Review: 6tag (3rd party Instagram client)


Now we finally have the official word on an Instagram app (thanks to Stephen Elop's keynote at Nokia World this week), we know we only have to wait 'a few weeks' to have the client from Facebook's social network for images. But Instagram fans on Windows Phone have long known that Rudy Huyn's third party client, 6tag, is the way to go to interact with Instagram on your handset.

Author: Rudy Huyn

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Instagram's appeal seems simple - take a picture, edit it, and share it. But through smart marketing and 'denial of access' on other platforms it has built up an aura of a 'must have app', and with no app available (yet) on Windows Phone, developers are stepping up with third party clients to access and interact with the service. 6tag is one such app.

You can take pictures from inside the 6tag application, which calls up a camera instance, but in the square frame that Instagram uses, which makes live composition easier, or you can use a picture already taken by your phone, and do a square crop. I tend to decide on something I want to Instagram, so staying in the application is enough for me in most circumstances, although I know that others will just pick out a really good picture they have taken in normal circumstances with the regular application.

Thankfully both are available to choose from.

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Part of the initial appeal of Instagram was the basic photo editing effects. While they are now a popular addition with countless apps in the Windows Store that do so, Instagram was one of the first services to do this. 6tag carries on this tradition and allows you to apply a number of filters to your images to change the feel of the image in post-production. There's no live preview when taking an image with the camera portion of the app, but the small thumbnails for each filter have a tiny preview of the effect, which is a very useful touch.

It's also worth noting that these filters are the same filters (with matching names) that you have in the Instagram app, so users coming from other platforms to Windows Phone will feel very comfortable with this client.

Once you've got your picture into the app, and browsed the filter choices, you have a few more quick editing tools. You can add a border to the image, an automatic contrast corrector, rotate the square image, and apply a number of focus effects. These focus effects essentially blur an image but can't correct a poor photo. The tilt shift effect can be applied as a bar or spot, and a pinch of your fingers changes the impact (represented by a white cloud when editing).

You can also manually set the blur effect by wiping over the image, so you can put a face or figure in focus, and leave the rest out of focus for a fashionable look.

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And that's what 6tag (and Instagram as well) is about. It's not about professional images, it's about sharing emotion and moments. This social connection is what's missing from many of the image editing and filter apps. Instagram is not just about posting images to you Facebook or Twitter accounts (you can also post to Tumblr, Flickr, VK, and Foursquare), it's also about viewing the images from your friends, leaving comments on them, favouriting them, and having an eye on everyone else's world.

Would you be surprised to learn that 6tag also handles this well, with an infinite scrolling list of images? A double tap will favourite the image, and you can single tap to read comments and leave your own. 6tag will also let you know if you have unread comments or any new activity on your account through an alert on the app screen, or through the live tile.

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6tag brings both elements of Instagram to Windows Phone, preserves the Instagram look and feel, but retains a smooth appearance and interaction between the user and the code.

Huyn's app does as much as possible to replicate the experience of Instagram on Windows Phone. While there was no client, that was an admirable but a rather grey area as to legality. With an official client on the way, there is every chance that Huyn is going to have to think very carefully about the positioning of 6tag in the future. That may mean doing some subtle alterations to avoid trade dress issues, or retain the underlying code and do 'the best client possible' (in the same way that 4th And Mayor is a far better Foursquare check-in client than the official Foursquare app).

Right now this the best Instagram client for Windows Phone. There's every chance that once the official client is released, it remains the best client. Or perhpas Zuckerberg's team will just drive a dump truck of money to Huyn's lawn and buy the client, which I'd be happy with as well. It's that good.

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