Bubbli is a photo app with panoramic-like shooting features. It has debuted at time when the market is already brimming with stiff competition from the likes of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple. But Pocket-lint has decided to give Bubbli a whirl anyway. Why, you may ask? For starters, it's not your typical photo app.
Panoramas are neat wide-angled views of the space around you, and there are many apps (Photosynth, etc) and devices (iPhone, etc) that offer the software capability to capture them. Most of the time however, no matter how well you carefully shot and assembled multiple images of a view into a single wide image, panoramas usually come across as gimmicky rather than immersive or dynamic.
Bubbli offers something different. It's an iPhone-only app that captures photo bubbles...not panoramas. Just think about that for a moment: it can create a spherical photo - complete with encompassing sides, top, and bottom - of the space around you, and it even throws sound into the mix. Suddenly, you don't have a simple 360-degree shot.
You have a three-dimensional multimedia representation of the space around you. A bubble. And it's the next best thing to being in that space, that moment, once again. Keep reading to find out how you can use Bubbli to create and share bubbles, as well as how to browse bubbles posted by friends. After all, a photo app can't exist these days without a built-in social platform.
From the very moment you download and open Bubbli, a welcome screen loads with an introductory video. It details the differences between standard panoramas and Bubbli bubbles.
The app then serves up an example of a bubble. At that point, you can tap "next" to sign up. You will need to enter your name, username, email, and desired password to sign up. The process is easy and takes all of 30 seconds. Once you're signed up, the Bubbli app will finally surface.
The main Bubbli user-interface has a logo bar at the top, followed by a large viewer in the middle, and a menu bar at the bottom. The menu bar provides buttons for Featured, Social, Record, Me, and Guide.
Featured, as you might have guessed, shows a grid of featured and public bubbles published by Bubbli users. Tap on any of them to fully explore and hear someone else's space. Social, the next button on the menu bar, serves up a stream of bubbles from the Bubbli users you follow - or you can switch over to Profile under Social to see your profile.
Similar to Instagram, the Bubbli profile shows a grid of your bubbles, as well as tappable areas for viewing your followers and who you're following. While on your profile, tap the magnifying glass in the upper left corner to search for a name or username on Bubbli. You can also connect to Facebook and Twitter to find friends, though these buttons didn't work once or twice during our testing.
Going back to the menu bar, the Me button again brings up a grid of your bubbles. You can then switch over to Albums under Me to view or an create an album. While in Me, tap the gear in the upper left corner to enter Settings. You will see options for adjusting Capture (exposure mode and audio recording), General (orientation and language), and Account (sign out and change password).
Guide, the button farthest right on the menu bar, offers video tutorials and help guides for navigating through Bubbli. Just tap around to explore, watch, read, and learn. Now, if you've noticed, we skipped the middle button on the menu bar. It's the button you will use most, because tapping it allows you to record and eventually share bubbles.
Recording and sharing
Once you tap the Record button on the menu bar, a warning notice will pop up. It'll tell you that your bubble is only a draft until you actually save it later on. You'll need to confirm that you understand this, and then another video will appear with instructions on how to actually shoot a bubble.
Similar to panoramas, you need to stand still when recording. Carefully and slowly tilt your iPhone up and down (without waving) to capture the entire space around you. Remember, unlike panoramas, you'll want to shoot above and below you. Also, if you have audio recording turned on, be aware that Bubbli will capture all the sounds around you too.
You will notice a button near the middle viewer for changing exposure to variable or fixed. There's also buttons for toggling audio recording and changing the viewer mode. You can even hit a cancel button to return to the main screen or a video-camera icon to access help guides, tips, and examples. And finally, you'll see a large red button. Tap that button to record.
Bubbli shows you the percentage of space you've recorded. Once you hit 100 per cent, you can tap the record button again. A menu bar will then appear with options to Cancel, Resume, or Build. Tap Build to assemble your bubble. Bubbli will take over and compile everything together. It'll also send a push notification when your bubble draft is complete.
In your library, which appears after you tap Build, you will see a grid of all your bubble drafts. Click on the one you just recorded to see a menu with options for adding a title, sharing to your public profile, designating your location, and saving. Once you hit save, you'll be able to share your bubble to Twitter, Facebook, Mail, iMessages, Safari, and other third-party services.
Check out a bubble we captured in New York City and shared via Mail, below. The email we received from the Bubbli app offered a link to view our bubble in the browser, and from there, we could grab a direct link and an embed code to the bubble.
Tap on your bubble, a feature bubble, or a friend's bubble in your stream. You will not only be able to tilt and pan to view the bubble, you will also be able to hear sounds within the bubble. But that's not all: Bubbli will give you social options along the top and bottom of every bubble.
The top bar has icons for closing out of a bubble, viewing or setting location data, and toggling sound on or off. The profile picture of whoever captured the bubble will also be in the upper right corner. Just tap it to view the person's Bubbli profile. You will see all their bubbles and followers, and you can add him or her if you so wish.
As for the bottom bar, it has icons for liking, commenting, reposting, and sharing via Twitter, Facebook, Mail, iMessages, Safari, and other third-party services. In other words, Bubbli is a lot like Instagram and Vine. It's the same photo app you know and love...but different. That's because Bubbli is for bubbles, not photos or videos or panoramas.
Bubbli is definitely cool.
If you're an iPhone owner, you should definitely download this photo app. You can also download it for iPad, but it's only a scaled-up version of the app. No pixelation whatsoever though, so that's a plus.
If we had to nitpick, we would say that the Bubbli team should spend a little more time creating a better logo and prettier interface. Bubbli may have all the features and functionality of top-contending photo apps, but it is more than lackluster in the design arena. The video tutorials looked rather elementary, as well.
That said, we were super impressed with Bubbli overall. When we shot our first bubble, for instance, the preview before the draft render looked just awful. But Bubbli somehow stitched everything together wonderfully. In fact, apart from the brief glitch when connecting to Facebook and Twitter to find friends, we didn't run into any problems. Things ran without hiccups and just worked amazingly.
In a nut shell: we were super impressed with the capability of Bubbli. We're also interested in seeing if it catches on and becomes the next big thing. You never know, Bubbli could be tomorrow's billion-dollar app snatched up by Facebook. It certainly has the potential.