Hands On With… PicPlz

Photo sharing web applications are nothing new.  Established sites as Flickr, Picasa and Facebook (which maintains its position the world’s largest photo sharing site) have been around for years.  And yet, over the past couple of weeks there has been a palpable buzz around socially-integrated, mobile-based photo sharing services.

The venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz, for example, made a splash last week by publicly switching its ongoing investment focus from the popular iPhone app Instagram, to rival Picplz (prompting Marc Andreesen himself to post an explanation to Quora).  Meanwhile, Instagram — which like Picplz allows its users to apply filters and share mobile photos — continues to add 100,000 users per week.  And most recently, Path launched amid much fanfare as a closed social system for photo sharing and social networking.

One Happy, One Mad

My first Picplz photo: "One Happy, One Mad."

All the recent hype over these social photo sharing services has caused some to ask, “So What’s With All the Photo Sharing Apps?”  Well, these new services are poised to not only siphon away users from more established photo sharing players, but to also add incremental value to the experience of photo sharing.  For that reason, I recently when “hands on” with Picplz, one of the hotter new entrants to the highly competitive (but as yet not monetized) photo sharing space.  Feel free to check out my Picplz profile.

In a nutshell, here is what I’ve found:  PicPlz is a lot of fun.  Because Picplz is geared mainly toward mobile devices (though photos can be shared via the Picplz website), its mobile app relies on a minimalist, intuitive design.  There really is no learning curve.  The application makes it simple to snap a photo, apply one of several filters, add comments and post them with the photo to both Twitter and Facebook.  Picplz even recognizes your location, displays it on a Google Map and provides an option to check in on Foursquare.

While these social sharing and check in features are useful and critical for PicPlz’s growth, the tool’s filters really are its incremental value.  With filter effects such as “Instant Film,” “High Contrast Monochrome,” and “the 70s,” simple snapshots are instantly transformed into artsy photos worthy of sharing across social networks.  In total, six filter effects are currently available on Picplz, compared with eleven for Instagram.

In summary, Picplz is a great option for mobile smartphone users who want to add style to photos and share them both within Picplz and across social networks.  Instagram may offer more filters and an option to publish photos to Flickr (something that Picplz lacks).  However, unlike popular iPhone-only apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic, Picplz is available for both iPhone and Android users  — which has helped fuel over 130,000-plus downloads to date.  And while the path to monetization remains elusive for these services, the value that they add to the photo sharing experience makes them a must-have for smartphone users.

What do you think? Have you tried Picplz?  If so, let me know what you think of it.