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What is Lapse? Everything to know about the popular invite-only social media app

Lapse brings the appeal of a disposable camera to 2024 social media.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
Lapse app on an iPhone
Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

If you take a look at the Apple App Store Top Photo and Video Apps chart, you'll find an unfamiliar app ranked alongside giants like Instagram and Photoshop -- a social media app called Lapse. 

Lapse takes the appeal of a disposable camera, combines it with social media, and uses a unique recruiting technique to bring you an experience that distinguishes itself from any other popular social media app currently on the market. 

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Just this week, Lapse disclosed it secured a $30 million round of funding, which is co-led by Greylock, an early investor in Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and DST Global Partners, following the app's skyrocketing popularity in 2023.

Whether you have gotten a Lapse invite from one of your friends and want to learn more about it, are thinking about downloading the app, or just want to know why the app is receiving so much hype, here's everything you need to know. 

What is Lapse?

Per the app's website, Lapse is an "invite-only disposable camera". If you have ever used Dispo, Lapse has a pretty similar concept, allowing you to snap quick, disposable camera-style photos and then wait until they "develop" to access them. 

Once the photos develop, you can Tinder-style swipe left or right to either archive a picture or post it to your "Journal" for friends to see. This format is supposed to promote authenticity on social media. All the photos you see posted are unedited, and the app showcases pictures with no filters or editing, besides the disposable camera filter that's automatically applied to the photo by the app. 

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The biggest differentiating factor about the app is that it is invite-only, meaning that you can only get started by inviting five friends, as well as completing other tasks within your phone's settings. 

What do Lapse photos look like?

The photos have an automatically added filter that gives them the vintage look of a disposable camera, as seen in the photo of my lunch, below. Most people opt to take photos vertically, as that's how they appear on the feed. 

Lapse app result
Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

Is the Lapse app free?

Yes, the Lapse app is free on the App Store. However, once you download, you still have to go through several onboarding steps to access the app. 

Is the Lapse app available on both iOS and Android?

Unfortunately, right now, Lapse is only available to iPhone users. However, if you are an Android user, and this app seems like it would be of interest to you, you can join a waitlist via the Lapse site

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Lapse advises Android users not to download any "Lapse" apps from the Google Play Store because they are fake. 

How do I access Lapse?

You can download the app from the App Store. However, that process is only half the battle. Once you download the app, you need to do a series of actions to actually access the software. These actions include inviting friends, giving access to your camera and contacts, and adding the Lapse widget to your lock screen for easy access when taking photos on the go. 

The amount of friends you have to invite depends on when you sign up. When I signed up, I had to send an invite to five friends. However, when my colleague Nina tried signing up shortly after, she had to send an invite to eight friends to get started. 

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Lapse explains on its site that it's in Friends only Early access mode as it continues to "iron things out" to ensure everyone has the best experience.  

However, there has been some controversy about the app's recruiting methods, with some saying it's like a pyramid scheme. But as someone who enjoys using the app, I didn't mind sending some invites to get access. 

How do I use Lapse?

Once you make it through all the requirements, you can start snapping away. The UI is intuitive, and there are little demos sprinkled throughout the app to guide you. 

As soon as you open Lapse, you are shown a camera screen where you can snap a picture -- just like you would for a Snapchat or Instagram story. You then have to wait for the picture to "develop" in the "darkroom," which can take anywhere from one to three hours.

Lapse app camera
Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

You are notified once the pictures have developed. You can then begin the selection process of swiping left to archive the pick or right to add it to your journal, which your friends can see. 

Also: 5 reasons to try Twitter rival Bluesky (no invite needed)

These journals are sectioned by months, essentially grouping all of your selected photos in monthly photo dumps. 

You can also continue to add friends, which is facilitated through the notifications Lapse sends whenever someone from your contact list joins the app. 

What does the Lapse feed look like?

Navigating the Lapse feed requires the same upward scrolling motion that you use on TikTok or Instagram. As you scroll through the feed, you will see your friends' photos that they've decided to share or "Journal". 

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All photos that were developed at the same time will be grouped together. Therefore, you can tap through the photos the person journaled from one specific "film roll" the same way you would in an Instagram story. Then, you can drop emojis or share notes that only the post's creator will see. 

Do you have followers on Lapse?

You do not have followers on Lapse, which is meant to be a feature that adds to the organic feel of the app, where filters and pre-meditated posts aren't possible. In its App Store description, Lapse says, "Lapse is for Friends not Followers™". 

Can you post existing pictures on Lapse?

No, the whole point of the app is that anything that you journal or post is a picture that was taken in the moment, developed hours later, and was not edited or retouched. 

What does your profile on Lapse look like?

Your profile can be personalized with a profile picture, bio, emojis, music, and photo "selects", which will display behind your profile picture as a banner. You can also make albums featuring Lapse photos that you want to group together and highlight. Lastly, users will be able to see all of the photos you "journaled" grouped together by month. 

When was Lapse released?

Lapse was originally released in 2021. However, since the original release, some tweaks have been made, and the new version went live in June 2023. The redesigned version has been hugely successful, topping the Apple App Store's "Top Free Apps" and "Top Photo & Video Apps" charts by the end of September 2023. Even though the popularity has fizzled out a bit now, it still features in the App Store's "Top Photo & Video Apps" chart.


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