If you’ve had your ear to the ground in the app world, you’ll have heard of David Dobrik’s new retro-feel photography app Dispo. People are pretty excited about it, and rightfully so. But is the interface addictive enough? Will users be willing to wait until the next day to see their photos once the novelty wears off? And is Dispo good enough to rival Instagram? Let’s take a look.
What Makes Dispo Unique?
Dispo’s icon – with its neon gradient and central camera lens – is a clear nod to the social media giant Instagram. And yet it’s daring to do something new and, honestly, pretty brave.
As the name (short for ‘disposable’) suggests, Dispo is a modern reimagining of the disposable camera. Take your photos – previewed on a tiny viewfinder-sized screen – then wait patiently to see them the next day.
No deleting, no editing. An interesting challenge to the orchestrated, artificial way that digital photography allows us to capture our lives.
So what’s it like?
From the interactive illustration when you first open the app to the slick design of your profile homepage, it’s clear that a lot of money was spent here on eye-catching design.
In particular, I’m a fan of the groovy holographic placeholders shown before you add any photos, and the animated rolls of film here and there are very swish.
The opening ‘Disposable Digicam’ graphic is similarly brilliant, though unfortunately only seen when you’re first creating an account.
Most importantly though, the appearance of the “camera” itself perfectly reimagines the retro look of a disposable cam (complete with a spot-on mottled texture effect on the “plastic”). I can almost feel it!
Overall, Dispo succeeds in replicating the immediacy of shooting with a disposable cam, and the suspense in waiting for the results, without the physical element of dropping off or picking up the film.
But is this actually as much of a benefit as it seems?
If you’ve used a disposable camera before, you’ll know the sensation of pushing your thumb over the ridges of the little wheel to reach the next portion of film and take a photo.
You’ll know the cheap feel of it in your hands, chucking it across the room so your friend can take a photo. How haphazard and freeing it can be to take photos with something that’s inexpensive and hard to break.
And, ultimately, Dispo is missing that satisfying, tactile element. This is to be expected of course, but they could have partially made up for this by including some satisfying sound effects or an actual wheel-turning functionality to get to the next photo.
Moreover, while it’s well-designed overall, not every part of the interface is nice to look at. I’m not so sure about the squashed font at the top of the screen, or the similarly squashed-looking icons at the bottom.
Then again, this is the app’s first iteration, so let’s call these things “niggles”, rather than problems.
In 2020, Instagram’s user base only continued to grow, but there’s no questioning that many are now using it out of necessity. Because, well, it’s what everyone else uses.
It’s time for something new. But is Dispo good and addictive enough to rival the biggest photo-sharing app in the world?
My guess is that if Dispo plays its cards right – i.e. stays in its lane and avoids adding photo editing features and filters – it can live in harmony with Instagram as a good idea in its own right.
At a point where “Instagrammable”, “for the gram”, and “Instagram friendly” are synonymous with an artificial, sterile, even fake, presentation of life, there’s certainly room for something more spontaneous. And this might just be it.
Will Dispo Survive After the Hype?
At best, Dispo is fun, novel, and a clever commentary on our relationship with digital photography. It might even challenge people to be less anxious about the photos they post being “perfect” every time.
But at worst, Dispo is all the inconvenience of a disposable cam without the physical novelty of it. If anything, it might make you want a disposable camera more, or (for something more immediate and long-term) an Instax.
The experience of waiting to see your pics is perfect for special events, parties and day trips. So in the summer months – months of picnics and barbecues and (if we’re lucky) holidays – Dispo might thrive.
But is Dispo good fun enough for day to day photo taking? And will much quotidian photography even happen if lockdowns continue? Only time will tell. What I will say is that you have to try it. Dispo is truly a refreshing social media experience, and a great feat of app-building ingenuity.