Lapse, a Photo-sharing App that Requires You to Invite Friends
Lapse is testing a new method of user acquisition, which is to require that you invite your friends before you can join the app. Lapse, a reimagining of a social camera app that first appeared in 2021, has risen to the top of the U.S. App Store this month after previously peaking at position No. 118 Overall. With a few minor adjustments, the app provides a similar experience to Dispo and Later Cam, two other mobile apps that attempted to simulate using a disposable camera. On the other hand, there are those who claim that its recent success has been attained through dishonest means.
These days, many apps use growth hacking strategies, with many relying on TikTok social videos to make their app go viral and rise in the App Store charts. Others generate interest by restricting use of their app, as Clubhouse did during its peak, or as Twitter/X rival Bluesky is doing now, with invites to its beta selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay.
When it comes to invitations, however, Lapse is taking a slightly different approach. A user must invite friends before they can begin using the app’s features, rather than simply restricting access to those who have been given an invite.
Dan and Ben Silvertown, Lapse’s co-founders and brothers, say they were initially motivated to create the app by their own experience using a point-and-shoot camera while traveling to detach and decompress. In an effort to replicate that feeling, they developed a smartphone app that lets users capture images that can be seen at a later time and then shared with a select group of friends.
But the Lapse app from 2021 has been discontinued.
Dan said that the team saw that the app’s most dedicated users were starting to treat it more like a photo journal than a disposable party camera. In response, they spent the better part of a year and a half developing a revised version of Lapse to meet this demand.
It’s still reminiscent of a disposable camera in that images “develop” at odd times throughout the day, but the focus has shifted to organizing your photo collection into albums and making profiles that highlight your monthly photo dumps.
The revised version of the app was tested during its covert period using TikTok advertisements, and then released to the public in June 2023. Dan asserts that all of the app’s recent expansion has come from natural means. However, we contend that your definition of the term is key.
The software has a polished onboarding process, showing you a rather long mini-movie complete with haptics to get you enthusiastic about using it. It requires a phone number for verification, access to your contacts and camera, and a minimum of five friend additions before allowing you to utilize Lapse.
The software prompts you to send invites to your friends, explaining that Lapse is a friends-only service and that doing so will get them early access.
However, this structure isn’t loved by everyone.
Explains Sheel Mohnot, a VC at Better Tomorrow Ventures, this process will send a text message to your friends to download the app. “I felt dirty,” he wrote on X. “It got to the top of the App Store on a pyramid scheme.”
He’s not alone with that criticism, as others have called out Lapse’s onboarding as “pretty annoying to spam my friends.”
The #1 App right now is “Lapse” – a photo sharing Dispo-meets-Snapchat.
You will get a text message from a friend to download the app. It’s bc they require you text 5 friends to use the app. I felt dirty.
It got to the top of the App Store on a pyramid scheme. pic.twitter.com/jK2Ahtumqc
— Sheel Mohnot (@pitdesi) September 23, 2023
The counterpoint to my example:
What about the #1 photo app right now Lapse, the shared disposable camera.
They have this annoying invite 5 friends in order to get access.
That isn't really adding value. Pretty annoying to spam my friends.
Well, true but it's about adding… pic.twitter.com/meGf87UZ6p
— GREG ISENBERG (@gregisenberg) September 24, 2023
Even Dan admits that Lapse’s onboarding is controversial.
“Our onboarding process is divisive, there are a few detractors but also many fans,” he says. “We are top of the charts because Lapse is resonating with young people, who are sharing millions of photos per day in our app. They are exhausted by existing photo-sharing apps and Lapse is a way for them to live in the moment and share memories pressure-free,” Dan added.
The reality is that the “text-your-friends invite mode” is an outdated growth trick that continues to spark debate. It has been seven years since TechCrunch first reported on SMS invite spam, when another photo app named Everalbum was at fault. The next year, people fell for another social app called Gather. This is all old news!
More recently, in 2021, another photo-sharing app, Poparrazzi, used a variety of growth hacks to hype itself to No. 1 on the App Store. These hacks included requiring full address book access, immediately matching your contacts’ phone numbers to existing users, and then having you automatically follow them. Users’ moods deteriorated as they discovered they were following exes they had previously blocked.
Earlier this year, Poparrazi ceased operations.
Unlike some earlier programs, Lapse won’t spam your contacts unless you want it to. You know exactly what you’re agreeing to when you touch the “invite your friends” button.
For what it’s worth, the system seems to be producing short-term results. Nearly 92% of Lapse’s 1.2 million installs come from the United States, according to statistics from market intelligence firm data.ai. Since September 10 though, the app has not only risen to the top spot, but has moved up from 118th place overall.
Octopus Ventures, GV, Speedinvest, and individuals such as early Facebook designer and “like” button developer Soleio Cuervo contributed to Lapse’s $11 million mega-seed round announced in 2021. According to Speedinvest, the app has raised $12 million to date, and the new version is experiencing explosive growth “without spending any marketing budget.”
But now that Lapse has users and attention, it must pass a much more difficult test: getting people to stay and keep using the app. If it can succeed where others have failed, turning buzz into a company, that is.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to “Lapse, Photo-sharing App”;
1. What is Lapse?
- Lapse, an app that lets you snap and ‘develop‘ rolls of film with groups of friends.
2. What does the Lapse app do?
- Lapse is a social disposable camera app. The app lets close groups recreate the magic of old-school disposable cameras by taking 36 snaps to ‘rolls’ in private group chats.
3. How does Lapse work?
- Create a private group chat with close pals. The chat works normally with two twists:
- Every chat group has a “roll” of 36 shots which anyone in the group can snap to
- No one can see the photos until 24 hours after the first shot was taken
A Lapse animation inserts the “roll” into the discussion. Like picking up images from the processing facility, everyone in the roll can share and relive their memories. You can then respond, remark, save, and export photographs or entire Lapses from the app.
Our photographs are processed ‘in app’ using a proprietary film processing engine created and tested with over 30 experienced film photographers from around the world and using the latest computational imaging technologies.
4. What makes Lapse different from other photo-sharing apps?
- Lapse is invite-only. Onboarding 150,000 pre-installed Lapse and creative industry members initially. Anyone on Lapse can invite 5 pals. It focuses on providing the finest experience for their core members.