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PicPlayPost for iOS review: Finally, a photo-framing app that stands out

PicPlayPost helps you get creative with your collages, letting you add up to four videos with your own music to make up a unique multiple-video project.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
5 min read

PicPlayPost isn't new to the App Store; however, its sudden success is. It's been around since 2012, but only recently made it to the top paid-app spot in the App Store.


PicPlayPost for iOS

The Good

<b>PicPlayPost</b> offers video integration in an otherwise photo-only app-frame landscape, complete with sequential and simultaneous playback along with other unique features.

The Bad

No iCloud support for saving or transferring projects between devices.

The Bottom Line

This app is a fun way to stand out on Instagram or Vine, but even if you're not into sharing personal photos on a network, it's perfect for creating family memories to share via iMessage and e-mail.

Photo framing apps are nothing new and there are a slew of them in the App Store. Each one allows you to place photos in combinations of frames, aspect ratios, frame colors, and sizes to make a kind of collage. But what's interesting about an app like PicPlayPost is that it goes beyond the standard frames and filters, and lets you incorporate videos into your creations. It's an interesting twist, and may be the reason behind the app's recent high ranking after Instagram Video and Vine took off.

PicPlayPost puts video in the frame (pictures)

See all photos

Jump right in
With similar framing apps having been around and popular in the App Store for some time now, the developer has made the assumption that users will understand and know how to use the app from the start. It's a safe assumption and the app definitely handles the first launch by a new user better than older versions of PicPlayPost did. In the past, first-time users were greeted with an eight-slide tutorial covering how to use the app. Talk about scaring off those who are already weary of using new apps.

Now the tutorial is gone, with the only remnant being a help document found in the Settings section of the app. So while you might start off a bit confused, if anything gets too complex, there's always a place to find more information.

Thinking outside the box
PicPlayPost offers one app for all iOS devices running iOS 5.1 and up. iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch users will find the same layout and workflow no matter what device they access the app from, though it looks far more refined, visually, on iOS 7.

Being able to include multiple videos in an arrangement similar to a collage is a new idea to me. I had always viewed frame apps as a creative way to display photos -- not videos. And with apps such as Vine and Instagram giving people a platform for showing off short videos, there's a big demand for ways to make your videos stand out from the others in either service.

You can use PicPlayPost in either landscape or portrait. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

PicPlayPost follows the same pattern found in most photo collage apps. Users can select a ratio or frame layout, add photos, resize the separate frames, change the thickness and color of borders, and so on; there's nothing new or groundbreaking about the app in this regard.

Tapping on a section will bring up your Camera Roll, allowing you to insert a photo or video. After arranging a photo in the cell you can zoom in or out, rotate it, and position the picture for optimal viewing using familiar gestures such as pinch-to-zoom. Or if you prefer, you can use the toolbar included in the app to adjust a photo.

There are a total of 36 different frame layouts, with a possible six different aspect ratios, all of which include anywhere from one to six different sections in which to place content. Each creation is limited to six videos on iOS 7, or four on previous versions of iOS.

As far as photos go, you're able to add filters, rotate, and flip horizontally or vertically. You can apply the same filters and alignment features to videos, and there's a built-in video-trimming option to keep the videos under 10 minutes each (iOS 7-only).

While the app does support all iOS devices, it doesn't support iCloud syncing of projects. This is one area where I would love to see some improvement, so you could, for example, sync a project started on an iPhone with an iPad so you can finish editing and laying out a collage on the larger screen.

The updated UI is easy on the eyes
Before the launch of iOS 7 and the subsequent release of version 4 of PicPlayPost, the user interface felt outdated. And if you're using an older version of iOS, you'll find the UI still does look and feel outdated, as the updated UI is iOS 7-specific.

The previous version of the app felt as if it were built with the main focus being getting the features right, instead of making the app stand out cosmetically. With the update, the look and feel of the app are on par with how well it performs. Users who've recently updated to iOS 7 and had the older version of the app installed will appreciate the work that went into the update.

The layout screen while creating your collage is a bit cramped on smaller screens in portrait mode, but thankfully the app also works in landscape where editing is far easier. The same goes for the iPad, where editing in landscape is my preferred method.

The controls that adjust the frame color, thickness, and size are much easier to use in landscape. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

A few hiccups, but nothing major
There were two issues I constantly ran into when using the app before the update adding iOS 7 support: the inability to tap and hold a photo or video and drag it to a different section of the collage, along with the filter previews appearing as a white square with the title below.

The filter would still be applied when selecting it, but there was no way to know what kind of effect it would have until I applied it. Luckily, both of these issues have been fixed in the latest update.

Unfortunately a new issue has been introduced in the update, and it's potentially a big one. I can no longer import photos stored in my iCloud Photo Stream. The app acts as if it's importing the photo, but after the import dialog box disappears, there's no photo to be found.

Aside from these issues, the app works well. I didn't experience long delays in applying filters or exporting videos.

To be honest, I don't really like using this type of app. Putting photos in various frames and sharing them with various social networks can be fun, but it's not usually my cup of tea. But the addition of videos in PicPlayPost completely changes my perspective on the matter. This is an app I could see myself using.

The latest update fixed the problems I had in the previous version, but it also took away the option to import photos from iCloud. Hopefully this is something the developers will fix in a future minor update.

Still, making a collage of videos that can be played one after another, and adding your own soundtrack from your Music library, is a neat way to share a vacation, party, or any other event, and the app makes it easy to put it all together.


PicPlayPost for iOS

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 8Interface 8Performance 8
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