500px Debuts Android App, Updates iPad Version for Retina Display

Toronto-based photo sharing site 500px, which has done a good job of attracting away pro and advanced amateur photographers from sites like Flickr, today released an official Android app for the first time. The app comes in both smartphone and tablet flavors for Google’s mobile OS, and arrives alongside an update for the iPad app that introduces support for the latest iPad’s high-resolution Retina display, and in-app purchasing of photo licenses.

500px has recently been keeping up an aggressive pace of introducing new features, including a premium plan called Plus, and its new Marketplace where photographers can sell and license prints and digital photo files. The iPad upgrade today includes in-app purchasing, which allows people browsing photos in the app to quickly and easily buy things they like, and then download full-res versions to their iPads, as well as to their home computers.

The company has seen some impressive traction of the iPad app, which is in part why it wanted to pursue additional mobile offerings. For example, users spend an average of 42 minutes (54 minutes in the U.S.) with the iPad app per session, and the app received 100,000 downloads in its first week alone on the App Store. The app’s design is geared towards encouraging engagement, and that appears to be working well: according to a recent study by mobile analytics fim Flurry, the average app session lasts only 4.2 minutes, so 500px is way ahead of the curve.

In an interview with BetaKit, co-founder Oleg Gutsol told BetaKit that engagement is a key focus for 500px, though they are seeing user growth, too. “We are growing, and very lucky because we’ve grown horizontally, by peers and recommendation,” Gutsol said, noting that the site hasn’t had to do any marketing to bring on new users. “We hope to continue that pace, but we’re also really focused a lot on engagement right now. One of our main focuses is the user experience, and specifically the quality of the photography on our site. We think quality breeds quantity, so we’ve developed tools and software to discover and promote the best photography, from anyone.”

As to the 500px mobile strategy, Gutsol said the releases today are designed to help get 500px “in more hands,” and added that an iPhone app is “not far behind,” and should arrive “later this year.” Despite targeting a heavy mobile presence, however, Gutsol said the company is primarily concerned with mobile consumption at this point, rather than sharing photos users have taken with mobile devices, but also plans to encourage that kind of sharing down the road.

“We think photography of all sorts is a powerful medium to emotionally engage any audience,” he said. “Every day we read and hear stories of photo apps and sites — people love photos, and that love isn’t going anywhere. Just look at all the ways people are looking to make their own photos more beautiful, through filters, effects, and so on. We are definitely developing ways to encourage mobile sharing in the future, which you’ll see later this year.”

As for its business model, Gutsol said the company is happy with how things are going. “We’re doing well,” he said. “We’ve only taken about $500k in angel money and otherwise, feel very good about the way things are shaking out financially.”

Now that its new mobile apps bring 500px’s stunning collection of quality photography to more devices, the site should be able to extend the reach of its paid offerings considerably. It still has a challenge ahead in terms of knocking larger players off their pedestals (Flickr is still showing significant positive growth as of last June, and Facebook continues to be a photo-sharing powerhouse), but if it can keep up its reputation for quality, 500px will continue to win fans among those at the top of the photography community food chain, which in turn will attract those who love looking at and sharing great photos.

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