Bolt Vs. Bolt: A Speedy, New Photo Messenger Debuts Using A Familiar Name

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There’s another Bolt on the App Store that isn’t Instagram’s experimental photo messenger, and it competes in the same photo messaging space. How will Instagram parent company Facebook react to this new Bolt? Even Bolt’s creator, Nick Bicanic, better known as the founder of mobile dating app Flikdate, doesn’t quite know.

He claims the team was just about to release their app when news of Instagram Bolt began to leak. They debated changing the name, but decided to just put it out there instead to see what would happen. So far, nothing yet. But that will likely change.

It may help that Instagram views its Bolt app as something of a market test. Today, the app is not available in the U.S. or Europe, where this new Bolt hopes to compete.

A Side Project That Grew

Bicanic is in an interesting position with regard to Bolt, and not just because of its name.

Earlier this month, FlikMedia acquired his video dating app Flikdate, and following the merger, he’s now the CEO of the combined companies.

But Bolt, he explains, is a side project that emerged from Bump Networks, a Hawaii-based incubator that he and business partner Arben Kryeziu use to test out new ideas. The team members who worked on Bolt (besides themselves) weren’t involved with L.A.-based Flikdate, he says. And Bolt wasn’t a part of the FlikMedia deal.

That means Bolt’s future is something of an unknown for now. There are some “interested parties” who may choose to invest in the app, Bicanic hints. If that happens, it seems logical that the new investor(s) may want to bring in a new team, reducing Bicanic’s role to adviser, as he’s now a CEO elsewhere.

But as for now, Bolt is live and ready for action.

How It Works

The idea for Bolt grew out of Bicanic’s own frustrations with modern-day photo sharing apps like Snapchat, he says.

“Snapchat is optimized for quickly sending photos, but it’s fairly crappy at being able to consume photos – number one, because they suddenly disappear; number two, because you have to hold your finger on the screen; number three because there’s no history,” explains Bicanic. “I thought: Why isn’t there a simple app that does both of these things combined? And that’s what we came up with.”

There are only three screens in Bolt: the homescreen where you just snap a photo and optionally add text before sending; the “Stack” for viewing images; and the inbox containing your message history.

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Explains Bicanic, what annoyed him about Snapchat’s “ephemeral” messages is that it allows the sender to decide how long a recipient should be interested in an image. “It seems really weird to force the sender to decide because it’s an extra burden on the sender. And how does the sender know how long I’m going to find this interesting?,” he says.

Unlike Snapchat, photos in Bolt don’t immediately disappear. But users can exert some control over their shares. If you have regrets, you can choose to delete the image, which removes it from all the phones it’s been sent to. (Unless, of course, someone grabbed a screenshot.)

The other interesting element is the photo stack, which lets you flip through the images your friends sent. A swipe to the left will delete the image, while a swipe right adds it to your photo history, which you can later browse through via the Inbox section.

Responses to shared photos are just as quick as sending, with a one-tap gesture (a tap and hold) to reply.

There are a number of similarities between this Bolt and Instagram’s Bolt…or Facebook’s Slingshot, or Taptalk, the app that Facebook itself cloned to make Slingshot, or seems “inspired by” with Instagram’s Bolt. It almost doesn’t matter which came first – what will matter, at the end of the day, is whether or not any of them can establish lasting traction. (Well, the lawyers may disagree on this point. We’ll see.)

Bolt is a free download here on iTunes. The Android version is about a week away. Given the competitive space, the company plans to encourage sign-ups with a $1,000 Amazon gift card given away to the most active user over the next 30 days, says Bicanic.

UPDATE, 10/14/2014: The company rebranded as “Pepper” because Instagram claimed to have the trademark on “Bolt.” “The funny thing is that Instagram’s cease and desist was fairly empty,” Bicanic says, “because our Twitter registration date for @theboltapp was prior to any Instagram leak – and our lawyers figured we had a good chance. But in the end, we felt it best to not disturb a giant,” he explained. 

Image credit: A.KaZaK, Shutterstock; Bolt