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Polamatic 4.0 brings the Polaroid camera experience to iOS

From snapshots that fade into view while they "develop" to a wide selection of borders and effects, this 99-cent app offers a lot of nostalgic fun.

With Polamatic, you can really have some fun recreating classic-style Polaroid snapshots.
With Polamatic, you can really have some fun recreating classic-style Polaroid snapshots. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

When it comes to consumer photography, perhaps the only thing more iconic than the Polaroid camera is the Polaroid photo. The size, the shape, and especially the white band at the bottom, where you could scribble a quick note about the scene -- for those of a certain age (myself included), it's quite evocative.

Polaroid embraced the smartphone scene a couple years ago with Polamatic, but the app didn't exactly set the photography world on fire. (For proof, see the dismal ratings for the current Android version.) But with Polamatic 4.0 (currently for iOS only), the "official app of Polaroid," the company hopes to bring the iconic style back into focus.

The app deftly recreates the experience of using a Polaroid camera (in ways the old version failed to). When you snap a new photo (or select one from your library), it slides into view with the telltale motor sound of the actual camera. But, what's this, the picture is blank? Just wait a few seconds while it "develops."

Now you can apply any of 36 authentic border frames which, according to the company, come from high-quality scans of real Polaroid frames. Next, the app takes a page from Instagram, serving up 36 effects designed to give your photo an old-timey/Polaroidy look.

One area where the new app falls short of the old: the borders and effects aren't labeled. With so many to choose from, that's a hassle. You might single out a couple frames or effects as favorites, then have trouble finding them again next time. Note to the developer: restore the labels!

Polamatic also provides some nifty tools for adorning photos with text. You can choose from a variety of fonts, sizes, colors, and even opacities, and move around different text blocks just by tapping and dragging.

When you're done with your "instant photo," you can save it to your library, e-mail it, export it, or share it via the usual networks: Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Needless to say, there are countless other apps that can simulate the Polaroid effect. But Polamatic is arguably the best choice if you want lots of options within that effect. And it's reasonably priced at 99 cents.

Curiously, though, it doesn't let you order actual prints. For that, check out Printic. It lacks the filters and whatnot, but does deliver actual Polaroid-style pictures (with captions) to stick to your fridge. I'm a fan.