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Pinterest (Windows Phone) review: A half-hearted effort for Windows Phone

In its current state, the official Pinterest app it isn't worth a download.

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Nate Ralph
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Nate Ralph

Associate Editor

Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.

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Pinterest is an immensely popular social network, with a website that has since spawned excellent, full-featured apps for iOS and Android devices. And that makes the company's half-hearted official Windows Phone app even more of a disappointment, as sluggish performance and missing features sour the experience for fans of Microsoft's mobile operating system.

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2.7

Pinterest (Windows Phone)

The Good

An official Pinterest app for Windows Phone is a good sign that the developers are paying attention to the platform; it's also free.

The Bad

As a Web app, Pinterest for Windows Phone lacks just about all of the features you'll find on other platforms, or the Web.

The Bottom Line

Hardly any features mean Pinterest's half-hearted Web app for Windows Phone is not worth your time.

If you're unfamiliar with Pinterest, it's best to think of it as a sort of discovery service to help you find stuff of interest on the Internet. The social network revolves around "boards," which are populated by "pins," or images. It's essentially a virtual corkboard you can share with friends, family, or the entire world -- provided they're on Pinterest, naturally.

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The old Web app bait and switch. Nate Ralph/CNET

Missing the fundamentals

To start, Pinterest for Windows Phone is a mere Web app. These are shortcuts to creating a proper Windows Phone apps, but are actually just mobile websites in disguise. Remember last year's Youtube kerfuffle? There's a similar issue here: the Pinterest app offers a dynamic live tile and looks and feels just like a proper native app, but once you fire it up you'll quickly realize it's just the Pinterest mobile site in a fancy shell. The idea is to help developers get their wares onto Microsoft's platform, but the end result is a decidedly slower experience, one chock full of thumbnails that struggle or outright fail to load and a pared down interface. In fact, short of a menu bar running along the bottom of the screen, the app offers little over simply pointing Internet Explorer on Windows Phone to Pinterest's site.

Consider creating pins, a Pinterest app's primary raison d'être. On iOS devices you can create pins based on your location, from photos in your camera roll, links on your device's clipboard, or using the built-in browser to navigate the Internet and find something to your liking -- the app will automatically cull any Pin-able images once you find what you're looking for. If you're using an Android device, you can also use the built-in sharing functionality to grab images from all over the Internet, or send photos you've taken directly to the app.

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Many of the features from Android, iOS, and the Web are missing. Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

The Windows Phone version offers none of these options. The only way to add a pin is to enter the URL of an image, or enter the URL of a website and hope the app finds something it can work with. There isn't even a way to create pins from photos on your device, which is baffling but ultimately an indication of how limiting Web apps are.

Also missing are a lot of the functionality and aesthetic touches that make Pinterest on iOS and Android fun to use. The grid of icons to represent categories while you search are replaced but a decidedly duller list, for example. There's also no support for any gestures that might help you get around: you're getting the mobile Web experience, and nothing more.

Missing the extras, too

The recently released "Guided Search" tool is available on both the Android/iOS apps and the desktop website. Windows Phone gets left out in the cold, however. And that's a shame, as Guided Search is actually rather neat. Search for something -- say, cake -- and you'll get some results, as well as list of related categories, to help you drill things down further. This is rather important, since the site as over 30 billion pins spread across 750 million user boards -- quite a lot of cake to sift through.

Anything that helps ease the search and discovery process is going to go a long way towards making the Pinterest-experience all the more pleasant and useful for fans. Until support for Guided Search extends to the mobile Web -- or a proper app is developed -- then Windows Phone users are going to be left out.

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Pins occasionally fail to load entirely; a quick swipe should fix that. Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

I'll admit, I'm not exactly an avid Pinterest user. But getting popular, or at least well known apps and services onto Windows Phone is crucial towards getting people to stick with the platform. Adobe's efforts with Photoshop Express are a great example, as its Windows Phone app is nigh-on identical to the iOS and Android versions. It's still not exactly the best photo-editing experience you can get on a mobile device, but Adobe's willingness to pour resources into developing a proper app speaks volumes to anyone who might be interested in finding quality Windows Phone apps.

I get it: developing an app for an entirely new platform is no mean feat, especially when the mobile operating system in question lags behind the competition, dramatically. And the company isn't simply resting on its laurels. A representative told me that following the app's launch, Pinterest has "been focused on first gathering feedback from the community, to see how we can improve the experience, similar to how we approach updates across all platforms."

This is an all too common refrain from developers. Consider Instagram for Windows Phone , which launched late last year but is still missing newer features like video recording and direct messaging. And while Facebook Messenger has made an appearance, the premier Facebook experience comes care of an app developed by Microsoft , with no official app in sight. Fortunately for Pinterest fans, there are plenty of alternatives out there that deliver on the full Pinterest experience -- Pin.It is one popular alternative.

Conclusion

It's a shame that Pinterest's first Windows Phone effort is such a poor one. Worse still, it's a shame that Microsoft's support for Web apps has proven to be such a double-edged sword. Microsoft is unique in that it allows developers to re-purpose mobile websites into hybrid Web apps. Teams that can't justify the cost of developing for yet another mobile platform can instead tweak their existing mobile Web presence, and get a Windows Phone Live Tile and support for things like basic speech recognition.

But it comes at a cost: the hampered performance and slew of missing features will consistently raise the ire of Windows Phone users, especially those who've tasted the "real" versions of these apps on other mobile platforms. In Pinterest's case until this is updated into a proper, native app, feel free to skip it.

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2.7

Pinterest (Windows Phone)

Score Breakdown

Features 2Interface 2Performance 4