Instagram has become a contentious issue among Windows Phone users who long to slap filters onto photos of their lunch and their kittens, before sharing them with the vibrant community that has been built up around the popular photo-based social network. Used by everyone from your best friend to the rich and famous, the service now has over 200 million active users who share millions of photos per day.
Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has had no official presence on Windows Phone, making way for Nokia's knockoff #2InstaWithLove service, created as a 'love letter' to Instagram from Windows Phone users. Step in, Itsdagram, the first Instagram app aiming to be a fully featured client for the photo-network on Windows Phone.
Created by Daniel Gary, who also developed the Pinterest client Pinstation, the app works with Instagram's web service and can upload pictures to an Instagram account, as well as coming with all the bells and whistles that make the photography-focused social network what it is... except for one key element: photo filters.
It's important to note that the app is still in beta.
Design and use
Itsdagram looks and feels a lot like the Android and iOS native Instagram apps, with a stream of photos from those you follow. Gray has taken inspiration from the Modern UI design language, however, adding a "Popular" tab that is a swipe away and integrating similar tabs elsewhere. The app fits in nicely with other Modern UI apps, emphasising the uniqueness that it brings.
From the home tab, users can scroll to see photos from those they follow, with a single tap opening up the photo to like and comment. Users can also share photos to Twitter and Facebook (once they've logged in) in a similar way to the 'real' Instagram apps.
Clicking on a name brings up the user's profile, with options to see their photos, who they follow and who follows them. You can also follow/unfollow a user from this window, as well as see every photo they've ever posted via a 3x4 grid.
Clicking the onscreen search button takes the user to a search pane which allows the indexing of tags and users. From here, a search for #sunset brought up similar searches (e.g. #sunsets and #sunset_madness) and the photo results. Searching for other Instagram users also worked well, but the results were in a jumbled order. Searching for a friend's feed brought up another result before them, despite specifically searching for their username.
These issues can be ironed out in later updates of the app and are to be expected from a beta version. Despite its beta status, the app works and functions well.
Having a nice UI is all very well, but what about actual photo sharing? The app delivers a photo sharing experience that is equal to the native apps available on iOS and Android. I uploaded a test photo, tweeted it out and the link appeared as an Instagram.com URL, just like the native apps. This is significant because it means that Windows Phone users can finally use an Instagram client without everyone knowing that it's a cheap knockoff.
The photo sharing features are good, with the option to take a photo, or upload one taken earlier. Taking a new photo offers the same experience as any other app that can take photos. Once a photo is taken you can accept or reject it, add a caption, and you're done. Photos that I shared appeared in my followers timelines without issue.
Unfortunately filters haven't made it onto this version of Itsdagram, but I hope to see them in later updates. There is also no way to "like" a photo, or see notifications of likes and follows from other Instagram users. The lack of notifications is annoying, and slightly ruins the entire social experience of Instagram. Hopefully both of these features will be added in future updates.
The lack of an Instagram app has left a gaping hole in the Windows Phone marketplace, especially amongst those who use the app on a daily basis. Many other social media apps are available on Windows Phone, but Instagram have always refused to build one, despite both private and public pleas from Nokia. Luckily for the Windows Phone community, Daniel Gray has stepped in with a useable Instagram app that works natively with the service and provides an excellent experience, if you can forgo the photo filters.
The app is still in beta and has it's faults (photo filters, anyone?) but with some polishing, the first viable Instagram app could finally have landed on the platform and closed one of the biggest holes in the app armoury.
Editor's note: This article was updated after publishing to correct an inaccurate statement regarding the use of Instagram APIs.
UPDATE: Well, that was quick. The app has already been pulled from the Windows Phone Store... though not for the reason you're probably thinking. The app's developer posted a comment over on WPCentral, stating: "I pulled it. It was never supposed to be publicly available yet. Someone leaked it and it wasn't ready." No word on when it might return to the Store, but the app does seem to still be working for those who have already downloaded it.