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

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

If you take a look at the Apple App Store Top Free Apps chart, you’ll find an unfamiliar app in second place — a new social media app called Lapse. 

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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. 

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

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 prompt authenticity on social media. All the photos you see posted are unedited, and the app showcases pictures with no filters or editing.

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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. 

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 the photos vertically, as seen below, as that’s how they appear on the feed. 

Lapse app result

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

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. 

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

You can download the app from the App Store. However, that is only half the battle. Once you download the app, you need to do a series of actions to actually access it. 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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There has been some controversy about the recruiting methods, with some saying it’s like a pyramid scheme. However, as someone who actually really enjoys the app, I didn’t mind sending some invites to get access. 

Once you make it through all the requirements, you are set to start snapping away. The UI is pretty 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. Then, you 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, and then you can begin the selection process of swiping left to archive the pick or right to add it to your journal, which your friends can then see. 

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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. 

Navigating the Lapse feed requires the same upward scrolling motion that you use to scroll through TikTok or Instagram. As you scroll through the feed you will see your friends’ photos that they decided to share or “Journal”. 

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All the 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 through an Instagram story. Then, you can drop emojis or share notes that only the post’s creator will see. 

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, pre-meditated posts, and followers aren’t possible. In its App Store description, Lapse says, “Lapse is for Friends not Followers™”. 

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. 

Your profile can be personalized with a profile picture, bio, emojis, music, and photo “selects” that 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. 

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. 


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