The boom of social networking apps: Piictu, Trover, Viddy and more

After the experiences with Game Center and Ping!, we could agree that Apple has failed to create its own social community for iOS users. The next update in the operating system embeds Twitter in almost every native app, a move welcomed by many, which demonstrates the high risk of failure creating an iOS-specific social network from scratch. If Apple is embracing a established successful service, what leads other to do the contrary?

The trend is clear—at least for venture capital funds. Despite the lack of an obvious monetisation plan, photo sharing apps for iOS are on the spotlight: the popular free app Instagram raised $7 million in funding while Path, Picplz and Color obtained $10, $5 and a whopping $41 million respectively from angel investors. That's a lot for such a small cake! Let's have a look at the social networking section on the App Store to find the next big thing that could be worth millions in the next months.

Piictu

The new kid on the block puts social in social photo sharing apps. Unlike other filter-based photo apps, Piictu is built around photography based conversations: snap something you find interesting and share it with others under a common theme—good advice signs, what are you drinking?, show me your homescreen. Reply to a stream with your own picture or start a new conversation. You get the idea.  

Recently released on the App Store, I think Piictu is off to a good start. The first time you launch the app, you don't need to add friends and create an account—you can simple browse all the streams, get curious about it and then register. Many other social apps fail in this area. One of the more pleasing notes if the gorgeous UI in Piictu. Simple but elegant options on the top bar, horizontal and vertical scrolling and great level of detail make it a very refined-looking app. Perhaps it's the contribution of Tapmates's Robin Raszka, who brought us Cookmate.

Trover

Imagine arriving to a place you've never been and instantly see pictures of interesting spots shared by others. Trover adds a geo-location layer to social photo sharing to allow users to discover cool things nearby. Without any need of creating an account, simply launch the app and you'll see the recommendations by complete strangers. If you find a great curator of graffiti in your area, you can choose to follow and build up a small network of "discoverers". 

Unlike other apps attempting to do the same, Trover has plenty of content in big cities out of the US and a enough flexibility to allow users to express themselves. I often take pics of food at restaurants, maybe I could use Trover to find and share discoveries with fellow foodies. It's also quite a time-killer when you are waiting for someone in a neighbourhood you are not familiar with and see all the recommended spots within a walking radius.

Pinterest by Cold Brew Labs

Also playing around the curation concept, Pinterest allows iPhone users to collect and categorise things you like. The main difference is the ability to "pin" websites with products, for instance, allowing followers to find the source online. Although it requires an invite to create an account, the process should be easy enough thanks to the Facebook and Twitter integration—which are also used for sharing and commenting.

Since the curation process in Pinterest is web browsing based, the developer is encouraging bloggers and site owners to add "Pin it" and "Follow" buttons. This promotes the good vibes of providing credit and avoid spamming, hence the invitation only access. The moment that "Pin it" plugin becomes as ubiquitous as the Instapaper one on third party apps and becomes less restrictive with invites, the service could really take off.

Appysnap by Never Odd Or Even

Now get your camera to accomplish something. Certain groups on Flickr have been playing with the idea of competitions where amateur photographers have to go out and take a picture on a relevant topic to impress their peers. Appysnap promises a similar experience wrapping a reward system and mission briefings within the app itself.

Taking part in the competition is as easy as getting a push notification with instructions and upload a photo with your iPhone's camera. The quickest players get points, and at the end of every month, those points can be used to redeem prizes (iTunes gift cards?). Some of the rewards have included Kindles and Amazon vouchers, but might include products from Threadless and other cool brands in the future. The missions are fairly imaginative and easy to complete. I warn you that what starts as a novelty social app, can become a serious addiction!

Viddy

Viddy is to videos what Instagram is to photos. Starting with the idea that most of us are terrible at shooting video, this app allow us to quickly edit and add effects to our clips… up to 15 seconds. What started as a simple way of sharing short video clips is rapidly evolving to a video journal community with people broadcasting their daily short messages. Think of it as YouTubers (Viddyers?) with an iPhone. Again, I'm really surprised with the intense activity of some users and the creativity out there. Some of those clips are hilarious!  

Spreaker

Ever fantasised with hosting your own radio show? Spreaker gives you your chance with the help of your web browser (via Flash). The DJ console makes for a decent mixer for budding DJs and radio aficionados willing to create their own shows. Browse and choose tracks from a cloud-based storage to use them in your show, use the faders to transition to episode sections and even get guests to chat via Skype.

You can broadcast live and save the shows pretty much like a podcast. This is where the iPhone app comes into place: browse and stream your favourite shows at a surprising decent quality. Too bad you can't create anything from the app itself. The next step? Ditch that Flash support and make the DJ console a native iPad app to be able to go truly PC-free.

Foxfly Messenger

With the announcement of iMessage in the upcoming iOS 5, Foxfly could struggle. Fortunately, what started as a group messaging cross-platform app to compete against the likes of WhatsApp, is evolving to a powerful tool to have private chats with groups of friends… and business contacts.

The developer behind it is aiming at professionals with the beta of Foxfly Pro integrating LinkedIn and FourSquare features. With these changes, the app could be an interesting ice breaker in business events and trade shows. 

BuzzE by Frendz

Take the sleazy parts of FourSquare, social discovery tools and your stalking instinct and you get BuzzE. Built on geo-location data, the app allows you to spot other users in the area and interact with them with a buzz (a Facebook poke I assume), answer yes/no questionnaires and send virtual gifts.

Although you can get your friends there, I see it more for shy iPhone owners wanting to know who's that blonde woman at the bar, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to try it in my area since nobody seems to be using it, but I reckon that other apps with a more specific niche such as Grindr can be more convincing.