Facebook has had a long running feud with Snapchat and it was only a matter of time before it launched its own competing mobile app. Meet Slingshot, the social network’s take on ephemeral photo and video-based messages.
Despite the same basic functionality, Slingshot is very different in that users can’t see any image they receive unless they send back a snap or video of their own. There’s no such thing as a passive users, everyone has to contribute and while it’s an interesting ploy to keep the community active, it’s the most restrictive and annoying part of the app.
When first popping open Slingshot, the app prompts users to connect their Facebook accounts or to sign up with a completely new account. Afterwards a camera app fills up the entire screen with only a shutter button, the ability to flick on the flash and another to take selfies. Drag the camera screen down and users can find their profile information, any received messages, plus add new contacts.
Once users have taken a shot they can draw on squiggles or type a caption. Tapping to use the image will slide up the contacts page to select recipients and once the image is slung the app will play a small, cute animation shrinking user’s image and send it zipping forwards as if it were fired by an actual slingshot.
Users on the receiving end will be notified they’ve received a message but it will be locked and pixelated until they actually send a message back. This is where the app becomes annoying and frustrating to use. Unlike Snapchat, Slingshot cannot access the camera roll on Android or iOS, which means I had to find something interesting to shoot or otherwise send a selfie just to see a message in the first place.
I doubt I’ll ever send or receive a message that requires an immediate response or anything to do with an emergency, but this extra barrier impedes communication and the very function this app was made for.
Visually the app is much more pleasing to use than Snapchat with a better quality camera to boot. There’s no need to swipe left and right between screens, instead everything neatly slides into the screen with Slingshot. It’s an elegant design with drawers that pop such as the one that perks up when you respond to a friend’s message.
Still the app is missing some major functionality as a messaging app, so much so that Facebook is framing Slingshot as a “visual status update.” Whatever that means.
Unfortunately for now it seems Slingshot is more focused on the bells and whistles rather than actually sharing easily. Instead the way the app holds messages hostage is a gimmick designed to force user engagement and likely was the reason why I was unable to find many friends using it. Until Facebook changes its tune, users won’t be missing much if they ignore the Slingshot app, which is a real shame because the app is so polished and quick.
Slingshot is an iOS and Android app available for Free in the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Kevin Lee is a freelance writer who types all day and listens to his ever-expanding music library. Follow Kevin Lee on Twitter at @baggingspam.