Welcome Instagram Bolt. We have our first hands-one experience using Instagrams Snapchat killer, called Bolt.

Instagram is taking on Snapchat by turning your best friends’ faces into the shutter button with first standalone app. We we’re one of the first countries to get the release. South Africa, Singapore and New Zealand had the first rollout on both iOS and Android. Designed for lightning-fast, one-to-one video and photo messaging, Bolt was accidentally outed in promo banners that appeared on Instagram last Thursday.

The download links won’t work if you’re not in these three countries. Instagram says it picked them because they each feature high Instagram usage, deeply interconnected communities, high penetration of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, and speak English. This makes them good testing analogues to its home market where its not ready to push yet. The plan is to get the kinks out before releasing the app worldwide, including in the United States. Instagram wouldn’t comment on complaints from other developers that already have apps named Bolt.


How Bolt Works

You sign up for Bolt with your phone number — no Instagram or Facebook account required. It sucks in your phone’s contacts and you can select to pull any of them into your Favorites list. You’re then given the Bolt camera. Rather than a standard shutter button, the faces of all your friends in your Favorites list are shown as a scrollable row across the bottom of the screen. Tapping one of their ugly mugs instantly sends them the photo with a single touch, which is supposedly Bolt’s big value proposition. Tap and hold to send someone a video. Taptalk had a similar set of face-buttons for sending photos, though with a pane of boxes instead of overlayed circles. Mirage looks almost identical.

On Bolt, you can only share to one person at a time, and have to re-shoot to send to more. There’s no uploading shots from your camera roll. A few buttons at the top let you switch the selfie mode, turn on your flash, or overlay big white text similar to Snapchat.


Will Bolt Last?

Successful social mobile apps tend to have a standout feature that makes them compelling and immediately worthy of word of mouth. Instagram combines filters with a sharing feed. Snapchat has self-destructing photos. WhatsApp made international texting free. Secret is anonymish. Even those that are only doing okay tend to have something special about them. Frontback’s diptychs put selfies in context. Even Facebook’s oft-derided Slingshot app has something unique in reply-to-unlock.

Bolt doesn’t.

And in case you think it does, Bolt will have to compete with TapTalk and Mirage, which both look and work very similar to it. They’re both just getting started, though Mirage apparently hit 200,000 downloads in the first 24 hours, and was the #4 overall free iOS app in the US and the #1 free social app. Taptalk’s Android app apparently has 5,000 to 10,000 downloads on Android That shows there’s some initial interest in the idea, but I’m not sure people will stick with these apps.

We’ll have to wait and see how Bolt does when it opens its download gates to the rest of the world.