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

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The Good Instagram for Windows Phone has a familiar, easy-to-navigate design.

The Bad Taking photos in the app is confusing and tedious. The app is also missing video support and the Photo Map.

The Bottom Line With too many missing features, Instagram for Windows Phone is not ready for prime time.

5.8 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 4
  • Interface 7
  • Performance 6

Review Sections

The Facebook-owned photo and video social network Instagram has gained immense popularity over the last three years on iOS and Android as a place to capture and share images with your friends. The app finally arrived for Windows Phone in late November 2013, and while it has some of the core features, it's missing a lot of what makes Instagram fun.

There was a great deal of confusion over the app's features when it launched, so let me clear a few things up. First, you can take photos in the app, but the process is not the same as it is in the other apps. I outline that process in this review. Second, you cannot shoot video or import video into the app, but you can watch videos that others have uploaded. You cannot tag people in your photos, but you can see other people's tags in your feed. Lastly, there is no Photo Map (more on that later).

Instagram gets around the fact that the app is missing features by calling it a beta release. However, Windows Phone users who've been waiting for Instagram to come to their phones expect a full-featured experience, beta or not, and this app does not provide that. That's disappointing, especially because there are already many third-party clients live in the app store that have more features than this official app.

Getting started
To get started, you must either log in to an existing account or sign up for a new one with an e-mail address and password. Then you can build out your profile and connect your other social-network accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr.

In the other Instagram apps, you can sign up with Facebook, but you can't do that here. However, once you register, the app gives you a chance to connect your Facebook account and then shows you a list of your Facebook friends who also use Instagram so you can easily follow them in the app. You'll also get the chance to see which of your phone contacts also use Instagram and follow popular users when you set up your account.

The home page shows a feed of the photos and videos from the people you follow (left). Swipe right to see the most popular posts on Instagram. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You won't see anything in the app until you start following other users or start posting your own photos. To follow other Instagrammers after the initial setup process, tap the search icon in the bottom menu bar and start typing someone's name or username.

Instagram on Windows Phone looks identical to the other apps, save for a few differences.

At the top of the app, there are tabs for each section of the app; Home Feed, Explore, News, and Profile. The main screen shows a feed of all the photos and video the people you follow have posted, in reverse chronological order. You can like someone's post by double tapping on the image or touching the like button. If you want to leave a comment, just touch the comment button below the photo.

You can easily spot videos in your feed because they have a play icon in the top-right corner. In the other apps, if you leave a video in view on the screen for a few seconds (depending on your connection), the video will load and automatically play once. Here, you must tap the video to start playing it.

Your profile (right) shows all the photos and videos you've posted to the social network. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

In the Explore tab, you can see the most popular posts from all Instagram users. In News, you'll see a feed of notifications when someone follows you and likes or comments on your photos and videos. Lastly, the Profile tab shows your bio, user stats, and a grid or list of all of your posts. In the other Instagram apps, you can see photos you've been tagged in and your Photo Map, but both of those are missing here.

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