Twitter’s New Photo Filters vs. Instagram: Hands-On Review

Instagram’s been the bold social network to take on industry greats, namely Twitter.  The photo-sharing app is a mobile wonder, revitalizing the “Twitter” experience with images, hashtags and search-driven browsing.  This year’s been great for Instagram, being acquired by Facebook for $1 billion and all, and going on to break a few of its own records with explosive traffic boosts during the presidential debates, Superstorm Sandy and Thanksgiving.

Twitter’s been slow to incorporate media capabilities into its social network, even losing Instagram’s support of Twitter Cards, the API integration needed to display their users’ photos on Twitter streams.  The battle between these two social mavens has gotten ugly, with both networks doing their best to control the user experience.

But Twitter’s not taking it lying down.  Showing its age, Twitter’s released a copycat version of Instagram’s popular photo filters, hoping to minimize the use of a third-party app for sharing images.  The timing couldn’t have been better for Twitter, seeing as Instagram’s completely removed their support for Twitter Cards.

The question now is, will Instagram users continue using Instagram, knowing their images won’t display directly in Twitter feeds?  Or will they just use the Twitter app, now complete with its own photo filters?

Here’s a comparison of Twitter’s new photo filters and Instagram.  *It’s important to note that Twitter’s new photo filters are only available on Android smartphones and tablets.  iPhone users will have to wait, and there’s no telling if we’ll see this feature added to the desktop version.

Twitter photo filters

When you compose a tweet from the Twitter Android app, you’ll have a new option to add a filter to attached photos.  There’s an icon with three overlapping circles, which will pull up the new filter option.

You get 9 filters total, all pretty basic and what you’d expect.  The variety is minimal, from Black & White to Sepia and Vignette.  There’s also a blue-tone option called Cool, a yellow-tone option called Happy and a gritty one called…Gritty.

You can load all the filters on one screen (with the tablet version) and select the one you want, or flip through each filter one-by-one.  The ability to see how your image looks in each filter on one screen is definitely a perk.

The cropping option didn’t work for me on this test run.

What’s missing?

Twitter has less variety than Instagram, known for giving photos a retro effect.  There’s no obvious borders or edge-fading, so Twitter will likely lose some cool points here.


The crowd favorite, Instagram’s app is dedicated to photo-sharing.  You can take a photo or pull one from your gallery, and that’s when things get fun.  There’s a string of filters to choose from, and you can see their effects on your photo as you select each filter by scrolling at the bottom of the screen.

One perk for Instagram is its bubbling ecosystem of apps designed to view or edit Instagram photos, creating a counterculture all its own.

What’s missing?

Instagram is a growing social network, but it still doesn’t have the presence and reach that Twitter’s built over the years.

Who’s the winner?

Instagram still wins when it comes to a straight comparisson of photo-filter capabilities.  They weren’t the first to make photo filters, but they’ve built a mini empire around photo-sharing.  They still retain their “cool factor,” whereas Twitter is clearly following the leader.

But Instagram’s business decision to pull support for image displaying on Twitter is a strike against consumers, limiting their experience in an effort to build out their own web presence.  I don’t think Twitter’s new filters are crafty enough to replace Instagram all together, but incorporating more variety may sway users in their favor.

Tired of the war between Instagram and Twitter?  Try these alternative apps for sharing filtered images on Twitter.