Without wishlists, your holidays will be full of gifts that you don’t like but are forced to say that you love so that you don’t offend your loved ones. Instalist, free in the App Store, attempts to avoid holiday gift-giving debacles. You pick the items you want and then send the list to your friends and family via SMS, email, Twitter or Facebook.
The app is fun to use, but not very practical. It’s based on Tinder’s concept of swiping right to like and left to dislike. This makes it easy to use, but creates several drawbacks. There were a few times where I had gotten into the habit of swiping left and accidentally disliked an item that I wanted to put on my list. While you can remove items from your list, you cannot undo a dislike.
Another negative is that you cannot search for subcategories. Everything is a random mashup of items. If you know you want a pair of jeans, you may have to swipe through dozens of items before even one pair shows up, and it probably won’t be a pair that you like. This makes the app a bit of a waste of time. Then again, if you’re bored and feel like doing something mindless, Instalist isn’t a bad way to kill some time and possibly find some interesting gift ideas.
All of Instalist’s items come from Amazon. There are the standard categories of toys, clothes and gadgets, but it also has a large selection of books, both Kindle and paper. Books often get left off of lists like these. As an avid reader, I was glad to see so many of them pop up in my recommendations. There were some movie selections, but they did not show up often.
Unfortunately, no home décor items popped up, neither did any shoes. I’d like to see the developer add those. There were a few kitchen items, like coffee makers and other small appliances, but not much else.
There are some customization options. You can view gender specific gifts, or view gifts for both men and women. You can also omit all toys from your search, shop only for toys or include them along with the rest of your items.
I first tried out the app with both genders and all toys selected. Then I switched to only women and toys. I wanted to see if Instalist would still give me the same tech and toy recommendations as it would if I included men. It did.
If you’re like me, you know how frustrating it is to click on “gifts for women” and discover that there is zero tech, comic book or gaming related merchandise. Major kudos goes to the developer for giving me tons of tech items and accessories, plus plenty of dresses and the like. Special thanks for giving young girls a range of toy options from Barbie to LEGOs and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Of course, some of the LEGOs went on my list, too.) I am so happy to see an app avoid gender gift-giving stereotypes.