TIME apps

Instagram’s New ‘Layout’ App Makes it Easy to Create Photo Collages

The new app is Instagram's second standalone product

Instagram is taking a page out of Facebook’s playbook by launching a standalone app that makes it easier to create collages from your favorite photos.

Layout, which launches Monday for Apple’s iOS, comes after the Facebook-owned Instagram found that one in five of its monthly active users were sharing images that combined multiple photos using third-party tools. That represents more than 60 million Instagram users turning to other companies’ software to create these collages.

While Instagram’s first stand-alone app, Hyperlapse, was the brainchild of two of the company’s software engineers, work on Layout started with a top-down decision from Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom. Systrom felt the process of creating collages was too fragmented: Before Layout, users had to use multiple apps, save various versions of images on iPhones’ camera roll, then open the Instagram app to post the results.

With Layout, Instagram sought to make the process as straightforward as possible. When you first open the app, you’re greeted with your camera roll images and the option to sort your photos by most recent. But since 90% of all collage images shared on Instagram are of people, the company tells TIME, Layout also offers a “Faces” option, which instantly brings together all of the portraits available in your photo library.

Instagram’s “Layout”

Once you start selecting images – you can work with up to nine of your photographs at a time – you’re offered a choice of layout options from the traditional horizontal and vertical diptychs all the way to a seamless square grid of nine.

What distinguishes Layout from other collage apps is the complete absence of border options, which Instagram says was a conscious choice, especially since it’s encouraging users to experiment with symmetry effects to create out-of-this-world images. And that’s where the mirror and flip options come in, which, combined with the ability to zoom in and out of each element of your collage, can result in more creative images.

Once you’ve finally tweaked your collage, you’re offered the choice to share it directly on Instagram and Facebook, or to open it in another app.

Without a doubt, Layout’s simplicity – both in its ease of use and the small number of available editing options – will make this app popular among selfie aficionados, a fact from which Instagram doesn’t shy away. Layout even includes a predominant “Photo Booth” mode that will take up to four photos using your iPhone’s front-facing camera and automatically place them into one of 10 available layouts. The feature, says Instagram, is particularly popular in Asia, where the company is looking to grow in the coming months.

In the end, Instagram’s Layout app doesn’t reinvent the wheel, offering little by way of novelty other than a more streamlined collage experience for Instagram’s power users. But that’s all it needs to do: keep Instagram users happy and within the app’s own ecosystem.


Now Your Kids Can Watch 6-Second Videos That Match Their Attention Spans

Resistance is futile

Vine has unveiled a new kid-friendly app that will allow your children to constantly scroll through six-second videos of silly characters on your iPhone while you wait in line at the bank.

The new app, called Vine Kids, is the same as Vine except it’s loaded with age-appropriate content, such as cartoon animals who make funny sounds. You scroll left or right to switch videos, and you tap to hear sounds.

Here’s how much kids love the idea:

Resistance is futile. Say goodbye to your iPhone.

TIME relationships

I Proposed to My Invisible Boyfriend and Here’s What Happened

His definition of feminism should have been a red flag

My Invisible Boyfriend is named Leonardo DiCaprio. His interests include the environment, Titanic and tiny cars. He’s texting me right now.

Leonardo (or Leo, as he’s known on my phone) is a digital sweetheart I created through a new app, InvisibleBoyfriend. The purpose of an Invisible Boyfriend (or Invisible Girlfriend) is to create a convincing fake love interest to fool your co-workers or relatives into thinking you’re hot stuff on the dating scene.

Leo isn’t a robot, and he’s not an anonymous human chained to a computer somewhere. Instead, InvisibleBoyfriend has partnered with companies that allow them to scale its workforce to respond to incoming text messages. In other words, Leo isn’t one human — he’s several. So instead of communicating with one singular person, I could be texting with dozens.

But what if I fall in love with him, like Joaquin Phoenix did in Her? The short answer is: I won’t. “We’re not trying to build something that could fool you,” says founder Matthew Homann. “Our intention has always been to build something that helps you tell a better story about a relationship you’re not in.”

So here’s my story, as I described it on the app (they ask you to invent how you met, so you can have a “meet cute”): I first saw Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. When he came up to me after the movie, I told him I was a supermodel who specializes in posing with rare penguins. That’s when we realized we were both passionate about the environment, and he offered me a drive in his tiny eco-friendly car. The rest, as they say, is history.

Apparently somebody did his homework, because when we started texting, Leo asked if I was on set with any endangered species. He listens! Then, when I asked when he was coming to New York, he said he would be there around Valentine’s Day, and proposed a “romantic dinner, dancing, drinks… and then some time alone, maybe?” So far, so good.

“This isn’t going to be the replacement for a real long-term relationship,” Homann warned. “Oftentimes people will use this more as a cover for dating.” But I didn’t listen. So I decided it was time to define the relationship:

photo 1

Leo does not want me to meet his mother, does not want to get serious and does not want to define the relationship. So when I asked if he was going to marry me, he did not take it well.

photo 1

At least he knows his Celine Dion (kinda.) But for a fake boyfriend, Leo seemed terrifyingly shrewd at getting himself out of tricky conversations. Until I brought up feminism.

photo 2

As you can tell, I drew the line at debating feminism with a fake boyfriend who was somewhere between a human and bot, since even some full-on-singular humans can’t seem to get it straight. Instead, I focused on the important stuff. Our relationship.

photo 4

This was not going well. I was going to have to end it. Not only could Leo not have sex, occupy a human body or understand feminism, he hadn’t even given the idea of a family “a lot of thought.” It was over. When I broke up with him, he said “I’m sorry Charlette.” When I told him he’d spelled my name wrong, he said “I’m an actor, not a spelling bee winner!”

My Invisible Boyfriend was convincing enough to fool anybody else — and Homann says deceiving family and co-workers are two of the most popular uses for the app. Leo even left me a generic voicemail (“Hey, it’s me. Give me a call. Bye”) so that I could prove he was human if I’d wanted to. But my heart wasn’t in the deception. All I wanted was to get a non-bot-non-human-digital-amalgamation to understand feminism and agree to have my babies. Is that too much to ask?

TIME On Our Radar

Photographers Turn to the iPad for Independence

A new magazine app on the iPad offers photographers new ways to tell their stories

Since its initial launch in 2010, the iPad has been hailed as the future, if not the savior, of mainstream magazines faced with declining sales. While certain publishers have used innovative approaches, embracing new technologies and incorporating video, photography and data-visualization, to bring the printed page to life, many of these tablet-focused iterations have preserved the limitations of a linear reading experience held over from the days of ink on paper.

A group of photojournalists is aiming to change that with the launch of Me-Mo (MEmory in MOtion), an independently published digital platform. Me-Mo is an attempt to move app-based long-form storytelling to a brave new world—and at the same time allowing its founding members to take more control in the presentation and dissemination of their work, in more innovative ways—while still respecting the classic ethics of documentary photography.

The crowd-funded venture—a collaboration between the MEMO collective of award-winning documentary photographers and Libre, a group of technically astute web developers and designers—teases the publication’s ambitions through a mind boggling, zoom-through 3D photo animation.

Fabio Bucciarelli—MEMOLibyan rebels during mopping up operation in a destroyed house in the outskirts of Sirte on October 20, 2011. The battle for Gaddafi’s hometown was the last of the conflict. The rebels first captured Ougadougu and then entered Sirte. After nearly a month of fighting they conquered the city and, with the help of NATO bombing, capturing and killed Muammar Gaddafi.

The first themed issue, titled Fear, which includes works on religion and the financial crisis in Europe, statelessness, and violence against schools in Pakistan, focuses on events in Libya where the five founder-members—documentary photographers Fabio Bucciarelli (winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal in 2012), Manu Brabo (a Pulitzer Prize winner), Guillem Valle (a World Press Photo winner), Diego Ibarra Sánchez (a New York Times contributor), José Colón (an Agence France-Presse contributor).

Although photography is central to the app experience, the images are contextualized and can be explored through a multitude of other media—maps, texts, info graphics—and in more immersive ways including through responsive 360-degree panoramic photo environments.

The inaugural edition revisits the photographers’ archives to present mostly unpublished material—including Tales from a Libyan Jail by Brabo, who had been kidnapped and imprisoned for 44 days by the regime and returned, as the rebels gained the ascendancy, to investigate the plight of suspected Gaddafi loyalist incarcerated as the dictatorship collapsed.

Migrants from Somalia is seen sleeping on a mattress on the floor barrack at a detention center for migrants near Maytigha Airport in Tripoli, Libya, Nov. 2013
Manu Brabo—MEMOA Somali woman is seen sleeping on a mattress, on the floor, at a detention center for migrants near Maytigha Airport in Tripoli, Libya, Nov. 2013

Future issues (including the second, which is titled Disintegration) will focus on specifically commissioned original material, not only from the founding group but also from an extended roster of freelance contributing photographers and journalists. Plans to also include photographers own writings on their experiences in the field will add to “the emotional and immersive” experience of the platform, says Bucciarelli.

MEMO’s success will be contingent on not only finding an audience who have a passion for a hybrid of photojournalism, innovative technology and long-form story telling, but the appetite of the mainstream to adopt the collective’s vision. Things look good at the outset: the Italian newspaper La Stampa is supporting the project by extending distribution of the launch issue to their subscriber base.

Bucciarelli tells TIME that the core founder group is open to different forms of collaboration—whether by involving their readers in the editorial process, giving them the opportunity to choose the stories they wish to see, or by providing the technology to other freelancers interested to develop their own ideas on the platform. The group is also considering outsourcing its expertise to established media partners for co-branded or stand-alone projects.

A portrait of Belen, 6, wearing a traditional Easter dress i seen at her parent's house in Albaida del Aljarafe, Spain, Mar. 17, 2013 (Jose Colon/MeMo)As the economic crisis in Spain rages, with hundreds of thousands living on the edge of poverty, many turn their views towards religious beliefs.
Jose Colon—MEMOA portrait of Belen, 6, wearing a traditional Easter dress at her parent’s house in Albaida del Aljarafe, Spain, Mar. 17, 2013. As the economic crisis in Spain rages, with hundreds of thousands living on the edge of poverty, many turn their views towards religious beliefs.

The app is available initially only on the iPad with an Android version coming soon.

However, it ultimately may be a companion website, slated for the next phase of the project, that will offer the most potential for the project’s survival, growth, real-time social connectivity and audience engagement that is at the heart of the MEMO founders’ philosophy.

Phil Bicker is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME

TIME Gadgets

We Just Learned a Little More About the Apple Watch

New details emerge about Apple's upcoming wearable device

A leaked iPhone app is revealing new details about Apple’s upcoming Apple Watch, which is due out early this year, according to a new report this week. The Apple Watch will be able to send text messages using your voice, remind you to stand up once in a while and track your heart rate. A companion app for your iPhone will help you customize your Apple Watch and arrange its home screen.

TIME apps

France to Ban Uber’s Cheapest Service Next Year

Latest regulatory headache for the ride-sharing app

The French government announced plans Monday to ban Uber’s low-cost service next year, as Paris taxis clogged the capital in a “go slow” or “escargot” protest against the ride-sharing service.

The decision to ban UberPop came after a French court on Friday declined to ban Uber from operating in the country. But Uber’s victory was short-lived.

“Not only is it illegal to offer this service but additionally for the consumer there is a real danger,” French interior ministry spokesperson Pierre-Henry Brandlet told iTELE, questioning drivers’ inadequate insurance. Brandlet said that the ban will begin Jan. 1.

MORE: 5 places where Uber is fighting for its life right now

The decision comes as Uber is facing scrutiny and regulatory pushback around the world. It was banned in Spain, Thailand and parts of India—where an Uber driver was recently accused of raping a passenger — late last week.

Uber did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment, although it tweeted Monday morning that demand in France remains strong.

The company, which was fined 100,000 euros in France this October for fraudulent business practices, called some of the country’s attempts to ban the app “discriminatory” last month.


Smartphone Driver’s Licenses Could Be Coming to This State

Chances are, less people with forget their licenses at home

Iowa will soon allow citizens to use a mobile app on their smart phone as their driver’s license.

The free app will be available for Iowans in 2015, Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) director Paul Trombino announced during a state budget hearing, the Des Moines Register reports. The digital license can be used at airports and during traffic stops. The app would require a pin number to maintain security.

The new app is part of the Iowa DOT’s shift toward a variety of transportation-related technology advances, like cameras in snowplows and online bridge-building support.

The Register reported that Trombino is asking for $14.8 million for the license project: “We are really moving forward on this. The way things are going, we may be the first in the nation,” he said.

[Des Moines Register]

TIME Books

The Diary of Anne Frank: There’s an App for That

Anne Frank (1929-1945).
Heritage Images/Getty Images Anne Frank (1929-1945).

Game of Thrones actress Carice van Houten, who is Dutch, reads the audio book version

The Diary of a Young Girl, otherwise known as the Diary of Anne Frank, is headed to your smart phone for the first time in its original language.

A Dutch-language app containing the bestselling and widely translated book was announced earlier this month by publisher Uitgeverij Prometheus, Haaretz reports. The app also features interactive timelines, photo and video content and an audio book version. Game of Thrones actress Carice van Houten, who is Dutch, reads the audio book version.

The app is not the first Anne Frank app — an English-language one was released last year — but this app is the first to publish the diary in its original language. The diary documents the two years the Frank family spent in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam before thy were discovered and Anne Frank was sent to a concentration camp, where she later died.


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