Hands-on: Slingshot app by Facebook (for iPhone) review
Facebook has introduced a new app called Slingshot for Android and iOS. The app is limited to the US at the moment, but it combines quick messaging with the ability to create fun photos and videos.
You've probably heard this already, but we should repeat it before going any further: Slingshot is a lot like popular photo-messaging app Snapchat. That said, we aren't going to spend the next 10 paragraphs nitpicking all the similarities and differences between the two apps. Pocket-lint will only tell you how Slingshot for iPhone works and whether it's worth downloading. Keep reading to learn more.
Upon opening Facebook's new app for the first time, you'll need to enter your phone number, then pick out a screen name, and swipe through a bunch of quick tips on how to get started. After that, you will enter a camera view. This is the main view you shall see every time you open Slingshot. You can tap the Shoot button toward the bottom of your screen to start capturing photos or hold the button to start recording videos. Simples. You will also see options to the left and right of the Shoot button. They let you turn on your device's flash or selfie mode (flips the camera), respectively.
Once you shoot a photo or video, the Flash and Selfie options promptly turn into Reshoot and Draw. Reshoot allows you to recapture your photo or video, in case the first attempt didn't quite work, while Draw lets you go wild on whatever you captured. You can select Draw, for instance, and then slide from the right to choose various colours and brush sizes. You'll then be able to scribble away. You can add a caption to your photo and video too, by tapping the "Tap to add text" area beneath your name at the top of the screen. You should hear funky music playing in the background while you enter a message.
You can then hit the Use button when finished composing your work of art. A black and white menu will instantly appear with a list of all your recent contacts as well as the ability to find people via Facebook and invite people via SMS. If you're new to Slingshot, like we are, you'll see Slingshot Crew in your recents list. Slingshot Crew is like MySpace Tom. They're your first "friend" on Slingshot, meaning you can send photos and videos to them straightaway. Why would you do this? To learn the app's functionality better and goof around, of course.
We didn't have much luck when it came to finding friends on Slingshot. None of our Facebook friends are currently using Slingshot, probably because the app is barely a few hours old. But once they start downloading and using the new app, we will be able to send them Slingshot friend requests via Facebook. We could even encourage them to download the app right now. Slingshot has a built-in option that'll message your contacts for you. Just enter your contact name or phone number, and the app will spam them with an invite link. Your friends will love you for that (trust us).
Because we didn't have any friends on Slingshot, we downloaded the app on another iPhone and messaged ourselves. We're so cool. So, with a "friend" now showing up in our contacts, we were able to sling (a.k.a. send) our shot (a.k.a. doodled photo). All we had to do was tap on the friend's name, followed by the orange Sling button. And away our message went...with an entertaining swish sound and all. If you have a lot of friends showing up in your contacts (aren't your Mr. Popular), you'll be able to tap multiple contacts or tap "Select All" to send your shot to a group of friends at once.
By now you're probably wondering how Slingshot is different from Snapchat. We'll tell you: You can't view shots from friends until you send them a return shot. That's right. Facebook is forcing you to engage with friends on Slingshot. Upon sending return shots to friends, their "locked" shots will become "unlocked" to you. You can see exactly how many locked or unlocked shots you have from within the camera view, because there will be a notice at the top of your screen, or you can swipe down from the camera view to access another contacts area and see all your locked shots.
You will also notice this mini contacts area has an option for you to add friends. Tap that option to manually search for usernames on Slingshot. We imagine this option is only useful for people who don't have a Facebook or maybe if you want to find celebrities by their widely-used online handles. We can't picture too many celebrities Slingshotting with random fans any time soon. But, hey, you never know.
Anyway, going back to locked shots. After you create a shot and send it to a friend to unlock their shot, the locked shot will immediately appear just for you. Literally. It'll declare "just for you" on the shot. Stare at the shot as long as you want. Maybe even take a screenshot. Because once you're finished looking at it, you'll have to swipe it away. The shot will disappear into cyberspace, never to be seen again. You will however be able to flip through all your recently unlocked shots, kind of like flipping through a mini Facebook feed full of photos tailored for you, but eventually you'll need to swipe them all away.
Sounds a lot like Snapchat, right? But Facebook has added one more twist to this process: you can react to unlocked shots. Before you swipe away a shot for good, tap on the shot to bring up mini camera view from the bottom. This little areas essentially lets you return a shot directly from the shot you have unlocked. You can add a caption, but you can't draw. It's like a paired down shot, meant only to show your reaction. And, like Snapchat, every reaction you've made is gone forever once you sling it to a friend.
And that's it. Slingshot for iPhone is pretty sleek and simple. It took us a few minutes to get a feel for the app and become familiar with its workflow, but Pocket-lint is confident both young and old users should find it easy enough to navigate. It's not too complex to figure out - though remembering gestures and how to find certain menus or options can take some time. We should mention that the design probably won't blow your mind. After all, the app is basically all about the camera view and full-screen shots. There's not much room to get fancy with the interface.
We did however like the ability to add captions and draw when in camera view. All those tools were very fun and simple to learn and access. Kudos, Facebook. But we thought the sound effects throughout Slingshot were a bit much, especially in camera view. And we found ourselves turning our device volume off several times like when toggling from creating to viewing video shots. Between all the swishes and funky tunes, it sounded like we we're in the middle of a children's arcade.
And finally, it was a strange feeling to get a push notification from Slingshot yet not have instant gratification. We couldn't view our messages in that very moment. We had to engage with friends first. And we're not accustom to apps or services making us work for our entertainment or content. We're not entirely sure if many users will like being put in that same situation as well. But Facebook, which recently shut down other failed apps like Poke and Camera, is giving it a shot anyway. Pun intended.