The Best Instagram App You're Not (Yet) Using

As a relatively recent convert to Instagram, a former outsider-looking-in, there are a few things about the app that I don’t particularly care for or make use of. Like most people I know, I’m not at all tempted to make use of the built-in, over-cooked, HDR-gone-wrong filters. When I do post a photo taken on my phone, it’s been edited in VSCO Cam. I’m also not a huge fan of the user interface in Instagram. It’s a little clunky, oft overwhelming, and features a rather uninspiring design. For a better viewing, browsing, and exploring experience I’ve turned to a seemingly unknown app, Primary.

Primary, initially released in 2013, is a damn-near-free ($1.99) Instagram perusing app for your iPhone or iPad. It makes searching, interacting, and exploring Instagram a whole lot more interesting, and provides a host of features that I feel are greatly lacking in the stock app.


This is by far the best thing Primary has going for it. While the vanilla Instagram app isn't too offensive in its design, it can get a little boring after a while. Primary shines in the design department, offering a simple, streamlined look with just the right amount of customizability. As seen below, you can also choose between dark and light themes. The app is easy to use, quick to understand, and has no real quirks in the design department aside from the limitations placed upon third-party apps by Instagram itself. For example, you cannot post photos from Primary. Rather, you have to log in to the actual Instagram app.

Above is the standard "light" theme, below is the "dark" theme.


We've all been there. At some point or another you've had to add someone that you really would have preferred not to. If you're tired of seeing a particular person or set of images with a tag (*cough* #selfie, #like4like, #model), Primary makes it really easy to filter out the bad and keep you and your feed all zen-like. You also have the ability to hide all videos (an option I happily keep turned on when using my phone).


One of the features I use most on Primary is the lists. Lists allow you to curate mini-feeds made up of a collection of hashtags (e.g., my "FILM" list is made up of #filmisnotdead, #35mmfilm, #mediumformatfilm, #kodakportra, #indiefilmlab, etc.). In using lists you can browse multiple tags at once, making for a nifty little mini-feed. You can also set up a list of particular people, perhaps one for your coworkers, drinkin' buddies, family, or the photographers whose work you respect most. The only real limitation of this feature is that, at the moment, lists are limited to ten people or hashtags per — so choose wisely.


One of the most important additions among the supplemented features offered by Primary is the ability to be plugged-in to more than one account at once. As someone who manages a personal account along with one for work, it's nice to be able to interact with people from one account then seamlessly and quickly switch over to my personal account with a couple taps. Though, again, it'd be nice if you could post from your multiple accounts rather than having to still use the stock app.

What I like

  • UI. You'd really be hard pressed to find something that works as well, as beautifully, or as intuitively as Primary. Everything works the way it should, the way you'd want it to. Double-tap to like, tap once to view, pinch to zoom. It's a dream.
  • Features. Lists, filters, and an improved/streamlined feed all make for an app that's quick to get around and not all that overwhelming.
  • Accounts. It's so nice to be able to keep an eye on multiple accounts at once. The ability to comment and interact through one or another is absolutely excellent.

What I dislike

  • Posting. This is really the thing that hampers this app more than anything else, though it's not the app's fault. If and when Instagram opens up to outside posting, I'm positive Primary will be the first to integrate it.
  • Notifications. Primary doesn't support notifications of likes, comments, or new followers like the stock app. This very well may be a deal breaker to some, but it hasn't been too much of an issue for me.

Overall, I'm very much inclined to believe that this app is well worth the $1.99 they charge. There's really no reason not to take it for a spin; like most apps, if it's not for you then you're not out much. Having used it now for the last couple of months it's honestly something I wouldn't want to live without.

You can pick up Primary from the App Store for $1.99.

If you do end up grabbing a copy for yourself, be sure to let me know what you think of it in the comments!

Austin Rogers's picture

Austin Rogers joined Fstoppers in 2014. Austin is a Columbus, OH editorial and lifestyle photographer, menswear aficionado, pseudo-bohemian, and semi-luddite. To keep up with him be sure to check out his profile on Fstoppers, website, drop him a line on Facebook, or throw him a follow on his fledgling Instagram account.

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Like... :)

Enjoy Usman!

Ive been using padgram on my iPad and only view instagram via that platform because it looks more like 500px, I'll check this one out. Thanks for the article!!

All you had to say was Multiple Accounts...

Instagram would be a lot more useful if they'd open up their api and allow third party apps to do things like manage followers and post images...

We are able to manage followers (you can follow, unfollow, request private users). You can even manage your follow requests if your own account is private.

But yes, being able to post as well would be great.

We as in this app? I couldn't find how to do that...

Yes, first navigate to someone's profile by tapping their avatar or username in the feed. You could also search for them to get to their profile. From there you can choose to follow (or unfollow).

Managing follow requests is done from the Settings screen, but only appears if you have pending requests. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Cool. Thanks. I did purchase the software, but haven't had time to explore it in that detail.

Wait, can you explain the limitations on the lists? Meaning only 10 people can be put on a list, or only 10 hashtags can be used? Or ?

Happy to, you can make a list with a max of ten people or ten hashtags. I don't beleive it can be a combination of people and hashtags. It hasn't been a huge pain but worth noting at least.

The issue here is that Instagram does not natively support lists. That means that for every item in your list we have to make a separate request to the Instagram API. We have to be very careful about not overloading that API.

Great app. Thanks for advice. Hope they will create Android version

Does anyone know if its more difficult to make an Android app? It seems silly not to make it for Android to maximize exposure and use of their product unless there was something prohibiting it.

I'm an android user too. I do feel like a bit of a second class citizen when it comes to creative / media apps. I can only assume it is because the apple stuff seems to be the default choice for many creatives so that's the developer's priority. It's quite likely my next phone will be an apple one as I feel like I'm missing out on too much good stuff!

Hi, I'm one-half of Think Tap Work (we made Primary). We wanted to address the whole Android thing:

Fair enough, thanks for the info.
From not being able to access Amazon prime videos using Android all the way thru' to little apps like this it does seem Apple has a bit of a hold on a lot of the things I'm interested in!

Thanks for that. It's nice to know why at least one company doesn't make Android apps.

Thank you for the heads up on this. I have recently started to use IG more, but you are correct, the UI is clunky.

Seems cool. Too bad I have a galaxy tho smh. The access to multiple accounts would be very helpful to me .

This is what the IG app SHOULD be. Multiple accounts alone is necessary