Photo-sharing app Frontback just received a brand new update in the App Store. The two main new features are a new notification screen and the addition of a timer in the photo-taking screen. This way, you can just tap once to take the front picture, and a timer will start for the back picture, like in a photo booth.
The new hands free self-timer is also a fun way to take a Frontback. When the camera turns towards you, your friends will see the timer on your screen and get ready for the picture. It’s much more natural than having to press the button yourself.
“We now have the feature set that we wanted,” co-founder and CEO Frédéric della Faille told me in a phone interview. “For us, this is the v1 because you have the notification panel that allows you to move back in time. There is the ‘Discover’ tab as well that lets you get unlimited content, with the popular algorithm to surface nice posts from the community.”
It is now the third time that della Faille told me that Frontback is now worthy of the v1 tag. Arguably, the first release in the App Store wasn’t good enough. Developed over the course of four weeks, it was a great proof of concept. It was a nice photo-taking app to capture fleeting moments. But there wasn’t any profile. There wasn’t any way to follow and unfollow someone.
The much-needed September update brought all those features. At the time, della Faille considered it as the true version 1. Yet, one important thing was still missing: a community.
The company hired a community manager (Elissa Patel) and someone who doesn’t work on design or development (Spencer Chen). His job consists of listening to user feedback, optimizing engagement and working on metrics. He’s the missing link between the community and the product team.
Frontback has purposely remained under the radar for the last few months to work on these aspects. For example, the new ‘Discover’ tab was released in January without any big announcement, even though it introduced a global feed to satisfy hardcore users. Other features in today’s update include Facebook single sign-on, localizations in Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, and French, and fullscreen photo views with a translucent status bar. Overall, the app feels a lot more polished now.
And the startup attracted a massive international audience with these product updates, with Japan, China and Brazil now above the U.S. when it comes to usage numbers — 90 percent of Frontback’s new users are now coming from outside the U.S.
The last couple of updates have been really good to improve engagement. For example, every time someone launches the app, he or she now gives 12.5 likes on average — people are spending time in the app. Simultaneously, Frontback has doubled its active user base between December and January.
“We are very excited about what’s happening when it comes to our community,” della Faille said. “We are doing it all ourselves and the numbers have been really good lately.”
Now, the startup is ready for its big push. It will try to put the app into everyone’s hands. It thinks it has a strong core community to make newcomers stick around. And most of this community is in Asia. Without even realizing it, the team has cracked the code of social apps in Asia. Japanese users are much more active than American users, sharing four times as much.
I also asked della Faille about other apps that have been taking cues from Frontback’s design, like Mindie, Flink, and even Facebook Paper. “We think we have had an impact on design when you see Mindie, Flink and others,” he said. “We try to associate a finger swipe with an emotion, like Tinder. But we didn’t realize that the overall design trend was going to go in that direction. Now, content comes first, and not design.”