If the camera-equipped iPhone has taught us anything, it’s that nostalgia is a big seller. Apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic have succeeded wildly with digital simulations of the old, faded paper photographs you might find in a shoebox in your parents’ attic. The folks at Project Box show they’ve learned the nostalgia lesson well by introducing Pocketbooth, a $1 photography app for the iPhone that tries to recreate photostrips from a 1950s-era Model 11 Photobooth, similar to those you might remember from the mall, amusement parks, or the movie Amélie.
Pocketbooth gives you a variety of options for shooting and sharing “mugshot” photos, but it does so in an elegantly simple package. You can fire up the app, push the Start button, and Pocketbook immediately reels off a strip of four black-and-white shots, giving you two seconds between camera clicks to repose yourself or your friends. When that’s done, you can save the photostrip to your phone, or share it via email, Twitter, or Facebook. (The nostalgia factor is a powerful selling point here: when I posted a photostrip to my Facebook page, several friends immediately commented that they would download the app.) There’s even an option to print directly from your phone, if you have a wireless printer nearby.
You’re not restricted to that set of four black-and-white shots, though. Pocketbooth lets you choose how many pictures you’ll sit for, what kind of effects filter to use—there are five, including “1975” and “Antique”—and even the color of the border surrounding the photo. If this sounds complex, it’s not. This is an app that wants to get you to the business of making photo fun instead of bogging you down in details.
Project Box’s sister app for tablets—the $2 Pocketbooth HD—is also oriented to the latest technology: the iPad 2 has a camera, but its predecessor does not, so you shouldn’t bother with this app if you’re still carrying around the first-generation technology. The HD version of the app does everything its cheaper iPhone version does … but, except for using the iPad’s larger real estate to move some menu items to the app’s home page, it doesn’t do enough to justify the extra dollar. Save yourself a buck and download the iPhone version; it’s not optimized for iPad, but you’ll hardly notice.
Mobile users with a photographic memory of the App Store’s offerings may find either version of Pocketbooth to be reminiscent of Synthetic’s IncrediBooth. Indeed, the apps are very similar to the point that it’s hard to distinguish between the two. IncrediBooth is designed solely for iOS devices with front-facing cameras, while Pocketbooth works on any camera-equipped device; just go into the settings and adjust the time between shots to the maximum five seconds so you can flip your iPhone around. (That said, Pocketbooth is much more fun to use with front-facing cameras, as you can see yourself on the device’s screen before you take a picture.) Also, worth noting is that IncrediBooth is a hybrid app that runs natively on whatever device you happen to own. Then again, IncrediBooth offers four effects to Pocketbooth’s five.
Still, I like the Pocketbooth apps. They offer a neat way to use new technology to make old-timey memories today.
[Joel Mathis is a freelance journalist and political columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. He lives in Philadelphia.]