Which app should you use to browse Instagram on an iPad?

There are a number of apps to access Instagram on an iPad. I tried out a bunch so you don't have to. Find out which app is best.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

I am a regular user of Instagram and a regular user of an iPad. Unfortunately, these two items do not directly connect. Instagram has yet to release an app optimized for the iPad's larger screen, and I would advise against anyone browsing pixelated images using Instagram magnified on the iPad. Thus, you must turn to a third-party app.

Before we proceed, I should state that Instagram does not let you upload photos via a third-party app. Such an app lets you view your various Instagram feeds and offers a variety of fun and useful features, from commenting on and liking photos to sharing on other social networks and browsing Instagram via a map view.

I took a look at four such apps last week: three free apps -- InstaFlow , Padgram , and Pictacular -- and another -- Iris -- that costs $1.99. I am also including two free apps -- Instagallery and Instamap -- that I looked at last year, plus InstaPad , which my fellow blogger Jason Cipriani covered earlier this year.

Let's do a quick CNET Reviews breakdown for each to determine our winner.

InstaFlow

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The good: Customizable home screen; capability to swipe from one expanded photo to another; slideshow feature; can view in either landscape or portrait mode

The bad: Comments not visible on thumbnail view; cannot share via other social networks; no map view; name makes it sound like a miraculous plumbing product

The bottom line: InstaFlow's omissions outweigh its customizable home screen.

Padgram

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The good: Capability to subscribe to tags; map view shows you Instagrams by location; lots of sharing options

The bad: Cannot swipe from one expanded photo to another; comments not visible on thumbnail view

The bottom line: Padgram tells me it will soon add the capability to swipe from one expanded photo to another, but until that update arrives, I say you pass.

Pictacular

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The good: Capability to swipe from one expanded photo to another; recent comments visible on thumbnail view

The bad: Makes it difficult to manage your followers and following lists; no map view (only the capability to see a feed of nearby photos); the app's name is less than inspired

The bottom line: Pictacular still has a few kinks to work out, but an update over the weekend makes the app much more stable and my pick as the best Instagram app for the iPad.

Iris

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The good: Can view your photos and other users' photos (but not your feed) on a map; makes it easy to manage your followers and following lists; app is quick and responsive

The bad: Costs $2 when others are free; wasted space in two-column view; can't swipe from one expanded photo to another; can't view your feed or the popular feed in the four-column view as you can with your profile and other user profiles; have to dig down to see comments and likes

The bottom line: There is a lot to like about the design of Iris, but it forces you to pay when similar apps are free, and it lacks the capability to let you swipe from one expanded Instagram photo to another.

InstaPad

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The good: Three-column view makes great use of iPad screen real estate; can swipe from one expanded photo to another.

The bad: Annoying ad at bottom for paid app; ads are inserted in your feeds; slideshow button pops up huge ad for paid app; no map view; have to dig to see comments.

The bottom line: Use the free version of InstaPad and you'll quickly grow tired of all the ads.

Instagallery

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The good: Capability to swipe from one expanded photo to another; can toggle between seeing the author's comment or not when viewing expanded photos; slideshow feature.

The bad: Costs $2; no map view; thumbnails are too small and don't show author information.

The bottom line: If I were to pay for an Instagram iPad app, Instagallery would be it.

Instamap

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The good: Map view offers great functionality; capability to swipe from one expanded photo to another; two expanded-view photo sizes; can customize home screen by subscribing to locations, users, or tags

The bad: Costs $2; thumbnail view does not show comments; static left-hand panel wastes space

The bottom line: If you like to view Instagram photos by location and are willing to pay for such an app, Instamap makes for fun viewing on the iPad.

To conclude, Pictacular (despite its name) is my pick among the free apps, while Instagallery gets the nod among the paid apps. For me, it boils down to finding a well-designed app that provides the capability to swipe leisurely from one expanded photo to the next without having to return to the thumbnail grid between each photo. I also appreciate Pictacular displaying recent comments underneath the thumbnails, mostly for the capability to see the author's comment for a photo if there was one. After initially finding the app buggy and prone to crashes, a recent update seems to have stabilized Pictacular. Instagallery was stable and responsive when I looked at it last year and it felt the same when I revisited it today. It doesn't show comments or even author info on its thumbnail view, but after you expand a photo, you can see the author and the author's comment without needing to dig any deeper.

What's your pleasure for accessing Instagram on an iPad? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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