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  • Fitri Aiyub

Insta360 Flow Review : Transparently Bold

Is it just me or there's just too many phone gimbals? But I guess it still goes hand in hand with the amount of phones coming out in recent years that have highly been investing on their camera advancements too. So it's only logical for some brands like Insta360 to have a go at their own take at a gimbal. They call it the “Insta360 Flow” and I kinda like it!

Take the iPhone 14 Pro with Action Mode for instance, or even the latest Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the stabilisation in those phones were impressive on its own without any external help, especially with that Action Mode. I remember testing it when it first came out last year with these iPhone14 Pros and at first it sounded more like a gimmick but after taking my first run with it, it just blew me away. They weren’t kidding around with their EIS. To me, most EIS have been quite terrible but Apple managed to do it really well. Albeit it can only record up to 2.7k.


Yet here we are with another phone gimbal but by Insta360 and if I’m really honest, it's a hit and miss. Don't get me wrong, this design took awhile for me to understand why it was built in such a way.

The pros? This is actually pocketable. They definitely made “portability” to be at the highest list of priorities and somewhat achieved it. And why would I believe to think so? Unlike screw-on tripod stands such as the ones you get on the DJI OM6 or OM5 or mostly any other phone gimbal, this has a built-in tripod. Is it just me or does it look a little ugly when it's folded up? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

But I can still admire some of the craft put into this transparent design on the main arm. It really does bring some of that Sci-Fi element and the minimalistic aspects dripping all over. It also comes in grey, but I think this white colour matches a little more to the feel they're going with. And take a look at this, it seems that the battery is integrated within the arm which is a 2900mAh battery that can also charge your phone while recording, which thankfully they included the wires too, alongside some exposed circuit boards, and here's something a little interesting.. A cold shoe mount hidden by its own little transparent door so you could also attach accessories such as a mic or light.

And if we were to look at it’s control panel, its again kept very minimal via this SmartWheel as they call it, and essentially removes the need for two handed use by incorporating the zoom function into this bezel on the outside (which also acts as a tilt control in FPV Mode) and having the touchpad on the inside that responds to gestures by swiping down clockwise for switching between modes, while the power switch, orientation and record buttons remains as the primary three. Even the joystick is kept very flush, knowing how when this is folded, it tucks in just nicely behind the main arm.

And thanks to the battery placed within the arm itself, the hand grip is much shorter than most phone gimbals but I must say, it really feels weird without the rubber grip. But it also opens up the chance to install a rectracting tripod inside the handle which is possible thanks to this dual-step extension, which also feels very flimsy and I’m not even exaggerating when I say that.

Setting this on a table with just the weight of an iPhone 14 Pro, which doesn't weigh much when compared to other androids, and yet it really looks like it could break or bend easily if I were to happen to set it down slightly rougher than normal. In other words, some reinforcements could really be done here and probably the biggest con out of this whole design. It has the right idea, but would definitely need to be improved in the next version if they plan to continue making them. I just hope this kind of feedback would actually take some effect because this really feels cheap.

But when it's in use, the little quirky design aspect just goes away and it performs like a gimbal should and to some degree, dare I say better than the DJI? Just like the OM6 this also comes with a retractable extension rod that extends up to 215mm, as well as the adjustable tilt angle, which really helped me position the phone correctly for most of the footage examples taken at yet another car event.

Some of these cars were very low to the ground and having the arm reach a lower angle to where I was satisfied, it surprisingly still kept most of my footsteps very clean from the up & down motion or also known as its Z-axis. These results could be aided by the iPhone’s OIS but I’ll give credit where it’s due for actually giving me the confidence to operate this with very minimal input.

To me, regardless of how you design this, it's always going to boil down as to how much confidence tools like these give you and I’d say it lived up to the standard ergonomically.


But of course, further control and features wouldn’t be possible without good software and I appreciate how it's all integrated within the Insta360 app. This is still the Beta version and I had to run it with Test Flight in order to get it work, but it could still pair with my other Insta360 devices too. That’s just probably a little complaint I have as to how DJI sends their Beta apps, having to download separate ones every time a new device comes out.. anyways..

DeepTrack 3.0 is also brought forward here, which performs slightly better than DJI’s ActiveTrack in some areas. It’s something about the way the AI recognises subjects better and automatically frames the subject with a little more finesse and smoothness. It just feels just a tad bit sharper than how DJI does theirs.

I would say it’s a minor win for Insta360 for achieving this, as DJI has probably all the amount of years behind them with their drones, gimbals and camera accessories to excel in subject tracking. But I have to remind you that I’m only referring to the ActiveTrack I experienced on the OM6 because I’m not about to say Insta360 is pulling ahead in any way. Except for 360 angles of course!. It wouldn’t be complete if they didn't include some 360 goodness into this thing!

Inside the PanoPhoto mode, you get to choose between 3x3 which is essentially a super-wide angle, then you have 180 degrees, and the last one which lets you capture a 360 degree image all with your phone! But you do have to clamp this the other way around to have the rear cameras placed towards you to do this, but I would say that’s really smart of them for incorporating all of that 360 data from previous 360 cameras in order to stitch photos like these so cleanly..

There's also Widescreen mode which simulates the 21:9 aspect ratio and I love how it was just a match made in heaven for what I was shooting last weekend. Other familiar features like Timeshift where you can speed up recording times up to 5x, and Timelapse mode that you can keyframe up to 4 points, which I find to be such an efficient way to capture more of your environment instead of just the basic left-to-right pans.

There's even a Live Mode function where streamers can just prop this on their desktops and have interact with your preferred streaming sites, but I didn’t get around to test this and I’ll leave it to other channels out there who might have better experience in live streams than I do.


So if you’re wondering how much does this all cost? Well it’s priced exactly the same as the DJI OM6 which goes for $159. Is this a slap to the face to DJI or what? Like hey! We made our first gimbal, and we’re gonna just price it exactly the same as yours! Nothing like stiff competition I guess.

Battery life

Run time was about 11-12 hours as suggested and takes about 2 hours to fully charge. It would be much less if you have it powering your phone too, and maybe even lesser if you have this little spotlight attached and powered by the outlet near the clamp. They do include this in the box if you get the Creator Kit for an extra $50 which will include further accessories to be announced once this video gets released.

Final Thoughts

Insta360 actually had plans to release this a few months ago, but they scrapped the release date to improve a few things before they gave it out for first impressions and I’ve tend to look at brands who actually care about the products they make and there's something about how Insta360 reaches out to creators to build something more unique. By taking your audience and feedback seriously while practising the “If you can't improve, innovate!” approach, it's a bold way to carry your brand and I can definitely stand behind those values too.

Obviously there's nothing immensely innovative about a phone gimbal, but I’m glad they did it in their own way despite being late to the game. Really took their time and did something different. Which is commendable in my books.


Written by Fitri Aiyub

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