When looking into which mobile phone to buy, users often consider the following things: camera quality, operating system, size and design of the device in question.
However, with over 50 per cent of the population currently owning a smartphone as opposed to a regular ‘dumb phone’, the question on most people’s minds when buying a new mobile is which apps can I get?
It is common knowledge that Apple’s app store is considered the best, if not necessarily the largest, smartphone app store. The Google Play Store isn’t far behind, either, offering a large majority of the big names in the app world, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
But with the release of the BlackBerry 10 platform, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 OS, users are starting to weigh up the pros and cons according to which apps are available. One of the most popular apps, after social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are discounted, is Instagram, the photo editing suite which allows you to place cool filers over your existing photographs in order to style them up, making you feel like a professional photographer.
But at present, Instagram isn’t available on all smartphones. So what alternatives are out there, and how do they measure up to the king of photo editing, Instagram?
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Despite the novelty of the Windows Phone’s live home screen, Microsoft’s operating system has come under fire because of its lack of popular apps. There is no Instagram app available on the Windows Phone at present, though I was able to install an app called Lomogram for free from the Store.
Lomogram is really simple to use and shares a similar set-up as Instagram. You have the option of selecting a photo from your gallery or to take a new one, before going onto edit the image.
With regards to filters, Lomogram certainly has a lot of them- 42 in fact- though I felt that many of these were simply coloured filters which I wouldn’t use to enhance my photos with, as it gave them a cheap and garish look.
I did, however, like the lens glare feature that you could add on top of any given filter. As you can see in the images below, this gave the pictures a cool vintage glow.
It isn’t just filters that the app has an abundance of, either. Lomogram gives you the option of choosing from numerous frames which I found were all quite suitable for the budding photographer. Also, Lomogram allows you to save your edited image in a range of different sizes, including a Facebook Cover option, which saves you from stretching and resizing any images when you upload them to your Facebook profile.
One criticism that I did have with the app is that it was slightly slower than Instagram to apply the filter meaning that I got a little frustrated when flitting from one filter to another to see which effect I wanted.
Where I had the most trouble finding an Instagram alternative, however, was in the BlackBerry World app store. When searching for photograph enhancing apps, I simply found apps which allowed you to view Instagrammed images, not create them. While there were a couple of editing apps, they cost between 75p and £2, and for the purpose of this comparison, I wanted to trial only free apps.
However, after some searching, I came across PicStory, a free image editing app which looks a little different from traditional photo-editing suites.
For starters, you don’t just have to select one image; you can create your own collages with various pictures in numerous formations. The app allows you to apply different filters to each individual image, which is great if you don’t want all of your pictures in the collage looking the same.
There are 19 filters available on PicStory, though again some of these were just coloured filters in the usual blue, green and red hues. There are even filters that overlay swirls, bubbles and hearts onto your photos, which might attract the younger user, but didn’t very much impress me.
I found that the frames on offer were also very bright and garish, with stars, stripes and generally vibrant designs.
Also, when it came to saving my edited image, I found that I couldn’t just save it in my gallery like with other apps. Instead, I had to create an account and post the picture as a BBM post before the photograph would save on my phone.
Despite the Nexus 4 running the Android operating system (and thus having access to Instagram), the Google and LG creation has an impressive in-built photo editing suite, which has the potential to rival Instagram.
There are 9 filters on offer with the Nexus 4’s photo editing suite, as well as 11 optional borders and frames. The feature also allows you to straighten, crop, rotate and mirror your photographs, which can come in handy when wanting to make your images look as sharp as they can be.
In addition to the 9 filters available, the Nexus 4’s editing software allows you to apply auto colour, which enhances the most dominant colours in the picture, change the exposure, vignette, contrasts, shadows, vibrancy, sharpness and hue of the image that you are editing. You can even apply these effects on a curve, to create a gradient colour sweep.
What’s particularly great about the Nexus 4’s in-built photo editing suite is the fact that you don’t have to open up your images in a separate app; simply access the software while flitting through your images in your phone’s picture gallery.
So why is it that Instagram is one of the most downloaded apps in the various app stores? Is it that it offers users an editing package that is really better than less well known, or even built-in apps? Let’s take a look….
When starting up Instagram, the app asks you to choose from taking a new photo, or to upload an image from your gallery. Before getting to the fun part of adding filters and making your photos look pretty, you have to select a cross section of your picture of which you want to edit. I personally find this a little limiting, as you can’t always select the entire photograph.
When it comes to applying the filters onto your picture, Instagram unarguably offers a far greater selection than other photo-editing suites. With over 20 filters to choose from, Instagram really can give your images that vintage, cool edge.
In addition to the filters available, the Instagram app gives you the opportunity to blur the background of your photograph, focusing solely on the object in order to make it stand out even further from its background.
What I like about Instagram above all is its simplicity; by pressing just one button you can change the contrast of the image, add a border or rotate the photo.
But does this mean it deserves the title as the king of photo editing software?
So there you have it; the evidence has been laid before you, and it is clear that Instagram, in many ways is still the superior photo-editing app on the market. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t other apps out there that can rival Instagram.
I found that the Lomograph app available on the Windows Phone offered a slightly different take on editing my images, and I really liked the option to apply a lens glare coming in from various angles onto the photo, especially as this was a separate effect from the filter itself.
As you can see, I would give the BlackBerry’s attempt to create an Instagram-style app the big thumbs down. Although the pictures I edited don’t look too bad, I found the app was limiting, and was better suited to a younger user.
I was quite impressed with the editing suite in the Nexus 4, however, which produced some cool photos, especially for feature built-into the camera function of the phone. What’s great about this is that because the Nexus 4 is an Android, you get the option of quickly using the in-built editing package while flitting through your photo gallery, or if you want to spend some more time on making your pictures look good, you can also install Instagram itself.
But what do you think? Are you a die-hard Instagram fan, or would you consider switching to any of the apps above? To see more examples, and to vote for your favourite editing suite, visit us on Facebook!
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Written by Charlotte Kertrestel