Minimum-effort photojournals with Alibi

AlibiAlibi is a new iOS app from Armillary. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store.

Alibi positions itself as a “camera app without a lens,” its core function being to allow users to automatically create a photo-journal of their travels without their phone having to leave their pocket. This is achieved by using iOS’ background location services to perform regular Foursquare check-ins, and cross-referencing these check-ins with recent Instagram posts. What eventually builds up over time is a feed of places the user has been coupled with collections of photographs from these places.

Essentially, that’s all Alibi does — there’s no social network built in to the app and seemingly no means of actually interacting with either the photos or the users that are retrieved. Tapping on an individual photo does allow the user to see it up close along with who posted it, their Instagram username and any captions they left on it, but any further interaction must be performed within Instagram itself — the app does, at least, provide a button to take users directly to Instagram, but this button does absolutely nothing if the Instagram app is not currently installed on the device.

The app is well-presented, with attractive, clean fonts and good, subtle animation on interface elements. It can be a little slow to load full-detail photos on mobile connections, but it at least shows a (somewhat blurry) preview image while loading, so users can get an idea of what they can expect to see while they wait. The “Pull to refresh” function, used to manually create a new entry in the “journal,” requires pulling just slightly too far to be comfortable, and doesn’t behave in quite the same way as other apps — rather than refreshing when the user releases their finger at full “tension,” it instead immediately refreshes when the user has pulled hard enough. It’s a minor issue, but those who are more used to the standard way iOS does things might not like it.

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Alibi is a good idea in theory, but in practice it is not particularly compatible with the wide variety of ways that people use Instagram. The core principle of the app assumes that Instagram users are taking pictures of the places they are in, when in fact it is much more common to see pictures of people, food and drinks that are not directly relevant to the location at all. This makes the supposed “visual journal” that the app creates all but useless to those who do not know the people (or lattes) in the pictures — though in theory it does at least provide another means for local users to discover one another. A complete lack of any other social features — no liking, sharing or commenting — makes this app a largely passive experience, and one which is not particularly useful in the long run. It’s an interesting idea, for sure, but the lack of things to actually do with it mean that most users will probably forget about it before long.

You can follow Alibi’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.