When people say Windows Phone doesn't have apps, there's a few big names they instantly point to. Instagram is one of them, and the unique photo sharing social network is a gaping hole in the Marketplace's selection right now. Fortunately, there's a lot of alternatives coming out for Windows Phone and many of them are quite good and prove that the original can be outdone in a few ways.
Thumbmunkey's SoMee is one of those alternatives, allowing users to create vintage-style photos to share with friends from their phone. Instead of being a bland clone of the original, SoMee does a couple of unique things to set itself apart. For example, instead of creating its own siloed social network, the app seamlessly ties into your Facebook or Twitter accounts, even displaying your friends' likes, comments and retweets. In this case though, are unique features enough to make a good product? I'll try to answer that in the rest of the review, continued after the jump.
There's a lot that SoMee gets right and in fact may be an aspect people prefer over the more popular original. First and foremost is the interface, which is an easy to use, fast and reliable experience. Everything is laid out as you'd expect, and there's little to no learning curve with using the app. Even if you're completely new to the app, SoMee offers a Help Guide when you first launch it to make sure you don't lose your way. The interface also has a few neat gestures when you're applying effects to your photos -- swiping across the thumbnail will switch between effects, swiping down on the thumbnail lets you compare the before and after of the photo, and tapping on the thumbnail lets you zoom in. Also, the app is liquid fast -- after using the app for a while now, I have yet to run into any choppiness or bugs, or experience any crashing.
Like I mentioned before, the stand out feature really is the superb Facebook and Twitter integration, which satisfies the expectation for the app to be social. Retweets in quote form, as well as likes and comments from Facebook for each uploaded photo all appear in the Published pivot of the app. It's a clever solution that builds on top of the social websites most people already use. Beyond that, SoMee's main functionality is to of course create custom photos and it accomplishes this with a decent selection of 30 effects, 30+ light leaks and about 20 of the ever-so-popular frames.
While I did gush about the Facebook and Twitter integration, it's not perfect. One immediate realization I had after sharing a photo for the first time was that I couldn't comment on it myself, or respond to a friend who commented. It's not a deal breaker, but it's something I would've enjoyed seeing in the app as it could really have become a go-to Facebook photo sharing experience. Instead there's a disconnect -- you upload a photo to share with friends, but then you can't interact with anyone until you jump out and use another app. Another issue I found was the lacking Twitter integration compared to Facebook, since the app only recognizes when you share the same image link and not if someone mentions you. Now I suppose that probably has more to do with Twitter APIs than anything else, but nonetheless it's short of being a great feature.
I also had a few other nitpicks, but that's all they are -- small issues that can be ironed out. First was that for Frames, I didn't see much point to using the 'Amount' scroll which simply changed the opacity of the frame. I would have preferred the Amount function be used to actually change the width of the borders, which is something that could really be useful for a few of the nice-looking but chubby frames SoMee offers. The second small thing was the Zoom ability when you're previewing an effect on a photo. Tapping on the screen does zoom in to fill more than the width of the screen, but it's kind of useless because you can't pan around the image vertically. So you're left looking at the top one-fourth of your image, which doesn't exactly accomplish anything.
The Score: 4 / 5I ended up enjoying SoMee a lot more than I thought, and it's easily one of the best Instagram-style photo sharing apps for Windows Phone. The clever Facebook and Twitter integration is one of its best features, and in general its a slick app that's pleasant to use. But there's still a couple of kinks to work out, especially with Twitter integration and a few of the smaller issues mentioned near the end. Overall we still think SoMee is worth picking up, especially if you've been looking for a photo sharing app that isn't a straight rip-off of Instagram and is actually good.
SoMee is available as two identical versions with varying prices: free (with ads) and $0.99 (no ads). Download whichever version of the app from the Marketplace by clicking on the tile/link below, or by scanning the QR code to the right of each tile.