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Review: is disposable camera app Lapse refreshing or gimmicky?

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Developer: Lapse Ltd
Price: Free
Size: 213 MB
Version: 2.100.0
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Lapse – Disposable Camera

Originally launched in 2021, it took a new version of Lapse to be launched this past June to catapult the app to the top of the Photo & Video charts. So what’s the deal?

Lapse is a casual photo-sharing app that also positions itself as something of a tonic to the current level of Instagram fatigue. Its core gimmick (and we use that term advisedly) is a rough facsimile of the Polaroid instant photo experience.

The camera UI is very simple and portrait-only

Take a snap with Lapse’s heavily simplified camera UI, and you won’t be able to view the result instantly. Rather, at a random point over the next few hours, you’ll receive a notification from the app telling you that it’s been “developed”.

Tap on said notification and you’ll be taken into the app’s “darkroom” – a screen with the images all blocked out. Hold a button down and your images will be revealed.

The ‘darkroom’ conceit feels a little contrived

It’s at this point that a little dating app special sauce gets sprinkled on, as you swipe left or right to archive or share these snaps to your Journal – a loose timeline of snaps that gets shared with your friends.

This viral element touches upon what makes the app so compelling, but also so irritating. The onboarding process for Lapse is intuitive and fun, if a little long-winded, but the need to invite at least five friends to get into the app proper feels like an overly aggressive recruitment measure.

You’re forced to invite five friends

On the other hand, the app’s focus on friends over followers is kind of refreshing. You’ll only share images with people that you know, which naturally makes for a much less toxic community – or rather, lots of intimate sub-communities.

Zooming out a little, the whole ‘wait for images to be developed’ thing feels a bit contrived, especially if you’re old enough to remember when Polaroids were an actual (non-ironic) thing.

Your feed offers a simple vertically scrolling timeline

Sticking to that theme, if you’re someone who bridles at the fact that there’s no landscape photo support, it’s a pretty good indication that this app isn’t meant for you. You’re either too old, too much of a photography purist, or Instagram-style photo sharing simply doesn’t form a core part of your social life. Or possibly all three, in our case.

The most interesting thing about Lapse is the way it seeks to reintegrate fire-and-forget spontaneity into the photo-taking process. You’re not spending minutes trying to get the perfectly framed shot of yourself in front of a carefully curated scene. There are no filters to mess around with, just a set vintage film effect that further sells the whole casual Polaroid concept.

It’s certainly more ‘real’, even if that reality can feel a little lightweight and limited.