Wheelio is a brilliant, must-have companion to Instagram

Wheelio screenshot

Most people mentally tie photo filters to Instagram. It's not what invented them, but it's what popularized them because every photo someone posts gets to have a unique touch. After a while though, the same filters eventually become stale. If that unique touch is what you yearn for in your photos, Wheelio is here to save the day. Using a distinctive wheel UI, anyone can quickly add text, stickers or gorgeous filters to not only improve a photo, but make it truly your own. It's totally free and requires iOS 7.0 or later.

Wheelio has no menu bars, no toolbars and really no navigation other than one important element that aims to replace all of those. It's a wheel that looks like a concept web. As soon as you open the app, you have to choose a photo from your gallery or take one with the camera to get started. When the photo is ready, the wheel UI appears with six main options: Font and Color, Filters, Stickers, Save and Share, Edit Photo and More. It's not enough to just tap what you want. Instead, the bubble on the left is magnified, indicating that's the selected choice. Spin the wheel to the left with you finger to choose a menu option.

Wheelio screenshot

When you select something, the wheel refreshes as it rapidly spins to include submenu items. Tapping "Font and Color" for instance brings up new menu items for Font, Color and Add Text. It's easy for the simple nature of Wheelio to fool you. The wheel only displays five menu items at a time, but don't think categories like fonts and colors are limited to just five options. If you start infinitely dragging your finger around in a circle, new options appear in place of the old ones, which stack up on the right until you finally spin all the way back around. In this regard, Wheelio is nothing short of brilliant.

While the user interface is certainly something to chat about in this app, its photo-editing features are equally masterful. Adding a line of text or multiple lines of text, each with a different font, color and size takes seconds. In other photo-editing apps that might not even be possible at all. What blows me away most are the filters. Not only is there a huge selection, but the ones in Wheelio add a level of personality that's unparalleled even by Instagram. Stickers are somewhat like decorative text add-ons, but to contrast filters, the library is limited at least for now. Finally, save the photo or share it directly to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or others.

Wheelio screenshot

When I first started using Wheelio, I was a bit concerned about whether the wheel UI is at all intuitive, or at least if it's more intuitive than standard tabs, lists and menus we're all familiar with on iOS. I've come to the conclusion that while spinning a wheel is a tad more tedious, the combination of amusement doing so plus the power baked into this app make it worthwhile.

To me, Wheelio is a necessary companion for power Instagram users. Between text, filters and stickers, it adds a welcome bit of flair to your photos in a never-ending stream of Valencia and Earlybird. Even if you don't use Instagram, Wheelio is still a fun, yet powerful free photo editor.