Browsing Instagram on your Ubuntu Phone just got a whole lot easier.
A refreshed Instagram Photos Scope features as part of the latest over-the-air update to Ubuntu Touch.
What’s a Scope Again?
Scopes are the ‘home screen’ of the Ubuntu Touch experience. Think of them as service-specific dashboards that surface content automatically, saving the need to open or keep switching between apps.
The ‘Instagram Photos’ Scope is developed by Canonical as part of its ‘content partners’ initiative. This means it has the blessing of Instagram, but is not made by them.
And when we say it’s had a refresh we do mean it; this isn’t a one-tap Gingham filter do-over. Oh no, the Scope has had a hands-on top-to-bottom adjustment, tweak and fiddle.
Ready to take a closer look?
Instagram on Ubuntu Phone
First things first: No, you can’t upload photos to Instagram from your Ubuntu phone. Yes, you can continue to blame Instagram for this as they don’t offer an upload API to developers.
Although the option to upload photos through the Scope would be (very) welcome the limitation has its boon. The ‘Instagram Photos’ Scope is able to focus on the simple task of surfacing content for ‘looking and liking’ pleasure.
Like all social media, participation is a core experience for ardent ‘grammers.
Your account details are now shown atop the stream, albeit with a tersely truncated bio. None of the items in this header are linked, so you can’t tap your follower count to see whose followed you, etc.
A navy blue accent drawn from the service’s official logotype is laced throughout the UI. A splash of colour really helps to bring this Scope alive.
Colour is also used to delineate core interaction features such as ‘likes’ (red heart) and ‘comments (navy blue speech bubble), replacing the old ‘use grey for everything’ approach which often made such features appear inactive, disabled, greyed-out.
The home stream, which presents a reverse chronological stream of recent posts and social proof metrics, is still the default view. The introduction of the new account header sees the 2 x 3 grid reduced to a 2 x 2 grid. More content can be instantly loaded with a tap of ‘see more’ prompt at the bottom of the scope screen.
For such an image-centric social network it is …odd that the incumbent Instagram Scope experience is …rudimentary at best. It only shows fuzzy, low-res image previews which, when tapped, let you look at the exact same fuzzy, low-res image stretched to fill your screen.
Thankfully this issue is resolved in this update.
Tap on a photo in the home stream to jump to the detail view. Here you can see a better quality version of the image. Tap on the image to view it fullscreen. Tap the ‘share’ icon overlaid on the hi-res preview to open the share sheet.
Metadata is also given more prominence. Both post date (currently called ‘createTime’) and a short list of people who’ve liked the post on show, accompanying the description (now displayed in a more sane font-size!).
‘View on Instagram’ remains the main action button. To the left of this is a new ‘More…’ button. A quick tap on this reveals a hidden menu with more options, including the elusive ‘like’ action and a quick link to jump to a poster’s profile.
Leaving comments without leaving the Scope is also new. Scroll to the bottom of an image in detail mode:
Hitting the search box lets you (duh) search, but this is still restricted to user accounts, not hashtags or locations.
The search field doubles-up as a filter switch. You can jump back to your home stream (‘My Instagram’) or your own profile (‘My Uploaded’).
The wording of these options should be clearer. At first blush, they read like they’re representing the same thing!
Summary of changes
The new Instagram Scope for Ubuntu has a swathe of changes, including:
- See account details in header (new)
- Like images from the Scope (new)
- Read comments¹ (new)
- Leave comments (new)
- View your own stream (new)
- Ability to share Instagram posts (new)
- Link to view a user’s profile (new)
- Adjusted font sizing & weights
- Coloured iconography
Still Plenty of Scope For Improvement
If you’re a casual Instagram user like I am then you may appreciate the ease with which you can sift through your social circle’s endless selfies, vacation shots and food snaps through this scope. It offers a cleaner, more intuitive experience over the Instagram web-app that you can load in the browser.
But it could be better still.
An intrinsic gesture of the Instagram mobile experience is the ‘double-tap to like’ gesture. This scope still lacks that action. In fact, it buries the core ‘like’ feature under a hidden more menu. You tap the text button and …have zero feedback on whether you’re done anything as the ‘heart’ icon is permanently coloured in (regardless of whether you have liked a photo or not). The scope refreshes the detail view instantly but the like count doesn’t actually go up.
Bug or bad design? Possibly a bit of both.
There is also no support for Instagram notifications (though the web-app now does now let you check them, so it’s not as drastic an omission as it sounds). You also can’t click on hashtags or usernames in post descriptions or search for public photos by keyword of hashtag.
In all, this update brings Ubuntu’s fuzzy attempt at adding social cool into sharper focus. It’s not perfect but it is a big improvement over that which it replaces.
The use the Instagram Photos Scope you’ll need to add your Instagram account in the Ubuntu Online Accounts section. To create an account you need to use an Android, iOS or Windows devices as Ubuntu, despite this Scope, is not among the chosen brood.