Backspaces is an iOS app from the company of the same name. It is presently being featured in the New and Noteworthy section of the App Store, and a number of Instagram users have been jumping ship to the new service following the recent controversial (and widely misinterpreted) changes to the former’s terms and conditions.
Despite the fact that Instagram users have been migrating to Backspaces — something which the team behind the new app has been actively encouraging — the concept is actually somewhat different, and is instead very similar to Story, which we reviewed here. The app allows users to combine photographs from the camera and their device’s photo library with text in order to create their own stories. Many users are simply using the app as an Instagram substitute, posting single photos with captions and inviting comments, but the real strength of Backspaces is the ability to collect multiple photo and text items together into a single post, and then allow the community to interact with the entire collection as a whole.
When creating a new story, users may take photographs and apply Instagram-esque visual filters and tilt-shift effects in real-time to the image. Standalone text elements and images from the photo library may also be added, but filters may not be applied to the latter. Once the elements of a story are in place, they can be rearranged by tapping and holding on them and sliding them into place, and photographs can have captions and location information added. The complete story can then be previewed as it will appear to other users — in fact, this is a required step before publishing — and privacy options chosen. Stories may be posted publicly, which means they appear in the app’s main stream, or set to “private,” which means they will only be visible to anyone who uses the direct link.
Stories in the app’s feed may be shared on Twitter, Facebook or via email, or the link copied to the clipboard. Stories are visible via the Web, too, meaning that those with Android devices or desktop browsers can enjoy a user’s posted content. An Android version is apparently in the works, but there is no sign of it just yet.
Backspaces is a very good app for the most part, but seems to have a few issues here and there, most notably with connectivity to other social services. When attempting to connect to Facebook to find or invite friends, for example, the app repeatedly hung and became non-responsive, with the spinning “data access” wheel on the iOS header bar continuing to indicate that it was attempting to access some information and repeatedly failing. When the app was restarted after this issue, it immediately crashed on open, but was then fine after that — though it did display the initial tutorial again. It’s an issue which may be tied to Internet connectivity rather than the app itself, but issues with connecting to other services could be better handled, perhaps simply by giving the user a little more feedback as to what is happening — and allowing them to cancel it if it is taking too long.
These issues aside, however, Backspaces has a huge amount of potential to become a very viable Instagram substitute for many users. The addition of the “story” functionality helps set it apart from its rival, and the community is very lively and active right now, with posts in the “featured” feeds getting a very large number of likes and comments. It’s simple to use and intuitive — particularly for Instagram veterans — and is, on the whole, a very good addition to iOS’ lineup of mobile-social photography networks.