Enough with the cameras, WP8; we need official apps

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| June 7, 2013

I never thought I would be saying that we need to slow it up on the camera progression in order to fix other things necessary for a successful platform, but Windows Phone 8 leaves me no choice as rumors of the next Nokia device presumably features an insane 41-megapixel camera.

I don’t know if there’s some huge, secret demand from photographers that need huge canvasses for photos, but if there is then I suppose that the 41-megapixel camera that’s rumored to emerge from Nokia is somewhat justified. But since I feel like that’s not the case, I feel like Windows Phone 8 should throw manufacturers a bone and work harder to attain what’s really needed in order to make the mobile platform flourish - official apps.

Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 devices already have arguably the best camera technology that you can find in mobile devices. They might not have the highest megapixel count, but we’re also starting to learn that just because a device can offer you higher megapixel count doesn’t necessarily mean that your photos will magically turn out better. We see through devices like the Nokia Lumia line and even the HTC One that improving other elements of the camera are what truly make  a camera great. The HTC One’s Ultrapixel camera isn’t what I would consider the best, but it’s far from being the worst and its ability to take good pictures in low-lit situations is pretty awesome. Nokia attributes their Lumia camera’s success to “… advanced camera algorithms, great engineering, and our partnership with Carl Zeiss” , and even prove through examples how the Nokia Lumia 925’s camera can out-quality the Galaxy S 4’s 13-megapixel camera and even the HTC One – at least in that particular low-light situation.

But at some point enough is enough with the camera business. I’ve been impressed by Nokia's PureView cameras on the Lumia line so far, and I have no doubt in my mind that the great quality it displays for a camera on a mobile phone is in part what is causing me to lean towards purchasing a Windows Phone 8 device. However, one thing that is causing me to really think twice about the purchase is the fact that official, first-party apps really seem to be lacking support in Windows Phone 8.

Lately there have been rumors of popular apps like Vine and Instagram coming to Windows Phone 8. While I no longer use Instagram as an app personally, you can’t deny that the service is widely popular among Android and iOS users. As for Vine, the app is still growing in popularity but the 6-second snippet clips are growing in numbers as people become more fascinated with the idea behind the short, creative, and looping videos that make up a Vine video.

However, as it turns out neither of these applications are officially going to be released for Windows Phone any time in the near future. Instead you get enjoy third-party apps like ‘Viner’ which allow you to view videos created on Vine but cannot make them, and ‘Instance’ which is an Instagram-ish third-party app that used to by the name ‘Itsdagram’ (yayuhh, boiiii!) While these third party applications are only trying to help the Windows Phone 8 community by providing stand-ins that are as close to the real thing as possible, you can’t deny that having the real, fully-supported application directly from the company would be a better option.

Since I used Instagram as an example, it is worth noting that Nokia has gone on record to say that they plan to have Instagram available at some point in the future for their Windows Phone 8 devices.

Customers who are looking into different platforms often perform extensive research to make sure that it’s the right phone for them. After all, most of us plan on keeping these phones for at least a couple of years – you want to make sure you get it right the first time if you can help it. But it’s discouraging when you perform a search like, say, “Windows Phone 8 YouTube” and the first result says something along the lines of “Microsoft withdraws YouTube App for Windows Phone 8” or, to bring up an old subject, “Windows Phone 8 Instagram” and you get “It’s not here yet, but here’s a few alternatives for you!” Not everybody wants to spend time looking for alternatives almost every time.

Nokia is doing a service for Windows Phone 8 by providing exceptional mobile phone cameras for the platform. People hardly talk about the Windows Phone 8X anymore, which even outperforms the Nokia Lumia 920 in some reviews, simply because it doesn’t have anything truly noteworthy about it (aside from Beats Audio, but you can get Beats Audio integration with a few HTC Androids as well). It just seems to me that Microsoft should be trying a little harder to provide official applications like Vine, Instagram, Hulu Plus, etc. to bring in more customers instead of depending solely on its developer community to convince new costumers otherwise.

I kind of view it like Android and iOS have these huge factories to mass produce these awesome applications at an alarming rate, and Windows Phone still owns that "Mom and Pop" corner shop and hand-stitches all of their applications with love. It’s kind of charming, but at the same time not a lot of people appreciate hand-stitched goods anymore.

The point of all this is that I appreciate a good smartphone camera as much as the next person does, but Windows Phone 8 can’t keep banking on Nokia’s hardware components to win customers over every time. If a fantastic rooty-tooty-point-and-shooty is the only feature you want in a phone, you might be surprised to find that digital cameras actually come in standalone form and can do you one better. However, I figure that most people can agree that there's definitely more to a great device than just having a decent camera. Something’s got to give within the platform itself, and I feel like the best way for Windows Phone 8 is to try to make nice with companies who develop popular applications.

Readers, what are your thoughts on this? Do you think that Windows Phone 8 should include more first-party apps, or would you rather have the third-party apps that developers have been working on? Does the camera alone sell you on Windows Phone 8? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Images via CNet, The Tech Block