deadline. At the current time, the lowest pledge level that will get you an Instacube once the product ships is set at around US$150, or you can get a pair of Instacubes for US$200. A limited-edition Kickstarter Green version is priced atr US$250, with 1,000 units to be made.
The Instacube's frame will have a 600 x 600 pixel, 6.5-inch, square LCD screen, matching the aspect ratio of photos shot with the Instagram app. The display will sit within a 7.5-inch square frame, with rounded-off corners reminiscent of the Instagram logo. Early renderings and a prototype show a four-color stripe wrapped around the back of the frame, but that along with the shape are about as far as the visual connection goes. Although the display's resolution of about 130 dpi isn't terribly high for something you're likely to view from just a few feet away, the Instacube's design otherwise seems quite sensible.
The design includes 802.11b/g/n wifi connectivity for getting your photos onto the device, and is based around an ARM processor running Google's Android operating system. 4GB of flash memory provides storage for your downloaded Instagram shots and those of other users you follow, while 256MB of RAM would cater to running the necessary software. A capacitive touch screen overlay would be used to interact with the Instacube, as would three physical buttons on the top panel used to switch the device on or off, toggle between Instagram feeds, and "Like" your favorite images. There's also a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery to get you through power cuts, or if you want to place the Instacube temporarily somewhere away from a power point.
Although there seems to be little chance of Socialmatic's project reaching market in its initial form, the Instacube project seems to us to have a better chance of success. Even if technical reasons don't prevent Socialmatic's design, the fact that the product is entirely based around another company's identity would mean that Facebook would have to provide its blessing, something that's unlikely to happen. It must also face the fact that the Instagram logo wasn't really designed with ergonomics in mind, let alone fitting in a real camera and printer. The Instacube, however, would seem to have rather more practical use. Also, although it still fairly clearly borrows from Instagram, it does so more indirectly. Obviously the name of both products shares the same base, but it's easy enough to change the name, if it transpires that Instagram's trademark actually covers photo frames.
(Instacube via John Nack on Adobe)