Instagram for Windows Phone review: Familiar design, but missing too many features

If you add a location to a photo when you post it in the Android and iOS apps, Instagram will plot that photo on map so everyone can see where you are. That feature, called Photo Map, is missing from this app.

Likewise, in the other Instagram apps, if someone adds a location to their post when they upload it, you'll see a location tag in between their username and the photo. You can tap that tag to see pictures from other users that were tagged with that location as well. In this app, you can add a location to your post when you upload it, but you won't be able to view other photos shared from the same place.

Capturing photos
The main attraction of Instagram is the camera, but unfortunately, the Windows Phone app experience is nowhere near as robust as it is on iOS and Android. There's a blue camera button at the bottom of the screen, which immediately displays your phone's camera roll where you can select a photo you've already shot to upload to Instagram.

From there, you can tap the camera icon at the bottom to launch your phone's camera. Here you'll see the full camera viewfinder, instead of the square viewfinder that's standard in the other apps. That square viewfinder helps you frame your shot, because you can only upload square photos to Instagram, and without it, it's harder to get the right shot that fits Instagram's aspect ratio.

Once you snap a photo, the app will ask if you want to accept or retake the image. Tap accept and you'll be asked to scale and crop the photo, which is similar to what Instagram does on other platforms when you import an image from your camera roll. The app shows a faint grid over top the picture to help you crop it. Tap the check mark to proceed when you're done adjusting the shot.

Instagram for Windows Phone
You can pick a photo from your camera roll (left) or open your phone's camera (right) to create an Instagram post. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Then you'll finally get to the familiar editing screen, where you can choose from Instagram's famous filters (or opt for no filter at all), as well as add a frame, adjust the lighting, add a tilt-shift effect, or rotate the image. When you're satisfied with your finished Instagram, you can add a caption, add a location, and share it to your connected social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Russian social network Vkontakte.

From what I can tell, you never actually leave the Instagram app when you follow the steps to post a photo. However, both the camera roll and viewfinder screens use that distinctive Windows Phone design, which the rest of the app doesn't have, and that led me to think that the app had kicked me out to my phone's camera.

So yes, you can shoot and share photos using Instagram for Windows Phone, but the process isn't as smooth as it is in the other apps and it's more tedious.

Unlike the Instagram apps for iOS and Android, this app cannot record video, nor can it import existing videos you've shot with your camera. It did take some time for the Android app to get this feature, so I can only expect it will show up in a future iteration.

Conclusion
Fans of Instagram will appreciate the Windows Phone app for its familiar design, which is easier to navigate than third-party Instagram clients I've seen for Windows Phone. Unfortunately, Instagram dropped the ball when it comes to features in this app.

While you can view your feed of photos and videos from the people you follow, the process to upload your own images is more tedious than it is in the other two Instagram apps. You also can't record or import videos, you can't tag other users in your photos, and there's no Photo Map. Instagram said that the company wanted to get the app out as quickly as possible, and thus could only focus on the core features, but I didn't expect the app to feel this half-baked.

Because of its lack of features and lackluster photo-taking experience, I do not recommend this app. If you want your Instagram fix on Windows Phone, there are several third-party Instagram clients that can offer so much more. One of those is 6tag, which not only has an in-app camera that can shoot video, but it also allows you to manage multiple Instagram accounts at once. None of the official Instagram apps can do that.

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    Where to Buy

    Instagram (Windows Phone)

    Part Number: CNETWPINSTAGRAM Released: Nov. 20, 2013

    Free

    Quick Specifications

    • Release date Nov. 20, 2013
    • Category Photography and image editing
      Social networking
    • Compatibility Windows Phone
    About The Author

    Sarah Mitroff is a CNET associate editor who reviews Android and Windows Phone software and, occasionally, hardware. In the past she's written about everything from Android apps to startups Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat. She loves pretty space photos, the San Francisco Giants, and apps that organize the recipes she compulsively hoards.