Microsoft Made a Better Camera App Than Apple. Will Anybody Use It?

Another compelling argument for giving iPhone owners more choice.

Getty Images / George Frey

Microsoft is using artificial intelligence to help iPhone users take better pictures.

Microsoft Pix, which debuted on the App Store today, starts capturing images as soon as it’s launched so a moment isn’t lost in the time it takes to snap a pic; combines frames to compensate for poor lighting; makes colors more vibrant; and allows people to easily create GIF-like Live Images. Microsoft basically took the Apple camera app and taught it a bunch of new tricks.

The result is a tool that makes the iPhone’s built-in camera app seem outdated. Microsoft Pix takes better images with less hassle, and it doesn’t restrict one of the coolest photo-related features Apple has announced in years, the moving Live Photos, to new devices. It’s too bad Apple’s outdated view on customization will make iPhone owners struggle to use Microsoft Pix as often as they might like.

Apple doesn’t allow iOS users to change the default apps used for basic functions like sending an email, opening a web page, or taking a picture. This is true even in iOS 10, which allows users to delete some default apps like Mail, and Apple hasn’t shown any signs of giving users more freedom in future updates. (Though that could change by the time iOS 10 is publicly released later this year.)

All of this means that every time someone invokes the camera from Control Center, iMessage, or the iOS lock screen they’re going to have to use the built-in app even if they would prefer to use Microsoft Pix. They have a choice: Get the better shot with Microsoft Pix, or get the easy shot with the built-in camera app.

Microsoft Pix's shot has better lighting, colors, and framing


Novelty camera apps like Hyper or Giphy Cam don’t have to worry about this problem because they complement the iPhone’s built-in camera app instead of trying to replace it.

Microsoft Pix, on the other hand, was built to be the camera of choice for iPhone owners. Every time someone defaults to Apple’s camera app they’re less likely to remember that they prefer Microsoft Pix, or that they even have the app installed. Unless this changes in a future version of iOS, perhaps the best thing about Microsoft Pix is that it could pressure Apple to improve its own camera app.

Maybe Apple should focus on flexibility for its users instead of patenting technologies that would allow someone to disable the iPhone’s camera entirely. Apple’s trying to turn off your camera — Microsoft’s trying to make it better. It isn’t hard to tell which approach will be better for iPhone owners.

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