Bolt marks Instagram's first standalone offering outside of its flagship app, in a new trend of apps offering companion apps much like Facebook is doing with its own Messaging app.
Bolt, called "wicked fast" by Instagram, is currently only available in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa ahead of a broader worldwide launch down the track.
The new app's user interface removes any unnecessary clutter and throws you straight into a main camera view, after asking simply for your phone number and for you to take a selfie for your profile photo.
Contacts are shown in Chat Head-like circles, and sending a photo to a contact is as simple as tapping their face.
"When Instagram itself launched four years ago, we weren't the first photo filter app," said a spokesman. "Our tradition is that we look at a space and create a super simple, pretty experience to fit it."
Rather than connecting via Facebook, or even Instagram for that matter, Bolt requires direct access to a user's Address Book. Up to 20 "Favorites" can be selected and reordered on the main page to quickly shoot over images. Somewhat oddly, Bolt isn’t connected to Instagram at all and doesn’t seem to have the facility to import friends from there or have a username for easy adding.
While tapping on a person's face will instantly send a picture, a longer press will start recording video. The moment a user releases their finger, the unedited image or video is sent. Options are sparse and include front/rear camera selection, flash controls and text input.
The app also comes equipped with a 'shake to undo' feature, which can be activated just after a message is sent. Users can respond to a message with another Bolt or text.
One big difference between Bolt and its clear rival Snapchat, which is massively popular with teens and tweens, is that Bolt limits conversations to one person at a time, whereas Snapchat invites many at once.
Not everyone is happy with today's launch - startup company Bolt, which has a Viber-like phone call app, called on Facebook and Instagram to change Bolt's name.
“We know it’s a great name, because we chose it last year when we set out to build a better mobile voice and messaging experience,” Bolt said in an open letter to Instagram. “We’ve worked really hard since then building the Bolt brand and technology to where it is today. Please don’t destroy all that effort.”
Bolt is available in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa iOS App Stores, andInstagram claims the three locations were selected due to high usage rates and geographic diversity.