Meet Phhhoto: The Lo-Fi Instagram Killer

If you haven't heard of the app Phhhoto you're certainly not alone. Phhhoto is a mobile GIF/cinemagraph/image sequence creating and sharing platform that was released last year on iOS and will be coming to Android in the future. As of this week it now has over a million registered users and is really starting to take the world by storm. I'll admit I didn't really take it seriously myself until I saw Jeremy Cowart post a couple Phhhotos. After having messed around with it for the last week I can honestly say it has me pretty excited. I'm on Phhhoto and here's why you should be too.

Following Instagram's release in 2010 and its wild success, there have been a handful of would-be competitors including platforms like Hipstamatic — all of which, in my opinion, are little more than imitators. Phhhoto, while certainly taking aim at the king of the photo-sharing hill, isn't a simple imitation; it's bringing something new to the table in terms of format and creative limitation.

You really need to see a Phhhoto to get what I mean:

To my eye there's something pretty unique about the lo-fi, somewhat jumpy look of the Phhhoto images. In my experience the Phhhotos you take just work, there's no need for post-processing, and even if there was you're only given one aesthetic option: a palate of three color processing choices. The "Spring" filter gives everything a blue-green hue, "Daze" is a standard color edit (used above), and "Solo" is the black and white offering.

A Phhhoto by @DylanHowell​

The app operates in a manner very similar to any stock phone camera: tap to focus, a minimal exposure compensation control, and an optional grid for people as obsessive as me. Another interesting quirk of the platform is that you cannot save your Phhhotos (either locally or in the app) after they're taken. Any "drafts" taken while the camera was open will be deleted after the camera is closed, meaning that if you don't choose to upload immediately it'll be gone.

A Phhhoto by @MarkMayaPhoto

It's really tremendous to see the creative work that's already starting to happen on the platform. Phhhoto has a curated collection of stellar images they call #WOW (analogous to the suggested images on Instagram). In my mind, Phhhoto is the wild west of social photo sharing, people are still figuring it out; we're figuring it out together.

A Phhhoto by @BrianKaiser

What I Like:

  • Creative limitation. There's only one way to take a Phhhoto: through the app. Aside from tap-to-focus and a minimal exposure compensation control, all you do it press the shutter button and let it do the rest. You're also limited in terms of postproduction with only three "filters" at the moment — two color, one black and white, and one aspect ratio of a vertical 3-by-4-ish crop. Truth be told, when I started using Phhhoto there was only color and black and white, a limitation I somewhat miss.
  • Lo-fi. I really like the look and feel of Phhhotos. No, they're not the files I pull out of my D800. Heck, they're not the files I'd normally get out of my iPhone, but there's a certain charm to the grainy, honest feeling images you see on the platform, though this may be a con to some.
  • Social. Phhhoto operates in a way that feels familiar (reminiscent of the best parts of Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram) without feeling derivative. It also has a moderately robust sharing capability built-in.

What I Don't Like:

  • The only thing I'm not too keen on is the "parties" tab on everyone's profile. While Phhhoto is ostensibly a social platform they also have #PRO, a Phhhoto photo booth service that allows users to link Phhhotos taken at parties with their account. While it is admittedly pretty darn cool, it isn't something that I think needs to be on every profile, especially when most people's party count will remain at zero. Then again I might be biased as I own a competing photo booth company.

If you decide to try out Phhhoto for yourself be sure to drop me a line @AustinRogers. My news feed is pretty boring at the moment, so I need cool people to follow.

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Vladimir Byazrov's picture

why everyone do fo ios first? ios is times smaller than android. so angry with google for being careless shits. apple holds developers balls in an iron fist. google sucks big time.

Eric Pare's picture

Because last time a study was made on that subject, what was found is that ios users are much more likely to do in-app purchase than android users. #bringthemoney

Austin Rogers's picture

As an ex PC / Android user I feel your pain. I finally gave in to Apple a couple years ago. ;)

Alex None's picture

Because 75% of the Android market that people are so quick to claim is TEH BIGGEST is brokeass third worlders with $29 phones running Android 2.2 who aren't going to pay for anything, ever.

Graf Almassy's picture

Mobile OS market share in the United States (2014):

- Android 53.2%
- iOS 41.3%
- Windows Phone 3.6%
- Blackberry 1.8%

If the developers doesn't care about the "poor" third world, still the Android is the largest platform in the US.

Austin Rogers's picture

I just can't wrap my head around those poor souls on Blackberry OS. ;)

Alex None's picture

And again, that's fragmented between a handful of people with big shiny expensive m8s and a bunch of rubbish prepaid throwaways.

I have an android tablet. I like it. But I'm under no illusions as to why the app store is rubbish for it.

Dylan Howell's picture

fave app at the moment! and I love saying phhhhhhhhhhhhoto.

Spy Black's picture

I wonder how long before facebook, Google, or Microsoft buys these guys out...

Anonymous's picture

Na, Ello is where it's at, right?

tim semega's picture

def not an instagram killer

Robert Herrera's picture

Ok everyone.. grab a hold of your buddy and move on to the next photo app.

Marc Flores's picture

You should at least get your facts straight. Hipstamatic did not follow Instagram as an imitator.

Hipstamatic launched December 2009, while Instagram didn't hit the market until October 2010.

Austin Rogers's picture

Thanks for pointing that out, you're totally right!

Sean Gibson's picture

They are following now.....

Atte Tanner's picture

Quite gimmicky, but still seems cool!

Austin Rogers's picture

Yeah, it does really toe the line. I have no idea why for some reason I feel this is less gimmicky than cinemagraphs, maybe because it's an ecosystem all its own. Definitely not for everyone.

Michael Comeau's picture

Ummm, can you explain how this will kill Instagram?

Austin Rogers's picture

Of course I can only speak for myself but recently Instagram has felt a little stale. That said, I'll be the first to admit that I tend to err on the fad-chaser side (I was on ello, I've tried - and liked - Affinity photo). I find new techniques / processes incredibly entertaining.

Alex None's picture

Instagram is about the userbase, not about gimmicky effects. Which is why it isnt any kind of 'instagram killer'. Yet another photo app that will never take off.

Brandon Silvera's picture

Been using this app for a few months & I love it

Sean Gibson's picture

This offers me nothing... sorry but I don't see anything appealing about any of the photos I've been looking at for the past 20 minutes from this app. If fact, the flickering actually makes them annoying, which I've never said in my life about anything photography related. How long before someone has a seizure using this app..... ha! (well, it's funny until it happens)

Austin Rogers's picture

I actually wondered myself about users with epilepsy. :/

Michelle Butler's picture

I love this app!. Some of the flickering images are fun, I have plenty on my profile. You have to find and follow those who have mastered the subtleties of the PHHHOTO. That is where this app elevates images to art in motion. Give it another try!

Savi You's picture

Austin, I'm curious what software you're running for your photobooth?

Austin Rogers's picture

I believe it's Social Booth, Savi :)

William Bonilla's picture

Awesome app but how do you remove your username from the video when you share in instagram?

Austin Rogers's picture

Unfortunately I don't know if that's a option yet. I'm hoping they free up sharing a little in the near future.