Feb 16, 2021 - Technology

Retro photo app is winning buzz

Illustration of a man looking at a phone with a digital cloud coming from the screen and covering his eyes like it's a blindfold
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new photo-sharing app that spread fast among hip users over the past week mimics a disposable camera on your iPhone — down to the viewfinder.

Driving the news: Dispo, a photo-sharing app co-founded by YouTube star David Dobrik, released a new, invite-only test version of its app less than a week ago and hit TestFlight's 10,000 user limit over the weekend after thousands of downloads in Japan.

How it works: The app takes its concept very seriously. The screen for snapping photos looks like the back of an old-fashioned disposable camera, leaving the user with only one option — turning the flash on and off.

  • There are no other photo editing features.
  • Photos "develop" the next morning at 9 a.m. local time, and users can create various "film rolls" to put them in.
  • Rolls can be shared between users, enabling them to collect photos among friends (or other users) as a social activity. Users can also like and comment on photos.
  • Public shared rolls have also sprung up around various interests, making it possible for users to interact with like-minded people.
  • The original app, currently in the App Store, didn't have these social sharing features.

Between the lines: Dispo's new app is taking users back in time to when photo-sharing apps were simpler and focused on social interactions.

  • Despite starting that way, apps like Instagram and Snapchat have become sophisticated tools for broadcasting polished content.
  • Dobrik, the 24-year-old social media star who got his start on the short video app Vine before moving to YouTube, came up with the idea after seeing his friends using actual disposable cameras at parties (pre-pandemic, of course).

The intrigue: Thanks to the buzz, Dispo is already getting interest from investors and some have even preemptively sent the company term sheets for a Series A funding round, Axios has learned.

What's next: The company is expected to push out the new app in the App Store very soon, and has said it will also release an Android app this year.

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