Get the 8-bit look with InstaPixel

InstaPixel is a new iOS app from Ichiban Mobile. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and is currently highlighted in the New section of the store’s Photo & Video category.

InstaPixel is a photo manipulation app with a focus on applying retro pixel-art “stickers” to an image in order to give a photograph a 1980s-style “8-bit” look. Users may work with either a photo they take then and there or an image from their camera roll. They are then prompted to apply some basic edits to the image using Aviary’s standard mobile photo editing SDK, and after confirming these edits they can get started on applying and manipulating the heavily-pixelated stickers to create their image.

Adding a sticker is a simple case of tapping the “add” button at the top of the screen, scrolling through the list of available stickers and then choosing one. Before fine-tuning the sticker’s location, the user may adjust the red, green and blue tint of the sticker with three sliders — though this has no effect whatsoever on stickers which only have black and white as their main colors. Once the tint has been set, the sticker can be dragged around with one finger, or rotated and resized with pinch gestures. A sticker may be removed by tapping on it and then tapping on a “cross” icon at the top of the screen, or it may be flipped by tapping an icon that depicts a pair of arrows. The user may return to the Aviary editor at any time by tapping a “magic wand” icon, but doing so flattens the image, meaning that sticker positions and sizes may no longer be adjusted. Once an image has been finished to the user’s satisfaction, it may be saved to the device’s camera roll — there is no built-in sharing functionality.

InstaPixel is a sound idea in theory, but in practice it is a complete mess. The Aviary SDK looks tacked on, doesn’t match the style of the rest of the app and doesn’t make it clear to the user that it is not the main part of the software — a matter confused further by the fact that Aviary also offers “sticker” functionality; the icons used in the interface aren’t especially intuitive; the app doesn’t ask for confirmation before returning to the menu if the button in the upper-right corner of the screen is tapped, potentially losing the user’s work; and, worst of all, the app is absolutely riddled with incredibly obtrusive full-screen pop-up ads.

In fact, the first thing the user sees upon starting the app is not its title screen or main menu — it is a pop-up ad which, when dismissed, reveals another pop-up ad underneath. These ads frequently return uninvited while the user is just attempting to use the app, and they make it very difficult to concentrate at times. Most of the apps are of the non-specific, rather misleading variety, too, promising things like “free games” and “free apps” without giving any indication of what the user might be letting themselves in for if they tap on it. And because these ads frequently appear unannounced, it is very easy to accidentally tap on them. This sort of behavior shows a complete lack of consideration for the end user, and ultimately makes InstaPixel feel cheap, sleazy and totally undesirable to use.

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

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