Instagram To Launch Android Version of Photo-Sharing App

Better late than never. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom announced at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, TX Sunday that an Android version of the photo-sharing app was coming soon.

The company is currently testing the Android app in private Beta and according to Instagram’s co-founder, it’s looking good. “In some ways, it’s better than our iOS app,” Systrom told TechCrunch editor Alexia Tsotsis. “It’s crazy.”

Not that the iOS app’s 27 million registered users are complaining.  Systrom also said that since its launch in the fall of 2010, Instagram was now seeing “Facebook-level engagement,” with 67 percent of its active users having used the app the day before his talk at the conference.

Instagram applies light filters to images taken with a smartphone for a variety of vintage effects, and can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and within the network. Combined with the high quality of the iPhone 4’s built-in camera, the results rival that of a point-and-shoot. Getty Images even licensed some Instagram-made portraits of the New York Yankees.

Android users may be wondering what took the company so long to make the app available on other devices. Near the end of 2011, Android claimed 47 percent of the smartphones sold in the U.S., which is a significant share of the market to overlook. (Apple’s iOS devices were close behind at 43 percent.)

“I don’t think it took us so long,” said Systrom. “We just had priorities. Had we tried to be both on Android and iPhone at the same time, it would’ve been tough to innovate in the way that we have.”

The co-founder added that the company had been too focused on scaling the app for the iOS to start on a second device.  He did not say when the Android app would be available for download. Until then, competitor PicPlz is still available on Google Play.